Over $30 million spent and a year and of waiting, and it’s finally here! That’s right, as many of us in or near the Twin Cities know after being beaten over the head about it by online magazine and blogging braggarts such as myself, Surly Brewery has opened their new, giant Taproom and Dining Hall to the public! On December 19th, the doors to this long construction parted to let in all beer lovers, whether they be die-hard fans, curious chaps, hipsters trying to look, or just someone who enjoys the taste. Either way, many people have already been left happy.
And why shouldn’t they be? At minimum they have 8 of their different beers on tap, more than half of which are the awesome special brews which we tend to covet the few times a year they come out (who cares about the Furious you see in every restaurant, I want the thing that sounds like it came from my nightmares), and can handle up to 12 delicious offerings on their changing beer list. Along with this, the large building hosts a kitchen that kicks out a full menu of offerings up to the very large dining room, of which I expect will expand generously to the outside patio come summer. This isn’t just some small slip of paper with a few items either; there’s a full selection of foodstuffs here, similar in size to Devil’s Advocate I’d say (though I haven’t been there in a while, and for good reason… don’t look at me like that, they know what they did), offering up a whole half of different appetizer-sized options, some salads, 4 each Meat and Seafood entrees, and BBQ!! Of course they have to have BBQ, it’s not a new-age beer geek-driven establishment without something delicious and trendy as one of the main focuses, with the ability to grab from a tun of amazing sides such as cornbread, confit potatoes, beans, and Bolognese (yes, meat sauce typically put on top of pasta is a SIDE, don’t ask me why, but I think I want it).
Happy me I found some good excuses to hit this place up twice! Of course, just my luck, I didn’t get to have the Bone Marrow on either time. Why!!?? Why do the gods mock me so, they’re always taking away my chance of bone marrow heaven every time… makes me wanna cry… though I’ve learned my lesson to pass onto you: if you want the marrow (which you should, every person should), gotta go there during dinner time.
Though my marrow desires went unfulfilled, I did get the chance to go whole-hog on the rest of their Charcuterie, sharing the whole board selection with a friend. As expected, their take on the cured and pressed meat was a delight, one can’t help but love a place that makes their own charcuterie, and this was good. I swear I could lick up everything on that board of wood, from the spicy mustard sauces to the pickles and mostarda, all of which can be mixed and matched to try out on the manipulated animals. Which gives it even more value than jus ordering each item separate; as good as the listed pair of onion dip and red onions is on braunschweiger (a sort of kind of liverwurst pate sausage), it’s even better seeing how it is with the mustards, dried apricot relish, and watercross, all piled on top of a cracker baked from their homemade pretzels, or rye, whichever they’re serving at the time.
Going for simpler, richer options certainly isn’t a bad idea either. My cousin grabbed their burger, a double-stacked chunk of moist, cheesy goodness. Topped with classic garniture and their own special sauce, the typical variation of some sort of thousand island or Russian dressing, mixes nicely to create yet another good burger experience in the city. Fries were good too with their own seasoning, like a great season-all salt with that extra bit of spice and flavor (can certainly say it doesn’t come from a can).
Much as I would have liked to continue my second trip on their BBQ section, the Shrimp and Grits were calling my name quite loudly. One of my greatest joys is finding a place that does good creamy grits, and they deliver; though cheese was used, you barely even taste it, getting more of the cream aspects alongside a tender, polenta-like texture. Pile that with 3 large, amazingly tender and juicy shrimp and a flavorful, piquant sauce that lifts things up, and we’ve just got some happiness in a bowl. A shame it’s so small, could probably eat a pile of that like it was jambalaya, especially with the right beer to wash it down.
Of which they have plenty, as mentioned earlier. Though sadly I missed the period when their annual special, this year titled Eighth respectively, was on tap, me and my friends certainly didn’t hold back on the other selections. A duo of dark, spice infused powerhouses in their Devil’s Work and Witch’s Tower brought rich, malty bodies to the very sausage-and-mustard reminiscent flavors (of course still so much better, various, and complex) that was the charcuterie board. Fitting too, as the Witch’s Tower was brewed to coincide with the new taproom’s opening; I think it was my favorite during both trips, and of course it was my friend who claimed the ownership of ordering so that I could try something else… not that I don’t adore the molasses and anise infused product that was the Devil’s Work. You just can’t go wrong with those flavors!
Day 2 found an order of Misanthrope, a typically Belgian fruity and yeasty Saison, and the Cacao Bender, which I’m now only realizing the irony, in that I of course ordered the Cacao (again, think I preferred my acquaintance’s choice… I can’t tell if this is a ‘grass is always greener’ scenario or I just need to start bucking up and stop letting them choose first), followed by Shrimp and Grits where the other person ordered the Burger, yet each of our beer’s would have probably tasted even better with the OTHER person’s food!
Baha, but I digress, cuz of course I can never complain when it comes to the addition of cacao nibs in an ale, along with the developed toasty coffee and vanilla flavors, and my friend really does love his Belgian beer. And to me, that’s always the best part of traveling to these new places with someone else; not only do I the travelee (is that a word?) get to have fun with all the things I love, but I get the chance to show new and amazing things to those important to me. My first friend had never had restaurant charcuterie (or any charcuterie for that matter) before, and my second isn’t that intensive a beer drinker, but not only did they truly love the food and drink, they loved the whole identity that was Surly itself, and had a great time there alongside myself. See, I’m not COMPLETELY selfish.
And really one of the best parts of the whole place, nasal and tongue sensory overloads aside, is being able to wander around this large, leisurely space. Besides a good-sized souvenir shop, complete with a whole section on cool and specialty glasses (ask them about some of their uses, it sparks a nice little conversation and time filler), there’s a whole upstairs area they use for events which one can wander around. Apparently come April the space will be renovated as a finer, white-tablecloth restaurant addition, but both of my visits found me and my co-conspirator up there, leaning on a stand-up table with a beer and chatting about various subjects.
Then there’s also the view of the gigantic showpiece that is the new beer mash and fermentation vats, up there for all to see through the giant glass wall as they pump out 50-60,000 extra barrels a year.
Personally, I know I can’t wait for my next visit, whenever it will be. Hopefully you can’t either; eliminate all those excuses holding you back and pop down for a beer and belly-filler!