So, Surly Brewing has come to Manitoba. I’m sure people have probably heard this as it’s been widely promoted through social media, the liquor marts, and even in the news. Now here I am writing a post about this one brewery making its way to Manitoba. Well, it is a pretty big deal.
Surly Brewing Company was founded in 2004 by Omar Ansari. Omar was an avid homebrewer and decided that he wanted to get involved in the brewing industry. He proposed converting his parents Abrasives factory into a brewery, and with their go ahead, hired accomplished local brewer Todd Haug and got to work building a brewery.
In 2005 Surly Brewing Co. brewed it’s first batch of beer. It took over 14 hours as the fermenter controls weren’t working and Todd’s heavy metal music soundtrack made things a big difficult to communicate, but they accomplished the goal and were officially on there way to becoming one of the top breweries in the United States.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Surly sold it’s first kegs of Furious to local bars. Omar had made various sales calls to bars and had bartenders spit out the samples of the beer. Only 16 months after selling the first kegs of Furious, Rate beer named Surly Brewing the best brewery in America and named Surly’s Russian Imperial Stout (Darkness) the best American beer in the world.
In 2011 Surly realized they needed to build a new brewery to meet the demand for their beer. They wanted to be able to sell their own beer on site. They faced a similar problem to Winnipeg where a prohibition-era law prevented breweries from selling pints of their beer at their breweries. Omar set out to change this law and with the help of Surly Nation standing behind him and a heck of a lot of work, they managed to get legislators to make the change. Surly’s Destination brewery is now a fantastic site to visit with food, a huge variety of beers, a state of the art brewing facility and many events for folks to enjoy.
In 2016 Todd Haug left Surly to go work with 3 Floyds Brewing Co in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure he is missed, but he has left the brewhouse in the capable hands of co-lead brewers Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith.
One of the most amazing things for me is how Surly involves the community and how involved they are in the community as well. Always doing what they can to give back. The annual release of their Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness, has become an event that people travel from across North America to join. There is music, food, beer, and eventually the release of the beer. Only about 10,000 bottles are brewed each year and each person is limited to six. I’ve been lucky enough to get some, but these beers are coveted. Surly partners with artists each year to design the label for Darkness and it’s always super impressive. Surly produces dozens of beers each year from year-rounds to seasonal brews. Every beer I’ve had I’ve enjoyed.
Surly has chosen to expand across the border into Canada and have chose Manitoba as their first foray beyond their own borders. This is a big deal. Surly’s beers are considered top notch in each of the categories they brew. Them coming to Manitoba is not only a huge boon for Manitobans, but it’s a big push to the local brewing community. It can only raise the quality of beer we have access to here in Manitoba. Many of us in the beer community would make treks down to North Dakota to pick up cans of Surly. Now, we can put them in our fridge along side our favorite locals.
While Surly is initially starting with Kegs, they do have plans to start sending cans to Manitoba in the Fall. There is some work to do in getting the cans “Canadianized” (adding milliliters, putting Biére Forte, etc.…) but we will be able to stock our fridges with cans of Todd the Axeman or Furious at some point down the road.
In conversation with Rick and Omar from Surly, Rick shared that Surly is in Manitoba because of the work of Cheryl Thompson at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries wanted Surly in Manitoba and helped make the logistics side of things work. So, I want to give a big shout out to Cheryl and everyone else who worked so hard to get Surly into Manitoba.
So, check the Liquor Marts website here to see where you can try something from Surly and add them to your list of beers alongside your local and other craft favorites. While I know that I’ll be stocking my fridge with many Surly items, it’s not going to stop me from supporting my favorite local and craft folks. I think everyone in the beer community, including local breweries, would join me in saying “Welcome to Manitoba Surly. We’re glad you’re here”.