Earlier this month Surly Brewing Co. and brewmaster Todd Haug dropped a bombshell on the Twin Cities beer scene.
Haug, Surly's heavy metal beer lord, was leaving Minnesota's most famous brewery after building the sudsy empire alongside owner and president Omar Ansari for 10 years. At the time, it wasn't clear what the creator of some of the state's most coveted beers including Darkness, Furious, and Todd the Axman (named after the brewer/guitarist himself) would do next.
It is now.
Haug and his wife, Linda, are taking gigs with Three Floyds Brewing Co., a renowned Indiana brewery just outside of Chicago. MSP Mag's Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl reports Haug is joining the brew team there as they prepare for an expansion, which will include a distillery (Haug obviously knows a little something about big-time brewery expansions). Linda, the former owner of Cafe Twenty-Eight who oversaw the restaurant operations at Surly's $34 million mega-brewery, will do some consulting work for Three Floyds. Earlier this year Linda was let go by Surly.
While the announcement of Haug's departure was congenially postured, the brew dude who created Surly's style-defying recipes had some parting words for his former employer. Although Haug was often front and center in the brewery's branding and publicly presented as equally creating the brewery with Ansari, Haug had no ownership stake or stock options in the company.
“I'm just a lowly brewmaster,” Haug told MSP Mag. “They marketed the shit out of me. When I saw what they did to Linda, after she never had a bad performance review or one word of warning, I had to ask, could they do the same thing to me?”
As if Three Floyds needed any additional hype – its acclaimed Zombie Dust pale ale lasts about eight seconds on shelves in its native Chicagoland – the addition of Haug should bolster its rep even more.
For Three Floyds, adding a brewer of Haug's pedigree is a no-brainer, and ostensibly the two are a good fit. Surly and Three Floyds, also a metal-loving brewery, have collaborated on their big and bold black ale Blakkr (Texas' Real Ale got in on the fun, too). Not to mention Surly's beloved Darkness Day – the headbanging release party for its most ballyhooed beer – is actually patterned after Three Floyds' Dark Lord Day touting its own Russian imperial stout.
As beery free agency goes, the Haug-to-Three Floyds move is like Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors. One of America's most lauded breweries just added an MVP-caliber brewmaster, who will apparently brew his own signature beers for Three Floyds down the road.
So expect Haug to continue doing his guitar-shredding, rock-star-brewer thing. Just not in Minnesota.