Regulations concerning craft beer are all over the map. Some of these situations cause entrepreneurs to get creative with how to grow business. For the Surly Brewing team, that meant actually working to change the laws.
Surly Brewing began planning for a destination brewery development in late 2010 and in early 2011 it announced plans to build a $20 million facility. The hitch here is they needed a Prohibition-era Minnesota law to change. Previously, Minnesota did not allow production breweries to sell pints of their own beer on premises, something that was critical to Surly Brewing’s plan. To change the law Surly, other local breweries and their partners kicked off the Power of the Pint campaign, which called on the state’s craft beer fans to contact their local legislators to enable growth for local breweries.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill in May 2011 that included provisions for a Taproom License that allowed Minnesota breweries that produce less than 250,000 barrels of beer to sell pints of their own beer on their premises. Since the bill was signed, more than a dozen taprooms have opened across the state.
And now, Surly is another step closer to enjoying the hops of its labor. Surly Brewing Co. broke ground on its new $20-plus million brewery that the team hopes will become a destination.
The development, which is planned for completion in late 2014, will allow Surly Brewing to increase beer production by almost four times — to 100,000 barrels — as well as accommodate hundreds of craft beer fans in its 300-person beer hall and beer garden. A full-service restaurant and events center will also be introduced in the second phase of development.
Environmental cleanup specialists Barr Engineering will be working alongside Twin Cities-based McGough Construction to clean and prepare the site for the Destination Brewery. The McGough team will continue to work with Surly Brewing, HGA Architects and TEGRA as construction of the actual brewery gets underway. McGough has built notable Twin Cities landmarks such as the Guthrie Theater and Ordway Center.
Beyond the rallying cries for law changes, local government was also influential in helping owner Omar Ansari and head brewer Todd Haug fund their project.
Surly applied through the City of Minneapolis for more than $2.5 million in grants to assist in the cleanup. It was awarded a grant totaling almost $2 million from the State of Minnesota through the Department of Employment and Economic Development Contamination Cleanup Program, the Metropolitan Council through its Metropolitan Livable Communities Fund and Hennepin County through its Environmental Response Fund. Hennepin County also will provide loans to Surly Brewing from its Transit-Oriented Development program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund administered by Hennepin County Environmental Services.
In addition to helping secure and then administering the three cleanup grants, Surly Brewing was also supported by the City of Minneapolis in the site search process guiding the project through the various city review and approval processes and approval of a Phased Development Program to allow Surly Brewing more time to use the Sewer Availability Charge credits on the Malcolm Midway site.
It’s been a group effort to get to this point in the development of the new Surly Brewery and excitement is building.
Ansari started brewing in a garage in 1994. A space was procured in 2005, previously the home of his parents’ abrasives manufacturing business. By the end of 2005, Ansari and Haug put the finishing touches on their big idea and all systems were finally go. Surly sold its first keg on Feb. 2, 2006, and has never looked back. Now, seven years later, Surly is served at more than 500 Minnesota bars and restaurants and has received several national beer awards.