Surly Destination Brewery Grand Opening

Surly Brewing Company officially opens their new digs this morning at 11am. So many words are being written/broadcast/Facebooked about this today that the news is hard to avoid. So many others have already given the basic information and said most of what needs to be said. I see no need to repeat what has already been oft repeated. I’ll keep my statement here brief.

Space: The building is beautiful. It combines a stark, concrete- and-steel modern sensibility with warming touches of wood and light. The communal seating in the beer hall encourages socializing (which is what beer is really all about), but there are a few smaller tables for those hard-core Minnesotans who may not want to sit with strangers. The most impressive thing about the space is that the brewery is the focal point. Every vantage in the building – both upstairs and down – looks onto the brewery through two story walls of glass. Beer is at the center of this place.

Food: Chef Jorge Guzman has taken the concept of beer hall food and stepped it up several notches. There is barbeque, meat, shellfish, salads and snacks. They even have pizza and a burger. But the snacks include things like Foie Gras French Toast and Bone Marrow. My don’t-miss menu items (there are so many): Smoked Brisket, Bone Marrow, Charcuterie Board (especially the pheasant rillette and the smoked ham), Bitter Greens Salad. This is food for grazing. It’s not the kind of thing where you order yourself an entrée and go. Order a couple things and share among your group. When those are done order a couple more. Repeat until full.

Beer: Come on. It’s Surly.

I’ve been known on occasion to make statements critical of Surly. But this place is freaking amazing.










Spiegelau/Bell’s Brewery Wheat Beer Glass: How’s it Rate?

Wheat beer glass

When it comes to glassware, the wine people have it over the beer people in spades. I often use wine glasses to serve beer at tasting events. Why? Because they work. Wine glass shapes maximize the delivery of aromatics that are vitally important to the experience of any good beverage. Using the correctly shaped glass for the different varietals of wine makes a difference. Don’t believe me? Take a Riedel glass class at one of the local cooking schools and you will be convinced.

Modern wine glass design is based on physics. Bowl shapes are carefully designed to retain and deliver aromatics. Glass lips are structured to deliver wine to specific parts of the tongue. Beer glassware on the other hand is, I believe, mostly based on tradition. That isn’t to say that some glassware designs don’t work to deliver a great drinking experience. I think the tulip and German wheat beer glasses are great. But others serve more as nostalgia than actually effective delivery devices. For instance, everyone hates the shaker pint. But I’d be hard pressed to say what the beloved nonic pint glass does for the sensory experience of beer that the shaker does not.


This is beginning to change. Spiegelau, the Riedel subsidiary that makes beer glassware as well as wine stems, has been working with brewers to design glassware especially suited to different types of beer. First came an IPA glass. