Congrats to Mmmmatt. We won a couple bottles of Darkness for being the Best Surly Photo of the Year!
Archive for February, 2009
Ive been meaning to sit down and write up the annual, Surly Year in Beer. I usually try and get it written over New Years, but the time just was not there this year. Since the 4 kids are being watched by someone else at the moment, looks like I have 45 minutes to pound this thing out.
Winterfest of 2006 was one of the first things Surly did as a brewery. I attended the event with Todd, his wife Linda, and about 200 other people. We brought two-week-old Furious and Bender. It was exciting to get the beer out there and even more exciting to talk about our new brewery with many people that had not heard about us. This year, over 900 people attended Winterfest in the fabulous new location at the MN History Center. Instead of a two week old Furious, we brought 7 beers including bourbon-aged one, which won the Snowshoe award for Best Beer. The explosion of good beer in Minnesota during this 3 year span is amazing. Surly, Flat Earth, Brau Brothers and Lift Bridge are obviously part of the equation, as more Minnesotans are making craft beer. The other side of the equation is how many more people are drinking craft beer. When we got our first tap handle at the Muddy Pig in St. Paul, there were 7 taps. While drinking our post-Fest beers at the Muddy Pig last night, Mark informed me that they have over 40+ tap beers now. So many bars have added tap handles and are pouring quality beer; new beer bars are opening around town; media outlets are increasing exposure for craft beer. The Tribune has taken on a large interest and we had an article about Surly in the MN Daily this week. The folks from channel 12 news stopped by this week for a story. I never would have guessed that things would grow so quickly in the Twin Cities beer market in the time we have been around. Its nice to feel that Surly has had a part in making this happen. I do believe this is the best time to be a beer fan in Minnesota!
Ok, back to the year in review. We added a couple new canned beers – Bitter Brewer and Coffee Bender. I have been getting many requests to make them both year-round, but that aint gonna happen. Not enough tanks for it.
Speaking of tanks, we added 3 more 60 barrel fermentors last week. Since I wrote the last Year in Beer in January of 2008, we have added a total of 7 60bbl fermentors and 2 60bbl brite tanks. We also bought over 1000 new kegs this year. The waiting list for liquor stores is still over 50 stores. Whenever I tell liquor store folks that we dont have enough beer, they ask why dont you make more beer? Folks, we cant make much more! When we started in 2006 we brewed about 1600 kegs of beer in the year. Last year we sold almost 10,000.
Its not only tanks we added – #6, #7, and #8 joined the Surly team. We got Jerrod (#6) to leave Portland, OR to return to the Midwest. He has been making the beer and keeping things moving in the brewhouse. Beaner (#7) walked into the brewery after he got laid off from his job making cabinets and said he wanted a job. He got one and has been rocking the canning line ever since. Youve probably seen him working tours or selling growlers, or most likely, you already know him. Nik (#8) is helping Jim (#4) get the beer to the people. Sometime soon we will get him into the brewhouse if he can handle the music!
Surly entered a few new markets – South Dakota and Western Wisconsin both got draft beer. The Rochester and Winona markets are now getting cans and kegs from our new distributor in that area.
Surly and Surly Nation donated $7500 to charities! The MN Zoo, Red Cross and Faiths Lodge were all recipients of charitable donations from the Surly Open, SurlyFest and Darkness Day. Thanks again to the volunteers that made all the events happen, especially Mary Sellke for organizing SurlyFest and D-Day.
Speaking of Festivals, Im not sure whats gonna happen with our Fests this year. SurlyFest will go on pretty much as is – we will figure out a way to make it work. Darkness Day is different however. If you are reading this, Im sure you know we can no longer sell Growlers or 750 ML bottles at the brewery. If we cant sell bottles of Darkness at Darkness Day, Im not sure it is worth all the work. We will be brewing more Darkness than last year, but we are not sure how we will be selling it. Perhaps the laws will change and we can do the same thing we have done the last couple years. Perhaps we will bottle or can it and sell it at liquor stores. Perhaps we will drink it all ourselves.
Lots of people want to know my thoughts on no longer being able to sell growlers. Well . I appreciated the opportunity to have people come to the brewery and see what we were doing. However, it was a pretty inefficient way of selling beer – the cleaning and filling of the growlers really took a lot of time. If the laws do change, we would alter how we sell growlers, maybe every day?
Surly Ultimate won a national championship! Surly Brewing has been sponsoring the Twin Cities masters team for a few years, and the boys took care of business by defeating all comers in Florida this October. Well done boys (and Jim) for representing the brewery.
Heres the fun part at the end – like the end of a nature show. You know, the part where all the cute animals habitat is disappearing or something depressing like that. Hops. When we started in 2006, the hops we used cost around $3.50/pound. Then the hop crisis hit. We are now paying $15-$20 a pound for hops. Todd and I had a very brief discussion about changing our recipes. It was brief because neither of us wants to do it, and we think the reason people drink our beer is because they appreciate its complexity and depth (or their sheep). So what does that mean for you? Higher prices Im afraid. We absorbed about 50% of the hop cost increase in the beer this year, but that means we have to pass on that other 50%. With everything going on in the economy right now, its obvious that raising prices is not a real palatable option, but the increased cost has been rather staggering. The current hop bill for Furious is more than all the raw material costs when we started.
I look forward to brewing more beer in 2009 and getting the beer to some more markets.
Thanks for all your support Surly Nation! Keep drinking, and well keep brewing.
See you drinking,
1 of the 3 new 60 bbl tanks we got in January.
Bourbon One wins Best of the Fest at WinterFest! Thanks.
Probably the best interview about beer I’ve done with someone not old enough to drink. Check out the latest Surly article in the Minnesota Daily.
Oops. Got a little behind and have not announced a winner for the Surly Photo Contest. A reminder about the contest – best photo winner gets a couple bottles of 2008 Darkness. Photo winner will be chosen by the brewery staff and it should be something Surly related. Upload your photo today at the Surly Flickr page. Winner will be announced at the three release party 2/11 at The Blue Nile.
A few Surly things are coming up:
-Ngon Bistro in St. Paul now has firkins. Check out their firkin of Furious on 2/4
-Bender is beer of the month at Bunny’s in St. Louis Park
-three release at Blue Nile on 2/11, firkin of ashy cynic and 5 more Surlys on tap
-Firkin of Mild at Grumpy’s NE on 2/13
-Firkin at Groveland Tap on 2/14
-Firkin at Bulldog Lowertown on 2/19
-Darkness keg at The White Horse Bar in St. Cloud
-Furious on tap at Buffalo Tap in Savage