Surly’s Beer Hall is on track to reopen this June. It would not be happening without the work of Aaron Johnson, a veteran of the Twin Cities culinary scene and the Beer Hall’s General Manager. Here’s a little more about Aaron.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM? Chippewa Falls, WI
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RESTAURANT JOB? Dining Services at UW-Stout in Memomonie, WI. They offer a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management and there’s a scratch kitchen onsite. I learned to bartend, cook, bake, and run a banquet room.
My grandpa was the head of this department for 40 years. My first day, he took me aside, told me that I was now a student like anyone else, and put me in the dish pit for six weeks. No special treatment for the legacy kid and I learned how to wash dishes.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TWIN CITIES JOB? Working at D’Amico Cucina with Seth Bixby Daugherty.
WHEN DID YOU GO FROM BACK OF HOUSE TO FRONT OF HOUSE? Tim Niver (Mucci’s, Saint Dinette) brought me in to work at Aquavit. That led to a decade-long partnership with Tim at places like Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis and The Strip Club in St. Paul. Our concepts for both were simple: Approachable food and drinks with serious culinary/mixology chops in neighborhoods kind of off the beaten path. The reputation those restaurants still have around town is something we’re both incredibly proud of.
HOW DID YOU LAND HERE? I was doing part-time restaurant consulting during the pandemic, which allowed me to be home with my 13 and 11-year-olds while they were distance learning and my wife was working. With things opening back up and schools back to in-person learning, I had the time to dip my toe back into the hospitality industry full-time. I saw the Surly job, applied, met Omar (Ansari, Surly Founder) and Danny (DiNovis, Surly VP of Hospitality) at a taproom for an interview, and it just felt right. I’m really looking forward to what we can do here.