You could make a pretty strong case that there are two broad categories of craft breweries in the Twin Cities:
2) Everyone else
Not in terms of quality—that’s up to the individual drinker. Just in terms of scope of ambition and scale of success.
So while the new taproom in your nearby industrial park has a food truck outside, Surly has a rotating seasonal menu with things like charred eggplant relish and something called gremolata. Your founded-by-stocky-Gen-X-guys-with-beards-and-trucker-hats spot has a hoodie and a beanie pinned to the wall; Surly’s founded-by-stocky-Gen-X-guys-with-beards-and-trucker-hats space has a gift shop bigger than a lot of mall retail stores. That brewery sells growlers to go. Surly makes specialty pies that require 48 hours advance notice to order.
None of this is said with an eye-roll. Both categories have their charm. The point is that, when Surly does the holidays, it does it up big. Like, braised pork cheeks and handmade backpacks with leather logos big.
Whether you like Surly more or less than any other brewery, there’s something neat about visiting a kingdom at the height of its rule. Its force of legislative will is the reason your neighborhood even has a place to drink liquid peanut butter cups while huddling around one of those huge spindles for coiling fiber-optic cable that’s been repurposed as a standing table, and it continues to operate in an entirely different league than the 150-plus other breweries in the state. They’ve got it and they flaunt it. And even if you like rooting for the underdog, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy what the overdog has to offer. Sometimes you just want to stand next to Goliath and admire how big and strong he is.
It was in this spirit that we sampled Surly’s new holiday menu and previewed the merchandise line earlier this month. It was decadent, somewhat ridiculous, and realllly good. Check it out below.
Hot Italian Sausage: Parmesan polenta, gremolata
Pierogies: Potato and gruyere filled with horseradish creme fraiche
Mac & Cheese: Cheddar, parmesan, and herb breadcrumbs
Falafel: Charred eggplant relish, tahini sauce, pita
Catfish: Black eyed peas collard greens, picked green bean tartar sauce
Bender-Braised Pork Cheeks: Spaetzle, pickled apples, watercress
2018 Gift Highlights:
From suds! Bath and Body, featuring three flavors of Surly Beer: Furious, Overrated, and Xtra-Citra.
A roll-top version of the Duluth classic, with a special leather Surly logo.
A two-pack of Surly’s in-house hot sauces: Chili Oil and “Heat Mirage” Peach Habanero.
Darkness barrel-aged coffee beans
Coffee beans from UP Coffee Roasters aged in the same barrels as Surly Darkness.
Dog treats from spent grains
Treats from Milwaukee-based Leashless Labs made from spent beer grains (not Surly grains quite yet, though that is in the plans).
T-shirts from the vault
Surly is bringing back a number of out-of-print T-shirts, such as the logo from the first Darkness Day in 2007... but printed on red and green tees.