Not everything survives Chicago. It’s a big place, with lots of competition, and Chicagoans can be particular about what we want. Starbucks even failed the first time it tried to move into Chicago. So if you’ve been around the beer scene for a while, you may have noticed that Surly was here for a while, then disappeared, and now is back. Maybe you think, wow, they must have not done so well. Au contraire mon frère! Surly was doing so well back in Minnesota, that people almost rioted because the beer was getting hard to find and Surly was shipping some off to Chicago. So they dialed it back until they had a greater production capacity. Now Surly is back in Chicago (and they just moved into Iowa and Wisconsin).
So why am I starting a blog entry about Surly with this little anecdote? Because I think it’s hard to understand how good Surly is without understanding how fanatical people (here’s looking at you Minnesotans!) can be about it. And I want it to be clear that these beers are dynamite.
So what do you need to know about Surly?
First, they are metal. I don’t mean they like heavy metal, or that they have a lot of synergy (the least metal word I know) with the metal scene. I mean, they are heavy metal – Todd Haug, the head brewer at Surly, not only listens to Heavy Metal when he brews beer, but was/is the guitarist for speed metal band Powermad.
Second, they started selling their first beer, Furious IPA, in February of 2006. It’s a great IPA with influence from the British Extra Special Bitter (ESB) style. In this beer, you’ll find something that runs through a lot of Surly’s beers, giving them a unified character: Golden Promise malt. If you tried Todd the Axe Man at last year’s Docfilms The Shining event at The Pub, then you tasted the Golden Promise in full effect.
Third, their Russian Imperial Stout, Darkness, is a whale. If you can get it, ever, you must.
Fourth, they just opened a “destination brewery” (meaning you can come to the Brewery and also drink a pint) back in December. Their new brewery gives them the capacity to brew 100,000 barrels per year (for those not in the know, a Barrel = 2 Kegs). To get there though, they had to get a prohibition-era law changed. Seriously! Surly gets stuff done and they aren’t afraid to challenge the system!
Fifth, they kick major tail in Ultimate Frisbee. Seriously (Or surliously?). Five championships in two divisions.
We could go on about the brewery, but we won’t. Bottom line? This is a brewery that you have to know if you want to know craft beer in the Midwest specifically and in the U.S. generally. Believe me, once you drink some of their beers, you’ll be glad we introduced you.
Chris from Surly will be at The Pub on Thursday, October 8, from 5pm-7pm pouring samples of Furious IPA, Hell Lager, and Cacao Bender.