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Three Beers, Two Initiatives, One Brewery

Surly has not one but two in-house programs that encourage our employees to brew their own beer for release in our Minneapolis beer hall. Both these programs, along with pretty much everything else in our industry and society in general, were sidelined over the last two years. We’ve finally been able to resume these initiatives in earnest and have three new beers to show for it. All of them will be available in our beer hall over the holiday weekend.


Intelligent Design is a program that’s open to all Surly brewers regardless of experience, allowing them to develop a beer concept and work with the Head Brewer and Brand Development team to bring that beer to life as a tap in the Surly beer hall. The entire process mimics Surly’s R&D process for developing new brands to bring to market, from brewhouse logistics to scaling up recipes to consumer appeal. It gives the brewers a valuable opportunity to gain insight and experience. If you enjoyed Celestial Doom (Josh Lemke) or Pizza Party (Francis Willette) recently, those are both Intelligent Design graduates.

Shannon Stroh brews at our original Brooklyn Center mothership. As a fan of IPAs and watermelon, she wanted to see if these two great tastes taste great together. The result is Losin’ My Rind.

What was your inspiration for making a watermelon beer?

SHANNON: I have loved watermelon FOREVER. I have (more than once) eaten an entire watermelon in a day by myself because I love it so much. I think I love it more than my fiancé. Watermelon is generally used in sours and super fruity beers when people use it at all. It’s hard to nail the perfect watermelon flavor, and I’m always up for a challenge. This beer stems from all the way back to my roots of brewing. This is the first recipe I ever wrote, though it has been tweaked and up-scaled quite a bit!

Was it always going to be an IPA? Yes, a stout would have been weird.

SHANNON: Yes! I love a good IPA. I don’t mean hazy IPA. I mean old-school bitter with a nice body.

How much watermelon did you use?

I used a whole drum of fresh watermelon juice/puree. It was 45 gallons which ends up being about three gallons per barrel. A lot, in other words.

What was the hop bill and why did you choose these hops?

I used Huell Melon in my dry hop, just to accentuate the watermelon that was added during fermentation. I also used Citra and Mosaic for bittering in the kettle and whirlpool. Each of these hops brings out citrus and stone fruit character which balances the watermelon.

What kind of flavors/aromatics should drinkers expect (besides watermelon)?

At first whiff, it honestly smells like a watermelon Jolly Rancher, but it tastes so much better! You’ll obviously get quite a bit of watermelon flavor and aromatics, but it also has a smooth, slightly sweet maltiness. I also love the way the body of the beer turned out. The bitterness holds up really well!



So You Want To Brew A Beer allows all employees, not just brewers, to take part in the brewing process. If they have a great idea for a beer, pitch it. If accepted, we brew it on the one-barrel pilot brewery at our Minneapolis facility and put it on draught at beer hall. Over the year, we track which one gets the best customer reviews/sales, and the winner gets to re-brew a larger batch that will go on at the Beer Hall for a longer run. We’re fortunate to have two ready to roll as you read this.

Wisconsin’s own Nikki Reeck set about to make a beer version of her favorite Starbucks order.

What was your inspiration for making a chai latte beer?

NIKKI: Chai lattes are my go-to coffee shop order. I’d never seen a chai latte beer before, so I thought it might make for an interesting choice.

What kind of seasonings did you use?

NIKKI: Black tea, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Why did you choose a milk stout as the style?

NIKKI: Two reasons – one, I’ve really been loving milk stouts lately, I love a good dark beer.  Also, the milk stout seemed to make sense as a “latte” choice.

What was the malt bill for this?

NIKKI: We used Simpson’s Golden Promise, Black Malt, Chocolate, DRC and Briess Midnight Wheat, and Dingeman’s Aromatic.  (Josh and Kyle from the brew team selected these to help bring out the)

Is the name a Bart Simpson reference?

NIKKI: Don’t have a cow, man.

What kind of flavors/aromatics should drinkers expect?

NIKKI: I think you’ll get some chocolate from the malts and the spice aromatics come through on the finish.

Is there anything else you’d like the drinking public to know about the beer?

NIKKI: I know the warm spices of chai might not make as much sense in the summer as it would in the colder months, but I enjoy an iced chai latte as much as a hot one!



Another SYWTBAB selection is a Czech-style lager from our own Jake Thompson.

What was your inspiration for making a Czech-style lager?

JAKE: Having been in the beer industry for almost 10 years now I’ve gone through all the “phases” and currently have landed on light, refreshing lagers as my go-to beverage of choice. I’ve always thought of the beer industry as a community and enjoy beers that bring people together, but don’t distract from the conversation.   

Can you explain to the people what a Czech-style lager is and why you like it?

JAKE: A Czech-style lager in meant as an homage to the original lagers of Pilsen. In contrast with some other lagers this one should be malt forward with a nice floral hop background. Simple and easy drinking!

What was the hop and malt bill for this?

JAKE: This beer is comprised primarily of Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt, which is grown in the Czech Republic, with a bit of Munich malt to punch up the malty flavors. The only hop used in this beer was Saaz, of which 90% was Czech with a little American Saaz in there due to availability.

What does 12 Degree reference?

JAKE: 12 Degrees refers to the starting degree Plato of this beer. Degrees Plato is used to describe the amount of extract (mainly sugars) in the wort prior to fermentation.

What kind of flavors/aromatics should drinkers expect?

JAKE: Bready/malty with soft herbal and floral hop bitterness.

We’re tapping Losin’ My Rind, Chai Carumba!, and 12 Degree at 3pm on Friday, May 27th. Let the rest of Minnesota sit in traffic on the way to the lake. Come to the beer hall and raise a glass (or three) with us.




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