Today marks the opening of the Surly Beer Hall at 520 Malcolm Avenue SE, Minneapolis. The “destination brewery” (think “brewery + taproom + restaurant + event space”) is sparkling in anticipation of the crowds … except perhaps for the stainless steel bar tops, which are already scratched, and the eager yet bleary-eyed staff, who are continuously tidying and mopping up after the barrage of media visitors. The German beer-garden-style long wooden tables are ready to be sat at, and the smoker’s outpost is ready to be utilized. Don’t forget to wear your black.
Food and beer will be served in the massive beer hall. An upstairs area, where the restaurant will eventually be, will for now serve as overflow space in which to mill about, beer in hand. The menu itself (see below), while quite robust for a beer hall, is still a bit of a wild card. Some of the items have already been modified or replaced in the lead-up to the opening. The complexity of dishes like scallops with cippolini, guanciale ragu, farro, and sumac cracklins might result in a stuttering start.
The vibe in the brewery is reminiscent of a condo complex in the Warehouse District that was built specifically to hold spendy lofts. It isn’t a repurposed old building, but it fits in with them. On the dreary Thursday we visited, ominous shadows were cast into the brewery, and the atmosphere felt anything but warm. For an authentic sense of the past, go to the second-floor event space, where a giant panoramic window overlooks the still-in-use rail yard to the building’s south – in stark contrast to the rust-free fermenters down below.
But the beer is what brings us to the brewery, and drink we shall. But where to start? Surly is pulling out all the stops this weekend with more than a dozen beers including year-round favorites and a few specialties. There is more to come in 2015, including cask beers and longer tenures for some of the more elusive favorites.
Here is a comprehensive list, the Cliff’s Notes, if you will, for the beers you can enjoy at Surly’s destination taproom.
Todd the Axeman: West Coast Style IPA, 7 percent ABV. Overpowering in all the right ways, this ale focuses on equal citrus and pine notes, creating the ultimate hoppy beer. It’s a palate-buster, though, so drink it toward the end of your experience if you want to taste anything else.
Damien: American Black Ale, 5 percent ABV. Made with the remains of this year’s Darkness, it’s more easygoing and pleasantly dry-hopped with cherry notes. Lower in alcohol content than most of the other beers, it’s a good choice for a starter.
Doomtree: English Bitter, 5.7 percent ABV. A collaboration with the Minneapolis-based group and namesake, Doomtree, and released relatively recently, this beer is lightly hopped in that mild-mannered British way: like a good pub ale, but a little more in the style of sweet and sour chicken.
Eight: American Barleywine, 11 percent ABV. It seems like every year Surly gets a little crazier with their anniversary beers. This one is a slight change of pace. Technically an oat wine, it was aged in whiskey barrels to give a smoked mouthfeel while maintaining sweet, raisin-like tones without the astringency of a high-gravity pour.
Devil’s Work: American Porter, unknown ABV. Brewed with molasses and star anise, and dry-hopped, the licorice flavors make the sweet undertones in this beer a little spicier. But it is round and thick overall, as a robust porter should be, and is a good choice for dessert beer.
Cacao Bender: American Brown Ale, 5.1 percent ABV. Surly takes Bender and does a bunch of cool things with it throughout the year and releases them at special events; the Cacao Bender, one of the most popular iterations, is made with vanilla beans, cacao nibs, and coffee.
The Usual Suspects
Cynic: Saison / Farmhouse Ale, 6.7 percent ABV.
Furious: American IPA, 6.2 percent ABV.
Overrated: American West Coast IPA, 7.3 percent ABV.
Bender: American Brown Ale, 5.1 percent ABV
Coffee Bender: American Brown Ale, 5.1 percent ABV
Hell: Munich Helles Lager, 4.5 percent ABV.
The Surly Taproom is located at 520 Malcolm Avenue SE, Minneapolis and is open from 11am-11pm Monday-Thursday and Sunday, and 11am-midnight on Friday and Saturday.