Usually, if I write about a craft beer brewery, the place I feature distributes their beers lightly. This blog topic, and my visit for this week, is slightly different, with a brewhouse that sports a production system of 100 barrels. That, along with one other facility, supports a business that ships to many locations in eight states and one province. Still, if you visit Minnesota, and want to taste some great beers from the state, Surly Brewing Company’s 20 million dollar facility is a great spot to get lunch or dinner.
There’s also a great backstory to this place. Representatives in the state’s legislature went to bat for this destination. With their help, changing the three tier system in Minnesota, a brewery that distributed its beers elsewhere was allowed to serve their brews on-site. With that, the Surly Brewing Company’s brewhouse in prospect park, which is near the University of Minnesota Campus, was allowed to open its doors in 2014.
Its restaurant is fashionable, and quite honestly, graced with some breath taking appeal. Endowed with brewhouse benches set inside a spacious expanse, large plate glass windows that allow an ‘in your face’ view of the brewing facility plus a seemingly endless bar, this brewpub won me over the moment I stepped inside.
So on with my experience at the Surly Brewing Company.
It’s around noon on a Friday and, for once, I’m not driving towards my weekly destination. My baby sister Laurie(she always hated when I called her my baby sister) has the reins this day. I find myself in an unfamiliar part of Minneapolis, at least for me, being near the U of M Campus. We find a large parking lot, and its packed. Part of the reason, I believe, is that between the two facilities in the Minneapolis area, Surly Brewing Company employs 354 people. My hat’s off to a thriving midwestern small, maybe not mom and pop small, but still not as big as some, business.
I probably should slow down a bit. I guess I should explain that my sister has been a resident of Minneapolis practically since she graduated from college. I used to visit a couple of times a year but, lately, life has become an obstacle. Fortunately, for the next couple of days, she’s playing host, well sort of. I’m staying at a hotel because I don’t want to impose on a family of six and my parents, who are all staying under the same roof for the weekend. So, upon arrival, I had asked Laurie to show me a good Minneapolis craft brewery. This is her answer.
My first thought is, “Man this place is big.” After all, I’m used to much smaller outfits. The production here obviously trumps any other craft beer outfit’s output that I’ve laid eyes on, at least in ten years. Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls, WI is also a large craft brewery that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. When I walk in the door I think one word-“COOL!”
Stealing my attention, glistening apparatus of a large working brewery is cause for a little awe. My view is aided by ginormous windows, stretching from floor to cieling. Off to the left, the Surly Logo begs for a selfie.
We then walk towards the Beer Hall. There, I discover a vast open expanse with long wood tables and benches like the brewhouses in Germany (Some tables do have chairs). Strung clear lightbulbs, unveiling the glowing filaments inside, dangle overhead. A long impressive bar stretches across the sizable girth of the room. The glass panels, revealing the brewery, are still in place here and the rest of the hall is meshed with rustic and modern attributes..
The beer list is quite overwhelming, at least for this Wisconsinite. Surly offers twenty-three in house beers, and they keep rotating them. There’s clever and fun titles such as ‘Rocket Surgery’, ‘Hell’, and ‘Axe Man’. Seriously, I think you could visit Surly once a week for a year and not drink the Same brew twice! I choose a Scottish style ale known as ‘The Firm’ and move on to the food menu.
The menu offers some great sandwiches, veggies, appetizers, interesting foods served on a plank with other interesting and delicious choices to boot. Our waiter, who has a very professional air about him, arrives moments after I’ve decided on a dish. My sister chooses the Surly burger and I’m going with a board option known as the Boar Bratwurst.
We then indulge in conversation and take in the fun ambiance of this establishment. Our food arrives surprisingly quick, considering the crowded room in which we sit. When I catch a glimpse of my food, I’m surprised to see the brat without a bun. It almost seems like sacrilege to this Wisconsinite, but I’ll try it.
This is interesting. On the board, or plank, whatever you want to call it, there sits three dabs of mustard on the right, quartered potatoes with additions to create German potato salad in the middle and absolutely the biggest bratwurst I’ve ever seen on my left. I slice up my brat and consume my entre, taking a sip of beer to wash it all down. This is totally how food at a brewpub should taste.
I forgot to mention that there is a giant outdoor patio here, and they also serve pizza above the beer hall. Of course, if one wishes, they could take a guided tour of the brewery. And if you love the their beer, or just want a souvenir, this place has the largest gift shop I’ve seen at a craft brewery. I pass on a keepsake this time, but am tempted.
I’m glad my sister brought me here. It was a fun atmosphere with a lively yet laid back type vibe. There’s definitely a wow factor when entering this building, but its not only aesthetics. I feel character and a willingness to treat their customers to a pleasing experience from the staff. Most of all, its a perfect setting to just have conversation!