Sunday, March 8, 2015

Minneapolis, Spring 2015, Part 2: Surly Brewing Company

The new Surly Beer Hall is quite a different experience.

The old one, a reappointed former abrasives factory, was outside of the city, at the end of a dusty road. The taproom was fairly small, with low ceilings, painted cinder block walls, and a linoleum floor. It had all the appeal of a high school cafeteria. There were not really enough tables or places to sit, and many people lined up along the walls, which had narrow metal shelf-like counters.

The new location, which opened late last year in Prospect Park, near the University of Minnesota football stadium, is a large open space, with a modern clean industrial chic look. The big brewing area is visible at one end of the building, behind massive floor to ceiling windows.

I visited on a Friday at lunch time, and it was starting to fill up quickly and was already quite noisy. I was seated at a long table with a group that was finishing up.

14 taps were on. Most brews are priced at $3 for 8oz. and $5 for 16oz. glasses. No sampler sets available. Beers are all Surly house brews, regulars and seasonals (some available only here) and, of course, all good to very good.

Service was great, but the food menu is a bit overpriced. I had the Surly Burger and was not disappointed.

I recommend visiting during the daytime on weekdays, and most definitely avoiding week nights and week nights. I’ve heard that there is often a one- or even two-hour wait in the evenings. But it certainly is a must-stop for all beer geeks when in MSP.

Surly Doomtree  (Premium Bitter/ESB - 5.7%)     3.8 out of 5.0
Heavy caramel and roasty nose, resin, something moldy or overripe, and somehow it all balances well. Bright, dark copper color, thick off-white head, clumpy lace. Very chewy maltiness, nice mix of bittering hops, some dark fruit, and piney tracks in finish. Medium body. Very tasty. Bittering creeps in slowly in increments and doesn’t take over.

Surly Devil’s Work  (Porter – 6.7%)     3.6
Dark roast nose, with burnt pine, anise, and some molasses. Near black, thick tan head, sticky lace. Sweetish strained dark fruit, some spiciness, with a good, slightly heavy finish. Medium body. Fruit and spice emerge well but do not really develop much beyond that. Kind of a clean porter with a bit of good spice.

Surly Fiery Hell  (Dortmunder/Helles – 4.5%)     3.7
“Cask conditioned Helles Lager aged on Hickory wood and Puya Chilies.” Clean malty nose, rich, with some good pushes of fruitiness. Brilliant dark straw color, thin filmy head. Sweet light tropical fruit, and the peppery heat jumps in after a second or two. Fruit reemerges, and then there are long peppery tracks. Thin-medium body. Nicely fruity, and the heat is just right. On the edge of too hot. Interesting, how the chiles wait politely for the fruit to show off first.

Surly Witch’s Tower  (Brown Ale – 4.5%)     3.2
Roasty nose, herbal and medicinal. Very dark brown, thin tan head, good lace. Smooth dark roast initial, thinly spiced up with the cardamom, touches of dark fruits, including raisins, prunes. Thin, with a tiny astringency. Okay. Kind of understated, possibly intentionally.

Surly Mild  (Mild Ale – 4%)     3.4
Light chocolate nose. Dark translucent brown color, thin tan head, great lacing. Light chocolate initial, very pleasant, toasty sweetness. Basically just thin chocolate throughout the palate, without much development. Okay. Smooth and moderate all the way. "Mild" is an understatement.

Surly / Amager Todd - The Axe Man (Surly Version)  (India Pale Ale – 7.2%)    3.7
“…a one-off keg of the Amager/Surly Todd - The Axe Man, brewed at the Surly brewery…” Shots of citrus in the nose, dank with the Mosaic hopping, tropical fruit. Hazy straw color, finely-beaded 2cm. white head, good lace. Thin fruity initial, pale malts, nice blend of hops, a bit of alcohol warmth, and a good, balanced finish. Medium body, and very smooth. Nice development of the fruit flavors, a touch rude in spots. Very good -- but Surly’s regular IPA, Furious, is better.

520 Malcolm Avenue SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota United States 55414
763 535 3330

Sun-Thu: 11am-11pm
Fri- Sat: 11am-12am

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