Tag Archives: Surly

Surly Comes to Manitoba

Surly Logo

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.

Omar and Todd - Surly Brewing

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.

Surly’s Philosophy: Our philosophy? Make great beerHave funGive a Damn about your community. Be independent. Don’t be a dick.

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”.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
Surly Crew at Flatlander’s Beer Fest – 2017

-Beer Winnipeg

Flatlander’s Beer Festival – 2017

flatlanders-header

Another year and another Flatlander’s Beer Festival has come and gone. Last year I opined that it was the best festival to date. Well, this years was just a smidge better. With the advent of so many new breweries in Winnipeg, more getting close enough that they have beer, and the arrival of Surly (who just raised the bar for beer in this city) it was an awesome festival.

This year I had the opportunity to act as a Beer Geek once again. I love this role and had a fantastic time. Helping people find their way to beers, encouraging going outside of their comfort zone, running into friends and being able to help expand horizons are just some of the fun things you get to do as a beer geek.

Flatlanders Floor Plan
One of the starkest differences I found between last years’ festival and this years as a beer geek was the number of people who knew stuff about beer. While I commented about this last year, I found that many of the people at the matinee were clear on what they wanted to try, what they liked, and had a good base knowledge about beer. Into the evening, chatting with folks about what they enjoyed, I found the same thing. That’s awesome.

This year’s festival grew just slightly over last years with about 88 booths and over 250 beers and ciders from around the world. From what I’ve heard, there were ~2000 in attendance at the Friday night session, ~1500 at the Saturday afternoon matinee and ~2500 at the Saturday night sessions. This is a huge growth from last year that saw just over 4000 for the whole event. Seeing a ~2000 person increase from the previous year’s festival is huge.

Flatlanders 2017 Bowl

The highlights of the festival for me were mostly found at ice level. While there were certainly some good breweries and beers up in the concourse, all the local breweries were on the ice level along with Surly and Lake of the Woods.  Surly was my best in show brewery. I have nothing bad to say about their beers and the Todd the Axeman IPA was by far one of my favourite beers.

Flatlanders Surly Brewing
The Surly crew

My best in show beer for this festival came from Jeff Stacey who brewed a gold medal winning “Intergalactic Blonde” for the Winnipeg Brew Bombers Pro/Am competition. It was the Brew Bombers booth and was just stellar. A huge shout out to all the other local breweries. A lot of good stuff on tap and it was great to see Nonsuch there with their beer. I could take a lot of time just listing the breweries and beers I enjoyed, but with them being local I’ll just encourage you to go out and try beer.

Flatlanders Pro Am Booth

Finally, I had someone ask me what Flatlander’s gives that going to taprooms and the liquor mart doesn’t. For me, Flatlander’s is about giving people the opportunity to expand their beer horizons with the “fear” of not liking something or wasting money. It gives people the chance to try that beer they’ve seen at the Liquor Marts but have been unsure if they want to try it. They can find new beers they love, new styles they enjoy, and learn about these beers and styles.

Besides raising money for a fantastic cause, Flatlander’s Beer Festival gives beer geeks and beer novices an opportunity to learn something new about beer, and find new beers that they love. I’m going to give a big shout out to Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s All Natural Brewing, for the awesome talk on an under represented style, the Gruit. Great talk, and great beer. Also to Aaron and Amanda from the Liquor Marts for their efforts during the night. Thanks to you both.

flatlanders-concourse.jpg

I can’t wait for next year’s festival. This summer is a great opportunity to get out and try the local beers/new beers coming to Winnipeg. So do it, and keep following along with me. I’ve got more write-ups on the way including a Welcome to Manitoba Surly post, my write-up of my chat with Oxus, and another Get to know a brewer on deck.

-Beer Winnipeg