Whether or not you are a fan of Surly’s beers, there is A LOT of things they have done right for the Minnesota Craft Beer community. Here is a short list of why Surly deserves everyone’s respect:
- They are at the forefront of changing Minnesota’s antiquated blue laws.
- They were pioneers of putting craft beer in cans
- They have a HUGE cult following
- Their beers are sought after world wide
Personally I haven’t had much experience with Surly and their brews, and I don’t know if we do enough to cover them on our blog or podcast show. So when FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar at the Mall of America invited us to their Surly Tap Take Over and Beer Reception, I was thrilled to get to know this brewery’s beers better, plus sample the fine foods made by FireLake’s staff.
FireLake set up six stations set up around the room set aside for the reception. Each station featured a Surly beer, and a small plate or a specialty food made with the beer. Each station had a person available to talk about the beer, and the food. It was different from many other craft beer dinner’s I have been to because we didn’t have to sit through a presentation with each course. You were allowed to come and go, mix and match, and go back as often as we wanted. This offered a more intimate setting, and freedom to explore the beer and foods. For instance the the Dark Chocolate Mousse with Almond Anglaise was great with Surly Darkness, but I thought it paired very well with with Blakkr as well if not better.;
So now that we talked about the experience let’s dive into the food and the beer:
Course #1: Surly 8 served with Beer Braised Pork Belly, Escarole with Flageolet Beans: What an awesome appetizer to start out with. The sauce was sweet and savory, and paired well with the saltiness of the pork belly. At the end the sauce left a spicy little kick. All those flavors paired well with the thick and heavy Surly 8 which was brewed in oak barrels. The beer drank more like a whisky then a beer, but was tasty. It’s heavy mellowness really shined with the flavor rally that the dish provided.
Course #2: Juicy Lucky Slider with an Onion Marmalade, served with Surly Furious: Furious is Surly’s flagship beer. It’s intense hoppiness coupled with it’s swet after taste is known across the state of Minnesota. The Juicy Lucy slider had the meat cooked perfectly, a not so easy trick when you are try to melt the goods inside, while making sure not to serve raw food. The onion marmalade was a great pairing giving a duo of flavors that paired well with Surly’s duo flavored mainstay. I did have one minor issue, though it did not stop me from getting seconds. The bun could have been a little more creative. It felt a little ordinary among the awesome array of food that surrounded it.
Course #3: Green Lip Mussels, Lemon Pepper Linguine served with Blakkr: The pasta course was a hit for anyone who enjoys shellfish. Steamed in Surly greatness, they were a savory treat, and the beer really shined in this dish. The linguine had a soft creamy lemon flavor, and paired very well with the mussels. Blakkr was an interesting choice to pair with this course. It was chocolaty, sweet with a hint of hops. I was not expecting all those flavors from a Surly beer, who has a reputation of ample hops. This was a well balanced beer, and it paired equally well with the dessert course. Later when I talked to Jay Rankin, general manager for FireLake Grillhouse, he noted that this dish was the furthest from their comfort zone and usual fare. It was a solid hit, and a great experiment.
Course #4: Todd the Axe Man served with Greens and Duck Confit: You wouldn’t expect the salad to run away with the show, but this on almost did. Topped with Amablu Cheese, apples, cranberries, candied pecans, and a sherry vinaigrette, this salad offered sweet, savory, crunchy, juicy, and many more adjectives rolled into one. The pecans were to die for, and could have used a couple more of those on top. Todd the Axeman was a nice earthy, balanced IPA. Its simple straight forward pungent, hoppy, flavors really allowed one to enjoy the complexity of the salad.
Course #5: Hell & Fiery Hell served wish Fire & Hell Battered Perch on a Sriracha Aioli: Surly’s entry into the Helles category has always been one of my favorite beers, This German inspired staple has a slight peppery pilsner like quality to it. This paired well with the perch, which has that unique, earthy lake like flavor. The batter was well done and overall this was a great pairing. I personally like flavors that pop a little more, so when I hear the word Sriracha (perhaps my favorite all purpose sauce), I expect a fiery burst of garlicky goodness. I could have used a little more of that, but still a great dish.
Course #6: Darkness paired with Dark Chocolate Mousse with Almond Anglaise: This was my first opportunity to sample Surly’s most sought after beer. It was a heavy ABV Russian Imperial Stout. It had very strong raisin like flavors, thick and fiery. A really solid sipping beer. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Imperial Stouts, but fans who are will definitely appreciate the robust flavors, the sweetness, and the heaviness of this beer. You want to drink it slowly, just like you want to eat this dessert. This thick mousse was thick, creamy, and heavy in rich chocolate flavors. A rich ending, for such a rich experience.
Afterwards I got to speak with Jay Rankin, General Manager of FireLake Grill House about the event. Here is what he had to say:
Q: What was the inspiration of the Surly Dinner?
A: We have done a lot of great events with Surly, and we are great proponents of local beer and local spirits. We had great with the distillery reception. We had six distilleries from Minnesota. I always wanted to do something [like this] with Surly. I am very much about getting the exclusives. I like to be out of the box, and do stuff nobody would try. We tried to do what was on our menu, but with a twist, to coincide with Surly.
Q: How did you choose the format of the reception?
A: I’m not one for the sit down beer/wine dinner, I think it’s rigid, it’s passe. I think having a reception like this, where people are on their own, it frees it up. It is way more interactive.
Q: How long did it take you to prep for this event?
A: Um, three days. Basically coming off [the weekend] everything was brought in that Tuesday morning.
At the end of the day, we had a great experience at the FireLake Grill House at MOA. So the next time you are in the area, swing in and grab a cold one!