Surly Brewing Company – FIVE year Anniversary and EXPANSION plans!

This is a post I did for a national beer blog that I'm writing for now, I thought I'd share it on the Dank Blog as well!  It's a little bit more formal then I usually get, and i typically just write about my own brewing and shit, but I'm hoping to get some free beers out of this new venture! Cheers! Nick

Surly Brewing Company is a local Minnesota brewery which sent the Minnesota beer scene into a frickin frenzy 5 years ago and they’re still shakin things up to this day.  Minnesota in 2006 at the time Surly began brewing, had only a few big breweries that were putting out very traditional beers.  Summit (Ales) and Schell’s(Lagers) were the only real players in the Region.  Surly had a unique situation in Minnesota, they didn’t strive to put out traditional beers that people wanted, they strove to put out beers that people didn’t realize they wanted.   Five years ago you couldn’t find a 100 IBU IPA on the shelves in Minnesota until Surly’s Furious hit the shelves and freaked everyone’s palates out.   Thus the beer revolution of Minnesota began! 

Now, Five years later this month and Surly is putting on parties all across the Twin Cities area at Pubs and Restaurants that were early adopters of their bold products.   Not only do they have casks of their normal line up, but they are also releasing my favorite Surly beer to date, Pentagram, a 100% Brett Barrel aged beer that reminds me of a slightly less sour Flanders Red Ale.   It’s a fantastic beer by Surly and a direction that I hope they continue in.   It’s obvious to me that the new direction the craft beer is heading is towards Sour/Funky beers.   Surly’s first foray into this territory is extremely successful and ended up pulling in a first place “The Great Snow Shoe Award” at the Minnesota Brewer’s Guild – Winterfest earlier this month!

In addition to all the hoopla about Surly’s five year anniversary, Surly also announced this month that they are planning a $20 million dollar brewery expansion project that includes a new huge brewery connected to a brewpub, outdoor patio, and event center.  They are calling it a “Destination Brewery”.  The only issue is, Minnesota state legislation currently won’t allow them to sell beer on site.   Surly is getting Surly once again and looking to change the local laws and regulations.   All they want to do is sell beer, that they produce, on site at their own brewery.  Nothing more, nothing less.   I hope that Surly is allowed to build this destination brewery as it would be a huge boost to our local economy with a projected 150 new jobs created.

A $20 million dollar brewery expansion, after only 5 years of being in business!  Now that’s a success story!   A success story that tells you that not only do you need a great product, but you also need great marketing, communication, and vision in this industry!
If you’ve never had a Surly beer before, hopefully this expansion happens and they are able to manage greater distribution while maintaining their high quality.

Breaking NEWS….If you are a homebrewer, good news, Todd Haug (Surly’s Brewer) recently put out a Pro-series of beers with local St. Paul homebrew store Northern Brewer where you can re-create most of the Surly line of beers including Furious, Cynic, Bender, Smoke, and Bitter Brewer!


Brau Brothers - Ring Neck Braun Ale Vertical tasting...

So, I was at the Brau Brothers Brewery / Farm this last weekend and I was raving to the Brau's about how I feel that their Braun Ale is my favorite locally made Brown Ale.   If you haven't had it, it's extremely flavorful and very intense on the malt specifically raisin, and rum flavors.   As a brewer I associate these flavors with Belgian Dubbels typically and either Begian Special B or Crystal 120 to impart this type of malt characteristic in a beer.   While I was talking to Dustin about the beers of his that I really like, I remembered that I have an 09 Braun Ale, and an 10 Braun Ale in my cellar.   See in 09 they had a really simple label, and when they came out with their new labels I bought up a 6 pack of the new version and my 2 remaining with the old label.   Not sure why I cellared them...I guess because it's a big robust flavorful brown ale that I thought would age well and mellow.   Here we go... I'm gonna drink em and see what happens to an aged Brau Brothers Ring Neck Braun Ale.

2009 Braun Ale vs. 2010 Braun Ale

A beautiful brown color with ruby highlights.  The 09 looks a little darker.  The head is really low on the 09 and falls away quickly, and the 2010 is a little bigger and sticks around a little longer.

Aroma -
Both of them are of boozy raisins.  The 09 is a little more melow and woodsy, and musty smelling.

Flavor -
2010 -The flavor is mostly really sweet malt, raisins, but the underlying flavor is chocolate raspberry.  Like you are biting into a piece of chocolate with a raspberry filling.
2009 - The flavor has mellowed, but still sweet malt of raisin.  The raspberry flavor has subsided now and the plum, raisin dark fruit is shining through more.   More sessionable since it's mellowed.

