Like all great stories, this one begins at Ansari Abrasives (later Sparky Abrasives), tucked away in a Brooklyn Center industrial park, owned by first-generation immigrants Naseem (Nick) and Dorit Ansari.
Their son, Omar Ansari, caught the home brewing bug in the early-‘00s when the craft beer industry was a different place, especially in Minnesota. The quest to find a quality craft beer around here really was enough to make a person surly.
It’s what led Omar and founding head brewer Todd Haug to make the kind of beer they wanted to drink. With Becca (Omar’s wife), Nick, and Dorit’s blessings, a portion of the abrasives factory was converted to a brewery. And, on December 30, 2005, Surly Brewing Co. began.
The first beer was Bender, an oatmeal brown ale. That opened the door. Furious, an aggressively hopped IPA, kicked it in, transforming the way Minnesota thought about craft beer. Word spread, especially among the Twin Cities’ nascent craft beer community. The abrasives factory soon gave way to a full-time brewing facility. Best-of lists and Brewery of the Year honors followed. Something was happening here.
It soon became clear that the repurposed abrasives factory was nowhere near big enough to keep up with demand. Trips to Europe and California sold Omar on the idea of a destination brewery, one that could produce enough beer for Surly Nation at large while combining beer, food, and community for a singular experience.
As this idea started to gain momentum, Omar was perplexed by a Prohibition-era Minnesota law that prevented production breweries from selling their beer onsite. He worked with Minnesota legislators, and the vocal, passionate Surly Nation, to change that law. The so-called “Surly Bill” passed on May 24, 2011, and scores of new breweries and taprooms bloomed. Minnesota’s proud brewing history, unchanged for so long, finally got another chapter, one that’s still being written.
In December 2014, the Brooklyn Center taproom poured its last pint and Minneapolis’ Prospect Park neighborhood officially became home to the Surly Destination Brewery. The 50,000 square-foot facility hosts a brew house, beer hall, beer garden, company store, event center, pizza restaurant, and Festival Field concert venue.
Surly’s current head brewer Ben Smith continues the relentless pursuit of craft beer perfection, pushing boundaries and refusing to brew to style (except for when they do). The brewery now has capacity to serve nine states and one province. Furious and Bender are part of a year-round line-up that includes 10 styles. Our seasonal styles, small batches, and brand collaborations continue to innovate. Darkness, our acclaimed Russian Imperial Stout, organically developed its own annual Darkness Day.
Surly has been a proudly independent craft brewery for 12 years. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t Settle. Get Surly.