Category: Surly Brewing Co.

Review – Surly Frost Pack Newcomers

Mention Brut around this time of year and visions of iconic (and I use that term loosely) commercials and thoughts of endcaps full of personal care products bubble up in the brain. Apparently, the holidays are the one time a year people need to be reminded they might smell bad and should probably do something about that.

However, Brut – the green, long-necked bottle of seventh grade – is not what’s on topic here. Nor is Stetson, Preferred Stock or White Diamonds. I’m talking about Brut the style descriptor – usually of champagne/sparkling wine, but more recently used to describe a style of very dry, effervescent IPA. Surly has brewed their own version of this style, as well as (for the very first time) a genuine porter and put them in their winter variety twelve-pack. Please enjoy these tasting notes of warmth and celebration for your holiday season.


Surly Mortal Sun

American Porter

ABV – 5.5%

Aroma: Crisp and chocolatey with bitter coffee notes. You can tell it’s going to be dry right from the first whiff.

Appearance: Dark brown to black.   

Flavor: Dark chocolate and coffee. Very toasty body with sustained bitterness from start to finish.

Mouthfeel: Light on the palate and drinkable. This is not Darkness (i.e., heavy and sippable).

Overall Impression: If you don’t know what you’re getting from Surly by now, you haven’t been paying attention; a great representation of the style that is turned up to 11. 


Surly Liquid Stardust

Sparkling/Brut IPA

ABV – 7.0%

Aroma: Bitter and citrusy. Complex. 

Appearance: Between yellow and dark yellow. 

Flavor: There’s a lot to unpack here. Lemon peel slaps you in the face right away and the other fruity hop notes play underneath that banner – melon, mango and pineapple all popped out, but that lemon bitterness carried throughout. 

Mouthfeel: Not an understatement when they say incredibly crisp and dry. Very refreshing, but the bitterness makes you pace yourself. 

Overall Impression: I had to do a couple rounds of tasting to get a good impression of this one. This included stopping in the taproom and comparing it to the Brut IPA on tap there. There was a distinct difference between the two and I see why they chose to can this version. The multiple fruit undertones along with the bitterness make it a more interesting and tasty. 

Review – Surly HeatSlayer

So much slay coming your way. HeatSlayer, a Kölsch-style ale featured in Surly’s seasonal variety pack, is available now. Surly is even throwing a party for it this Sunday the 27th where, for the price of admission, you can get unlimited food and pours of this new beer. They’re calling it Slay Day.

If that weren’t enough, thrash metal legends Slayer are coming through town this week on their farewell tour. I’ve heard music and beer go well together, so let’s review them both at the same time:


Surly HeatSlayer

Kölsch-style ale

ABV – 5.0%

Thursday, May 24 – Slayer @ The Armory in Minneapolis

Sunday, May 27th – Slay Day @ Surly Beer Garden

Aroma: Bready and crisp. Really no indication that Slayer’s been making music for nearly as long as I’ve been alive and this is their final tour.

Appearance: Pours a very light straw color and Tom Araya doesn’t really headbang anymore which is interesting to see. Still, the show will be worth it; I hear the Armory is a great venue and Gary Holt really does Jeff Hanneman justice.  

Flavor: Consistent with the Surly approach, this is as hoppy as this style should get, without being overpowering. This makes it a nice complement to the variety pack in that it fits the theme, but definitely stands out from the other members of the Big Four – Hell (Megadeth), Xtra Citra (Anthrax) and Furious (Metallica).

Mouthfeel: Fine, I guess, but why worry? This is absolutely the least important feature to consider when shotgunning beers before a metal show.

Overall Impression: This is good, but “Raining Blood” will always be their signature track. Personally, “South of Heaven” is my fave. And to think, neither of those were what earned them Grammys.

Slayer is done after this tour and HeatSlayer is exclusive to the variety pack so get on both now.


National Brett Day Celebration at Surly

There’s a National ______ Day for everything, now, isn’t there? Today is no exception – our friends at Surly Brewing Co. are going Brett-wild (look what I did there) in celebration with a very limited special food and beer menu.

