Friday, August 26, 2011

A Surly Attitude

Cans, Kegs and Malt
Recently I participated in Surly Brewing tour in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.  Surly was a brand that I had no experience with before this tour.  The only thing I knew before arriving at the brewery is how hard it is to book a tour, with dates closing within an hour from them becoming available.  That should have been my first clue that Surly fans are loyal fans. 
My tour started in early evening.  My small group checked in and received five sample tokens and a sheet describing what they had on tap.  Immediately we started to sample, we were each allotted five small but satisfying samples.  The tap room had a party feel as they pumped in music and groups of friends found spots to stand and talk about their samples and life in general.  It was announced that the tour would start soon and that we could grab a sample before we went into the brewery.  Most guests than grabbed a sample glass to sip on as they were in the brewery.  The first half of the tour focused on the history and future plans of Surly.  There was then a short break during which guests could grab another sample or examine the brewery.  One of my friends a home brewer was impressed with how close he could get to some of the equipment.  I would say for a home brewer this field trip is a treat as they can examine larger scale brewing equipment and compare it to there home setup.  The second half of the tour consisted of how beer is made in the brewery.  The brewery and tour was all held in one room. 
During this tour I was impressed with several things about Surly:
·         Surly is growing:  In 2006, they produced 1,748 kegs.  In 2009, that jumped up to 18,174 kegs.  This year they estimate they will sell around 35,000 kegs.  With that sort of growth, even with new equipment they are clearly busting at the seams.  So it was exciting to hear their plans for future growth. 
·         Surly drinkers are Surly fans:  Surly has created a loyal customer base that knows their beer, knows Surly (including the staff) and associate themselves with the Surly brand.  Several on this tour had taken this tour before! 
·         Have fun and others will learn:  Our tour guide was great.  He was a volunteer that clearly loves Surly the brand.  He loved telling us about the history of Surly and beer making.  And despite some kid questionable language, his attitude helped us to learn about beer and the science behind it better than we would have in a more formal setting. 
I chose the following five beers for my samples,
·         Coffee Bender: One of my companions said this was a must try due to its uniqueness, so I jumped in and selected it first.  It is a dark brew infused with coffee.  The dark stout mixes well with the rich coffee flavor and is a unique taste with a coffee after taste.  My first sample was a success, but of the five I drank this was only my third favorite. 
·         Hell: Hell is a light lager that I chose due its seasonal nature.  It was good but very light and not a preferred beer for someone who prefers porter.  But I would choose this over any large brewer light beer if I had a choice.  But it was my least favorite of my samples. 
·         Furious: Wow, now this is a unique beer.  I chose it because this seemed to be one of Surly’s more popular offerings.  It is an India Pale Ale loaded with hops.  It is probably one of the most bitter beers that I have ever drank where hops is the clear and overriding flavor.  It was my 4th favorite sample. 
·         Bitter Brewer:  I looked over at my friend and said, “Can I hug it?” My first sip reminded me of English Ales that I discovered when visiting the United Kingdom.  This is my preferred taste profile, along with porters, in beers with a rich orange color and bitter flavor.  This was my favorite Surly brew and I would definitely pickup this seasonal beer if I ran across it. 
·         Bender Ale: This is a good, rich and satisfying porter and my second favorite of all my samples.  If I had to pick a Surly when Bitter Brewer is not available this would be my go to option.    
I feel weird rating these beers.  Overall, I enjoyed all five brews I sampled.  Surly Brewing is a growing local company that in many ways is the American dream, with a founder who followed what he loved and found others in employees and customers who shared his dream.  I would take other friends to this party, I mean tour, in an instant and find it easy to cheer on this company.    
Words to Remember

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