Surly Darkness Beer
For weeks now, I've been meaning to do a beer blog. But like so many things in life, I found myself sucked into the chaos of the day-to-day and failed to do it. Then the shocking news broke today: Todd Haug, one of the most important brewers in Minnesota and in the country, stepped down as Head Brewer from Surly Brewing.
The enormity of this for Minnesota brewing cannot be overstated. Surly today is a $35 million brewery that's a little bit, in its modernity and magnificence, like Schipol Airport. It's also one of our foodie crown jewels, with the big fun beer hall and the teensy jewelbox beer-tasting-menu-focused Brewer's Table. But Surly used to be almost nothing, just a nice guy with a family-owned abrasives manufacturing company in Brooklyn Center, and another guy, the best brewer in the state. I reread my truly strange 2007 story about Surly today with the deepest sadness—one of the greatest and most fruitful unions of our time has now been pulled asunder. What happened? They don't want us to pry, and I'm not inclined to do so now, so I'll put the whole statement below.
In addition to being deeply awful, this split puts the 2016 Darkness in a whole new light. Darkness is likely Minnesota's greatest beer, and definitely the only one people plan overnight sleep-outs in a parking lot around. Surly kindly sent me a bottle to review before it was released, and I cracked it open on a Friday night. After drinking Darkness for a decade, it was hard to get past the fact that it mostly tasted like itself; sweetly malty, boomingly chocolatey, a bit of bitter cocoa and deep espresso giving it its necessary spine. I did wonder if it was sweeter than other years...but then I wondered if that was because I had it with fresh sweet challah bread and salty Hope Creamery butter from the Wedge, and we were going to eat dinner but never did, because between the deep dark stout and the sweet light bread, we had somehow already consumed a perfectly satisfying dinner. When my friend left that night, we hugged and were so happy to have gotten to share a Surly Darkness. It's like a Thanksgiving turkey or an Easter ham, it comes out once a year and plants a flag in the chaos of day-to-day life—a flag that says, "Here, today, we celebrate."
I didn't know it would be Todd Haug's last Surly Darkness. I didn't know it would mark the end of an era. It made me resolve to write this blog. Life is uncertain. Spending time with people you like over something good to drink, can't be the last thing on the list. So here we are. Let's everyone raise a 2016 Surly Darkness, say a thanks to Todd Haug for the many great years and the many great beers, and let's resolve ourselves to making life more full of moments of appreciation for the greatness around us.
And now, the Surly press release:
Head of Brewing Operations Todd Haug Steps Down At Surly Brewing
After more than 10 years setting the pace of the craft beer revolution in Minnesota, Surly Brewing Co., Head of Brewing Operations Todd Haug has resigned his position at the Twin Cities Brewery.
"I'd like to thank our family, friends and fans - Surly Nation - for always believing in our vision. It never gets old to hear people tell you how much they enjoy your beer. Omar and I set out with the modest goal to build a brewery so we could create a different kind of craft beer – the kind we wanted to drink - and I think we achieved that.”
Todd earned a reputation for refusing to brew-to-style. He defined the undefinable and brewed beer his way, which was rarely the easy way, earning the brewery gold medals in the process.
Omar Ansari, Founder and President of Surly Brewing says, “Todd has been an incredibly influential part of Surly since the beginning and was instrumental in building the brewery from the ground-up, often with his own two hands; brewing, welding, making connections and forming collaborations to establish the irreverent brand it is today. His talent is undeniable, and he will always be a huge part of who we are. He will be missed.”
Todd is stepping down from his role to pursue other opportunities and challenges in the industry that he has worked in for 25 years. The future is bright, and adventure awaits.
“I leave my brewhouses in the extremely capable hands of our co-lead brewers and the innovative brewing team we’ve mentored together. I eagerly look forward to seeing what the next generation of Surly brewers will create,” says Haug. “This is an opportunity for them to take the torch and continue the legacy we’ve been building for 10 years now.”
It’s been a hell of a ride with Todd in the front seat, keeping the music loud and the speed fast. He's the wizard, the bitter brewer and the creative genius.
Surly Nation thanks you.