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WCCO Viewers' Choice For Best Craft Beer In Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It seems like Minnesota is overflowing with independent craft breweries, each with their own unique spin on everyone's favorite sudsy substance.

But this week, WCCO's Natalie Nyhus went in search of the best craft beer Minnesota has to offer.

Viewers sent her to Minneapolis to try Surly Brewing Company.

You can't throw a bottle cap in Minnesota without hitting at least one brewery.

"It's not just about how fast you can make it or how much you can make. Hopefully, it's about how the beer tastes," owner Omar Ansari said.

But when it comes to the best, WCCO viewers looked to one of the pioneers of small-batch brewing: Surly.

"What happens when you can't find a good beer? You get a little surly," Ansari said.

Ansari was a home brewer who wanted to get in the business of beer. So, he turned to now head brewer Todd Haug to help him make it happen.

"At that time is was just Summit as a production brewery. It just seemed like there was opportunity for another brewery in the market and that's what we jumped on," Ansari said.

Surly has experienced a meteoric rise in the industry, from a single keg sale in 2006 to their giant brewery and taproom opening a year ago.

"There's no doubt this is beyond anything anyone ever, ever expected. It's like riding a comet. You have to just hang on because it sometimes takes you places you don't know," Ansari said.

Ansari's original plan was simple enough: convert his parent's abrasives business into a brewery so mom and dad could retire.

Now, Ansari and Surly Brewing Company are living the "American Dream."

"My dad left Pakistan because he didn't think he could do it there, because it's who you know and that sort of thing. That was always his vision. In America, it's all on you. You kind of make your destiny. It was really great that he got to see it before he passed away," Ansari said.

That's not all he saw.

Yes, the beer is great, the food too, but what Surly really showed Minnesota is the power of the pint.

"We couldn't sell someone a glass of our beer at our brewery.  So that was the ask of the legislature. Allow us to change this law so we can build this brewery here in Minnesota," Ansari said.

With social media and their fans behind them, Governor Mark Dayton signed the Surly Bill into law in 2011, making it possible for small breweries to sell their beer on site.

And with that, Minnesota's craft beer boom exploded.

"I get to do what I love at work. We never thought it would get this big," Haug said.

It's a huge operation that anyone can look in on through the window or on daily tours.

Now, onto the beer.

Beyond great beer Surly has become synonymous with Minnesota, bringing people together over a great brew.

"We wanted to make something that Minnesota was proud of, something that was our own. That was really, at the core, one of the ideas why we built what we did. We're all Minnesotans here and we're really proud of that and it's great that people appreciate the effort," Ansari said.

For fans of Surly Darkness, the brewery will be releasing barrel aged Darkness in Minnesota next week. Darkness will also be coming to Iowa and Chicago next week.

The other favorite craft beers were Burning Brothers Brewing in St. Paul, Lift Bridge Brewing Company in Stillwater, and Dangerous Man Brewing Company in Minneapolis.


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