The brewery and kitchen teams have gone all-out for some serious Brett-a-mania today in the Beer Hall. Stop in and check out a variety of food and drinks spiked with Brettanomyces including:

  • Brett Poppers
  • Brett Cracklins’
  • Responsibly-Raised Freshwater Brett Filets
  • Bretteast IPA
  • Beef Brettskit
  • Firkins of Brett-Aged Brett Fermented on Brett
  • A variety of meats and cheeses slathered in our house-made, small-batch Brett Sauce

“We love brett and want to marry it,” says Surly Head Brewer Jerrod Johnson. “But apparently you can’t marry a yeast strain. I thought this was America. I guess I was wrong.”

In addition to the Beer Hall, charitable coordinator Mary Brettske has launced a special one-day project: Surly Gives a Brett, a charitable arm focused entirely on raising brett awareness. Events include:

  • Brettanomyces 5K/Fun Run
  • Brett ‘n Bikes Trail Ride
  • Mississippi Headwaters Cleanup (with Brett)
  • Let’s Throw Some Brett in a Lake Just to See What Happens
  • Can You Build a House with Brett? Let’s Find Out Together Without the Cops.

Festivities conclude with tonight’s Lighting of the Brett in the Beer Garden.

“At sundown, we invite everyone on social media and various internet forums who has celebrated Surly’s use of brett to gather with us by the Brett Pit as we consecrate the spent Brettanomyces with a cleansing fire and somber ceremony. We’ll also do some fireworks and shit.”

For more details, please visit

Menus below:


The Land of 10,000 Beers (and more)

“Four and three and two and one, when I’m on the mic, the suckers run…” Hoops Brewing’s Dave Hoops raps with the audience in the Land of 10,000 Beers.

In case you live under a rock, the Minnesota State Fair starts today in St. Paul. Years ago, I had an office on Energy Park Drive and always cringed as the Fair approached. We usually had a flood of last minute creative and print work for a few big clients and the traffic always sucked. I’ve never understood why people choose to travel to or from the fair during rush hour. You’re smarter than that people!
Looking for some food and beverage updates? HeavyTable (Twitter) has you covered.
Thirsty? Here are a few suggestions.
Land of 10,000 Beers
The Land of 10,000 Beer exhibit, courtesy of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild returns to the Ag/Horticulture Building for a 6th year with 300 beers from nearly 70 Minnesota breweries and brewpubs. Try all 300! Or maybe not. This year they’ve revamped the flight categories to align more-closely with Brewers Association beer categories: Crisp and Clean, Malty and Sweet, Dark and Roasty, Hoppy and Bitter and Fruity, and Spicy Tart and Funky. Our friends at Better Beer Society are also curating a “Blue Ribbon Flight” with hand-selected flights from our favorite nerds, BBS’ certified cicerones.

New this year is a refreshed rotation of beer flight categories that align with the Brewers Association of beer categories: visitors to the exhibit can select among different flights of beers — Crisp and Clean, Malty and Sweet, Dark and Roasty, Hoppy and Bitter and Fruity, Spicy Tart and Funky. Also new, the Guild’s partner, the Better Beer Society (BBS), is curating the “Better Beer Society Blue Ribbon Flight” comprised of beers selected by BBS’ certified cicerones.

In addition to the beer, the Guild offers daily education programs at 3 and 6pm on weekdays and noon, 3pm and 6pm on weekends.  And if you want to step up your edumacation, BBS’ cicerones will also be conducting Fair food and beer pairing ideas.

Ballpark Cafe
This is a required stop in my book. The Ballpark Cafe has been slinging good beer longer than some of you have even cared. Along with some State Fair classics like Summit Oktoberfest, Lift Bridge Mini Donut and Steel Toe Size 7, the Ballpark Cafe also offers up a variety of beers from Bauhaus, Bent Brewstillery, Bent Paddle, Castle Danger, EastLake, Excelsior, Hoops Brewing, Indeed, Modist and Surly. You can also check out some ciders from Sweetland Orchard and an IPA from War Pigs (3 Floyds, Mikkeller).

