Omar, an obsessed homebrewer is looking through a homebrew catalog, sees a three-barrel brewing system and decides he wants to be in the business of beer. He proposes the idea of converting the family abrasives business to the owners (his parents), Nick and Dorit Ansari, and his wife Becca, and they all say ‘GO FOR IT!’ Omar starts learning about the brewery business, forms the plan, and hires accomplished local brewer, Todd Haug, to join him in converting an abrasives factory into a brewery.
On December 30, Omar and Todd brewed the first batch of Surly beer. It took 14 hours, the fermenter controls weren’t working properly, and Omar wasn’t yet accustomed to Todd’s brewing soundtrack (heavy f***ing METAL!!), but it was done. To be a brewery, ya gotta brew beer, and Surly just became a brewery!
On February 1, Surly sold and delivered its first kegs of Furious, two years after the whole Surly idea began. Omar made numerous sales calls to bars and restaurants and had bar owners spit out beer samples. They weren’t quite ready for what Surly was bringing. Fortunately, they’ve come around.
BeerAdvocate magazine names Surly Brewing the Best Brewery in America, and RateBeer names Surly Darkness the best American beer in the world, only 16 months after selling its first keg, and despite very limited distribution (growlers at the brewery and a handful of places around the Twin Cities). Surly Brewing is here to stay.
We needed a bigger brewery to meet demand and wanted to build one where people can see the beer being made, and then drink it in the brewery’s taproom and restaurant. One problem, a Prohibition-era Minnesota law prevented production breweries from selling pints of their beer at their breweries. Omar thought, ‘Let’s change the law! Should be easy right?' It wasn't. But Surly Nation voiced its support through social media, called legislators, and made our Destination Brewery possible.
On May 24, Governor Mark Dayton signed the “Surly Bill” into law, making it possible for breweries that produce less than 250,000 barrels each year to sell pints of their beer at their brewery. Thanks to the bill's authors, the late state Senator Linda Scheid and Representative Jenifer Loon, and all the supporters who supported the plan. Municipalities across the state follow suit, making it possible for breweries to open taprooms at their breweries, and a lot of them do.
More than two years after the law changed and after exhaustive work, Surly breaks ground on the site of the new brewery in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. In typical Surly fashion, Surly's friends and family are invited to the construction site to toast and drink beers.
Surly opened the new Destination Brewery, increasing production capacity to 100,000 barrels a year. Construction progressed through the coldest Minnesota winter in more than three decades, and record spring rainfall. The Surly way is not the easy way. Just a decade after the idea of Surly Brewing Co. began, the brewery is expanding distribution beyond Minnesota. Looks like Surly Brewing will be sticking around.