Both of them have a medium bodied mouthfeel but maybe a little thin.  Helps make it more drinkable though.  Carbonation is a bit lower on the 09 version.

This is a really smooth Brown ale that is nutty, fruity, like rum raisins, and with a very unique taste of raspberries.   Really not much changed in the appearance, and aroma from aging this one, but the flavor definitely mellowed, and the raspberry flavor almost completely subsides with a year or more in the cellar.  This is a fantastic Brown Ale,  and I can't wait to finish these two pints!


Brau Brothers group brew day!

Today I drove down to South Western Minnesota to an exeptional brewery, Brau Brothers, in Lucan, MN. The brewery started out as a 2 BBL brew pub many years ago, 11 years ago maybe, as the brain child of Dustin Brau. At the Brau Haus they couldn't keep up with demand so.... they bought up a 15 BBL brewhouse and now after 5 years are really picking up steam! Literally, they use steam to boil their beer!

Today started off with a nice drive through rolling hills from Minneapolis. Actually, there wasn't one hill along the way until I hit Redwood Falls. It was a nice easy drive though. The Brau Brothers had a Group Brew day which I was lucky enough to get involved with. The Brau's put on a Homebrew contest each year where they take the winners recipe and brew up on their own equipment for distribution. This year the distribution of the winning American Black Ale, (CDA, Black IPA, etc) will primarily be distributed in South Dakota, with a few select locations in the Twin Cities receiving kegs, and 750 bottles. Dustin Brau lead the show, and encouraged all 20-30 of us to dough in, stir the mash, clean the lauter tun, and basically...if you wanted to participate in the brew day, you really could. It's a fantastic idea. You can only learn basic concepts from most brewery tours, but this hands on approach really helps you understand the intricate steps within the process demystifying a typical brew day! I can't say enough about the Brau Brothers family. They are just straight up, really good, story tellin, card playin, easy going brewers, just doing a really good job brewing quality beer. They are also growing hops, barley, and rye, and I'm sure some other things. There hops are on their 4th year of growth and they clearly are doing a good job as hop farmers because their Wet Hop Ale this year was frickin fantastic. If you haven't tried their 100 Yard Dash - fresh Hop, you may still be able to find a random 6er on the shelves of your local liquor store if you're lucky. It was extremely bitter, flavorful, and a slight aroma of locally grown hops.   I will say that they could've been a little more heavy handed on the hops at the end of the boil on that one. Their Ringneck Braun Ale is my favorite Brown Ale brewed in Minnesota by far.

Look for this Brau Brothers American Dark Ale to hit the shelves in a month or two, as well as new and more consistent seasonals from Brothers Brau. There was talk of a Saison in the near future being fermented at extreme temps so def excited for that! Keep up the good work beer brothers and fam. Can't wait to come out in the Summer and see the farm and brewery in it's summery glory!

I ended up walking away with a bunch of this sweet wort.  I'll be doing some experimenting with this wort.  I'm currently fermenting some on Wyeast 1272 which I think will complement this beer very well.  The other portion  will be fermented on the new Midwest Brew Supply yeast, Wyeast Headwaters Ale.   Can't wait to see the difference between the two yeasts.   In addition to that, I may split the wort  for a dry hops experiment.  All to be sampled at the March NE Homebrew club meetings!

Here is the recipe as I converted it to 5 gallons at 70 % effeciency.

malt & fermentables

Malt or Fermentable

American Two-row Pale
Simpsons Medium Crystal
Briess Chocolate 350 L 
Carafa II
Original Gravity
(1.054 to 1.063)
Final Gravity
(1.013 to 1.016)
24° SRM / 47° EBC
(Brown to Dark Brown)
Mash Efficiency



60 mins
15 mins
10 mins
5 mins
106.2 IBU
6.0% ABV
198 per 12 oz.

The Brau Brewery
American Black Ale, contest winning homebrew recipe that was then brewed by the Brau Brothers!

Hop farm (1300 bines!?!)

Fantastically delicious Brau Beers! Very well done!

The beautiful serving vessels.

Dustin explaining the mash procedure
Spent grain after brew day

Dustin Brau ( Brewmaster Extraordinaire) and Myself after brew day! 

Dustin racking out wort for the brewers to take home and ferment!


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