Other Beers to Seek Out

Insight Duke of Cuke – Insight’s light lager infused with cucumber. (Lulu’s Public House)

Barley John’s Pickle Beer – Dry-hopped with fresh dill, horseradish and spices. Garnished with a dill pickle and havarti dill cheese. (Giggles)

Mini Donut Beer from Lift Bridge – this State Fair classic is a real treat. We’ve often joked that State Fair beers occasionally “jump the shark,” and this was the first. We really only need one of these per year, but still can’t help but enjoying it. (Ballpark Cafe)

Freehouse Caramel Apple π  -It’s like a little shot of apple pie. Much like Fair food, once a year is enough… but you may as well enjoy it while it’s there. (Blue Barn)

 Bad Weather Lemon Sunshine – a Limoncello-inspired ale brewed with lemons and lemon zest. (Mancini’s)

Summit Lazy Slipper – a Kolsch style beer brewed with ingredients sourced in Minnesota.  (Shanghaied Henri’s)

Follow this link for a list of all of the State Fair specialty beverages. Enjoy!

Brew Day at Surly: $pice Boyz Lager Beer Camp Collaboration with Sierra Nevada

Last Friday I had a rare opportunity to spend the day at Surly for a brew day with Michael Palmer from Sierra Nevada for their Beer Camp collaboration. The beer is called $pice Boyz, a lager infused with ginger and cayenne—aged on oak, and appearing on tap at the Surly Beer Hall. The Sierra Nevada version was brewed a couple months ago and will be released in the Beer Camp 12 pack. Their version was simply named Ginger Lager.

“All three of us came up with the idea for this beer” says Surly co-head brewer Jerrod Johnson. “We wanted to make a beer that would age well. We figured all the other folks would be making bigger beers, and we wanted to make something more sessionable.”

Ben Smith is the other co-head brewer at Surly and he was excited to work with Sierra Nevada on this project. “Their [Sierra Nevada] hospitality is second to none. Everyone there is a professional, and it was cool to see” says Smith. We wanna be stewards of the industry and it was a great experience.” He reiterated what Jerrod said about wanting to make something that was easy to drink. “We made some assumptions about what the others were going to do. They were doing sippers. Let’s make something simple but unique.” Jerrod and I have always wanted to do a ginger beer.”

How did this all come together? Well, it started when I ran into Michael, Jerrod, Ben, and Josh Lemke (brewer at Surly) at Grumpy’s in Northeast last Thursday evening. They suggested that I come in for a brew day at the Brooklyn Center Brewery. You don’t pass up an opportunity to brew with two of the best breweries out there.

The brew day began with a Red Bull courtesy of Josh. He mashed in while Ben and Jerrod held a meeting in back. Mike joined Josh and I on the brew deck and performed the ceremonial adding of the hops.

Ben and Jerrod joined in while we chatted about brewing and all the fun new beers that Surly has coming. Ben, Michael, and I sampled some of those beers to see how they were coming along.

Then it was back to the brew deck where we checked in on the boil. Josh was busy monitoring the progress of the batch. I chatted with Jerrod before he had to skip over to Surly MSP for a meeting.

Ben and I then bellied up in the old taproom and talked about Sierra Nevada, the collaboration beer, and life in general. He tells me that the Surly version of the beer will be a taproom only release starting in June and that the SN version will be included in the Beer Camp 12 pack, also in June.

Back out in the brewery Josh was manning the kettle and also took some time to change up the music in the brewery. Heavy metal would be the music of choice. Ben joined him on the deck to perform another hop addition while I was “busy” SnapChatting the process.

The crew then broke for lunch and that’s where my day there ended. The experience was fantastic, and the Surly brewing team is group of true professionals that know exactly what they’re doing. It almost seemed too easy. I guess that’s what you’d expect from one of the most respected breweries here in the country.

One thing is certain, you’re gonna want to stop in at the Surly Beer Hall in June for the $pice Boyz release. Just make sure you don’t break out in full Spice Girl mode….That would just be awkward.