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US. Surly brews up plan for $20 million expansion

Already known for making audacious beers, Surly Brewing Co. unveiled bold plans Monday for a $20 million facility that would house a restaurant and beer garden and could make it the biggest brewer in the state.
Before it can break ground or even pick a location, though, the Brooklyn Center-based beermaker will need a change in Minnesota liquor law. Prospects for that might be as murky as Surly's notoriously heavy Darkness beer.
"People want our beer, and we simply just want to improve the ways we give it to them," said Omar Ansari, who founded the brewery in his dad's old metal-scrap warehouse in 2006 and has expanded his operations several times since.
Last year alone saw a 32 percent increase in sales, to 12,000 barrels (about 3 million pints), Surly says. The new facility would have an annual capacity of as much as 100,000 barrels, a little more than either Summit and Schell Brewing. With that kind of growth, Ansari is confident that raising the $20 million won't be a problem.
The legislative issue is the linchpin. Only small-scale Minnesota breweries are allowed to sell beer for on-site consumption. Ansari has hired the lobbying firm Cook Girard Associates to work on his behalf in what could be a tough fight. Just ask Jamie Pfuhl, president of the Minnesota Grocers Association, which is now in its third decade of trying to change state laws to allow grocery stores to sell regular beer and wine.
Pfuhl noted that legislators "certainly have full plates," but said the jobs that would be created by Surly's expansion -- plus the lure of "beer tourism" seen in such states as Oregon and Colorado -- might help Surly's case. "Right now, no revenue stone should go unturned," she said.

8 Feb. 2011

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