Photos by Aaron Davidson
It seems just a short year ago when Omar Ansari accepted the golden shovel from his father Naseem Ansari and plunged it into the vacant dirt lot that’s now home to one of Minnesota’s most ambitious craft brewery projects. The ceremonial groundbreaking launched a year-long marathon of construction that brought Ansari’s vision for Surly’s “destination brewery” to life.
On December 19, 2014 at 11am, the Surly team opened the doors to its $34 million brewery, beer hall, and restaurant located on a 8.3 acre plot in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park—within eyeshot of TCF Bank Stadium and the Witch’s Hat water tower. The black steel structure with its six 600 bbl stainless steel fermenters rising through its roof is a veritable beer oasis in a desert of concrete buildings.
The process for opening the destination brewery began more than three years ago, after Ansari and head brewer Todd Haug toured Stone Brewing’s World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, California. The visit changed their perspectives of what a craft brewery taproom could be, Ansari recalled, and inspired them to build a similar destination brewery that would take pressure off on the Brooklyn Center brewery to fill the growing demand for Surly beer and attract beer tourists from across the nation to Minnesota.
The 50,000 sq ft building houses a 200-person beer hall serving Surly mainstays and limited release beers, and overlooks the fully automated 100 bbl brewhouse. Along with six 600 bbl fermenters and canning line, the new brewery will triple the company’s annual brewing capacity and allow Surly to fully service accounts in Chicago as well as enter new markets in the Midwest including Iowa and Wisconsin.
Opening these new markets and actively finding new accounts presents a new challenge for a business that since their beginning has had a waiting list of local bars, restaurants, and liquors stores interested in carrying Surly’s beers. But it’s exactly the sort of challenge that National Sales Director Corey Shovein is ready to tackle in order to propel Surly to the next level.
Another new challenge for the brewery is the operation of two restaurants—one serving the beer hall and a fine dining restaurant on the second floor—as well as an event space for corporate meetings and private parties. Linda Haug, wife of Todd Haug and owner of the recently closed Cafe Twenty Eight, is bringing her restaurant experience to her new role as Surly’s hospitality operations director. She will work in tandem with Executive Chef Jorge Guzman to ensure that food service runs smoothly from kitchen to table.
Guzman and his team developed three separate menus for the beer hall, upstairs restaurant, and catering the event space, all of which they will roll out in stages. The first stage is the beer hall where patrons can currently order from full bar-menu of comfort foods like barbecue brisket and cornbread, to more upscale options like scallops, pheasant terrine, and charcuterie.
Next year the team hopes to be ready to open the second floor restaurant where Guzman and his chefs will deliver a fine dining experience pairing some of Surly’s more limited release bottles with creative dishes.
Surly’s destination brewery is more than just an impressive structure—it’s an extension of the Surly culture that birthed a “Nation” of craft beer drinkers who rallied around the idea that a full-flavored beer should never be hard to find. At the new brewery, that will never be a problem.