Name: Surly Brewing Company

Location: Brooklyn Center, MN

Type: Production

Available in DC Market: No

What you need to know: Opening in 2005, Surly became the first Minnesota brewery to open west of the Mississippi River since 1987. Located just across the river from Minneapolis, they have already made an impression on the national craft beer scene by making some excellent beers coupled with very limited distribution: beer geek manna. In 2010, Surly produced just over 10,000 barrels of beer, but has plans to increase that ten-fold. They worked with legislators to change Minnesota state laws to make it easier to brew and sell in the same location. Surly cans the vast majority of its beers in 16 oz. tallboys.


Beer #1: Coffee Bender (American Brown Ale / 5.5% ABV)

Beer Advocate: 93 (653 ratings)
Rate Beer: 98 overall, 99 style (516 ratings)

Notes: It’s unusual to make a coffee beer that’s not a stout, but that’s what Surly has done here by taking a brown ale base and adding oats and cold-brewed Guatemalan single origin coffee. The result is delicious, a hybrid of beer and iced coffee that you could drink for breakfast if you ignore societal norms.

Beer #2: Smoke Lager (Smoked Baltic Porter / 8.3% ABV)

Beer Advocate: 94 (224 ratings)
Rate Beer: 99 overall, 99 style (325 ratings)

Notes: Did you know that Baltic porters are lagered? It’s true. Also, this beer incorporates smoked malts from Bamberg, Germany, just like proper rauchbiers. Surly oak-ages this beer to keep the smoke from dominating, allowing dark fruit flavors like raisins, plums, and figs to shine. It’s a smooth beer given the high ABV. Smoke is one of the few beers that Surly bottles.

Surly doesn’t distribute to the east coast and is bringing two very unusual beers that challenge the notions of beer styles. This is going to add up to long lines, but those lines will be worth it. Surly owner Omar Ansari brought both these beers to Churchkey in early March. Tell him that he should do it again.

This profile is a part of the DCBeer SAVOR Brewery Profile series. For more information, follow the link to see profiles of all 2012 SAVOR participants.

Beer Review Disclaimer: The beer reviews found on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer do not represent the opinions of this site. We provide these in the hope that they will serve as a resource showing what some craft beer fans have thought of the beers. These reviews can be a helpful guideline, but are not the be-all end-all about a beer’s strengths or weaknesses.