by Melanee Meegan, the Minnesota Beer Activist
One sunny Saturday morning my co-worker I decided to enjoy two of our favorite things: beer and biking. We’d both been reading Fermenting Revolution. The book makes a great case for supporting local craft breweries. This was the impetus for us to visit one of the newest and tastiest beer companies in the Twin Cities!
Surly Brewing is located on the border of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center. When we arrived around noon, the first brewery tour had just ended. Folks were sampling Surly’s two most popular beers, Furious and Bender. When it was our turn to take the tour, three beer samples later, I expected to see an enormous warehouse with dozens of fermenters and mashers. Surprise, Surly is tiny. I guess that is why it’s called a micro brewery.
Most of our tour was spent with Surly owner Omar Ansari. He shared with us how he went from home brewing for his friends and family; learning craft brewing at the American Brewer’s Guild; apprenticing with New Holland Brewery; eventually building the Surly warehouse; and finally delivering his very own beer to more than 20 bars and restaurants in Minnesota. “This is a dream come true for any beer lover!” he exclaimed.
After Omar’s talk, Todd Haug, the brewmaster, walked us through the entire fermentation and brewing process. He didn’t give away their recipes but I did learn that Furious, which is my favorite Surly beer, has tons of hops in it. Just like tasting different coffee roasts, trying different style beers helps you learn what pleases your individual taste buds most. It was after this tour that I thought I should put my taste buds to the test and continue the brewery tour extravaganza.
Next time I headed out of the Twin Cities to Milwaukee, WI, one of the brewery capitals of the country. Milwaukee is home to mega-breweries Miller, Pabst & Old Milwaukee as well as many small breweries like Sprechers, Lakefront Brewery, and Water St. Brewery. I stuck to the small breweries and had a lot of fun. Each of the small breweries I visited made a point of highlighting how breweries like Miller spill as much beer per day as Sprechers sells in a year! This really is the Davids vs. the Goliaths.
On these tours, I had samples of more styles of beer than I’ve had in my entire lifetime of beer drinking. I discovered I was a fan of India Pale Ales & Bavarian beers. My least favorite are Belgians and Hefe Weizens. Visiting the breweries made me feel like I could better order a beer that would satisfy me and it felt good to support the “little guys.” Whether you are choosing a coffee or a beer, think about how it was roasted or brewed. It is guaranteed to taste better when you know the people, the story, the ingredients and the love put into each batch!
For a directory of brewpubs, microbreweries, and homebrewing supply shops, as well as beer festivals and events in your area try this online guide: Brew Pub Zone.