News & Updates

A Surly New Year

With much love from Omar at Surly Brewing

Seems like a good time to take a moment to reflect on Surly’s first year of brewing. I was not planning on this, but my recognition from City Pages as one of their Artists of the Year gave me a reason to look back.

First thing, the article did not mention Todd Haug and his impact at the brewery. Without Todd, Surly would not be Surly. Todd’s dedication to brewing outstanding beer keeps him at the brewery many nights while I’m at home with my kids or at a beer event. Todd does not accept “good enough” which is a common refrain from me around the brewery. Minnesota beer lovers are fortunate to have such a skilled, artistic and creative brewer that won’t settle for anything but the best.

What a year. I was at my cabin this weekend, burning extra pallets and drinking canned Surly as the new year rang in. One year ago, Todd and I were at the brewery making our first beer. The brew took over 14 hours and the controls on our fermentors did not work properly. We now bang out a brew in a regular days work and Sarah Lawson has taken my place helping Todd out. Thank God – I can only listen to so much of Todd’s tunes, Ramstein, Hatebreed and Celtic Frost beore my ears start to bleed… We continue to be committed to brewing those big-ass beers people love so much. Our brewery is one year old, and this weekend I enjoyed a growler of Darkness that has aged for 6 months. That’s pretty awesome.

For our opening weekend, we had almost 1000 people come through the doors! My mother is amazed at the huge number of passionate drinkers out there. I call them Surly Nation. Surly Nation has helped us get into almost 100 different establishments. Without your support, Surly would not be around. On February 9th, 2006 we had 5 accounts – Cafe twenty-eight, Solera, Blue Nile, Mackenzies and Acadia Cafe.

One thing I have found is that our beer does not belong in every bar. I’ll never forget trying to do a beer promo at a bar where a Texas-Hold-Em tournament was occuring. Luckily I drank some Surly that night so some of our beer got drunk. Another bar told me that I should:
– have some cute girls passing out Surly beer samples
– have flashing buttons to get people attention
– get some posters with scantily clad women
I told them I would come back when I got all that stuff. I have not been back. I do not plan to go back. We plan, instead, on you – continue to spread the word about great Minnesota Beer.

It is really rewarding that the vision Todd and I spoke of has come to fruition. We were not really sure that people would want to drink the aggressive beers we wanted to brew. Well, our brewery is now maxed out and we have 5 more tanks on order that will increase our capacity to almost 5000 barrels.

Let’s see, what else. Oh yeah, we canned our beer. I get it all the time, “when are you going to start bottling?” We choose to can our beer, not because its cheaper, not because its easier, not because we couldn’t find a bottling line, because we wanted to. Because we think its best for the beer. It’s fun to change people’s perspecitve on beer in a can. A new beer in a can this new year…. perhaps.

A guy drove over from Milwaukee last weekend to buy a growler of Darkness! Holy Crap. We have sold over 350 growlers in the last few weeks. Thanks for being patient while we serve everybody. It took 1 1/2 years to get the city of Brooklyn Center to allow us to sell growlers, but I think it has been worth the effort.

I have delivered most of our beer in the Twin Cities. My back has not been as supportive as my wife, so Jim Mott is now helping out with delivering kegs and cans in the metro. We will keep all your favorite bars flowing and your local liquor store stocked.

We kept the doors open! Obviously. But there is no question that starting a brewery is a financial gamble. I’m glad to say it has worked and we’re still brewing.

What will happen in 2007? Probably nothing as exciting as 2006. Our goal is to continue to brew the finest beer around. Not as flashy as opening a new brewery, but that steady production of beer is a challenge. Those demands are even greater when more people want your beer than you can supply. As we add more tanks, we hope to get Surly to more liquor stores, more bars that want our beer, and into the hands of Minnesotan’s that have not even heard of us yet.

Thanks for Getting Surly in 2006 and see you drinking in 2007! We’ll work on getting you some flashing buttons.


One comment

  1. Kent Brun says:

    I live in Robbinsdale, a 2 minute bike ride from you brewery. that’s how my wife and I found out about Surly. We tried it at Thistles and a neighbor brought over some cans.

    So, what’s this about a tour? 1,000 people so far. When are your doors open for thirsty tourists. I’ve been delegated by our neightborhood watch committee research and report, so I hop eyou can help me out.

    You don’t sell your brew retail out of your brewery, do you?

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