Feelin’ Surly

Surly Brewing Co.’s new taproom packs a one-two punch of top-notch craft beer and haute home cooking

A Surly burger with french fries pairs nicely with a Surly Furious beer at the recently-opened Surly Beer Hall in Prospect Park. The Beer Hall offers a wide selection of lunch and dinner food, along with an extensive lineup of beers on tap.

Juliet Farmer

A Surly burger with french fries pairs nicely with a Surly Furious beer at the recently-opened Surly Beer Hall in Prospect Park. The Beer Hall offers a wide selection of lunch and dinner food, along with an extensive lineup of beers on tap.

Grant Tillery

If the team at Surly Brewing has a say, beer pairings are the way of the future. In their minds, food should complement beer, not the other way around.

“Our directive to [Chef Jorge Guzman] was, ‘Make food that goes well with beer,’” said Linda Haug, Surly’s hospitality operations director. “The food didn’t have to be a certain style — it didn’t have to be French cuisine or New American. It just needed to go well with beer.”

Surly’s Prospect Park brewery opened in December, blazing the trail for similar concepts around Minnesota. The brewery is the culmination of the law Surly helped create that permits Minnesota brewers the right to sell their products on their premises. Crowds pack the brewery to the brim, thanks in part to the beer hall, a spacious 200-seat room where revelers and connoisseurs alike imbibe Surly’s craft brews.

“There’s enough space if we had a group of 20 walk in,” Surly founder and president Omar Ansari said. “You can’t fit those in at a lot of restaurants or bars.”

The beer hall is the antidote to the Minneapolis bar food blahs, thanks to Chef Guzman’s updates of American classics. There are 11 beers on tap, and several of those are either unavailable or not widely distributed outside the brewery.

In addition to the beer hall, Surly is opening a fine-dining restaurant on the second floor of the brewery. The team anticipates an April opening date, according to Ansari and Haug. Surly tapped Chef Brian Hauke to run the establishment, whose small, changing menu will focus on seasonal dishes emphasizing local ingredients.

 

The Beer Hall

On a gray Saturday afternoon, the new beer hall was filled to capacity. The minimalist digs blend in with the austere, abandoned mills surrounding the brewery. The exterior pays homage to industrialism, complete with gray metals and concrete. Sunny blonde wood brightens the concrete interior, stolen straight from Dwell magazine.

Snagging a spot in the beer hall is easy on weekdays, but expect a wait on weekends. It’s easier for large groups to get a seat because of the myriad long tables in the dining room. For those who want a beer while they wait, they must head upstairs to a small bar; all the beers served downstairs appear here, but there’s no food available.

There’s no weak choice among the 11 beers on tap, which run at $3 for an 8 ounce glass, $5 for a 16 ounce glass or 10 ounce specialty pour. Springing for those less common in stores reap the greatest reward, though. The Witch’s Tower (named after the legendary water tower overlooking Prospect Park) is a no-fail choice, and it’s unavailable outside the brewery. Despite its amber hue, the taste sits in a perfect middle ground. Dark notes come from a blend of cardamom and toasted ash.

Follow it up with the Misanthrope, a sour Belgian Saison. The 7.7 percent ABV packs a punch, as do the beer’s citrus notes; it’s reminiscent of a spiked glass of grapefruit juice. The Misanthrope is aged with brettanomyces, a type of yeast commonly used to make white wine.

The Coffee Bender is the ideal mid-day pick-me-up. If you’re looking to stave off a hangover, this is the beer to get. The caffeine plus the hair-of-the-dog mythology produces a winning effect on the body and psyche. Cold-press coffee is the dominant flavor, diminishing the hops’ strength.

Chef Guzman’s menu is packed with fatty, unctuous American comfort favorites. They’re guilty pleasures you won’t feel bad about eating after knocking back a couple brews. Start with the pretzel ($7), sourced from Aki’s BreadHaus in northeast Minneapolis. The pretzel is doughy, with a proportionate sprinkling of sea salt. Pimento cheese and Dijon mustard act as dipping sauces. The Pimento sauce is less onion-y than its counterparts, yet it retains the smoky Southern goodness the spread is synonymous with, thanks to the use of extra-sharp cheddar.

The brisket sandwich, at $15, is a contender for the best barbecue in town. The beef brisket’s smokiness is almost an initial assault on the palate, but becomes nuanced after the third or fourth bite (and downright addictive after that). The beef is topped with creamy coleslaw that balances out the flavor. The toasted bun is top-notch, as are the smoky-sweet pickles. The crispy fries that come with the sandwich are a tad over-seasoned — backing off the buffalo spices would make them less overpowering in an already salt-heavy meal.

That aside, the food at Surly surpasses its main goal: to go well with beer. Would the food be as good sober? Absolutely, but there’s beauty in the quintessential American-ness of eating such grub while drinking some beers.

 

Surly Brewing Co.

 

Where: 520 Malcolm Ave. SE, Minneapolis

Prices: $3 – $24

Hours: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. – midnight Friday and Saturday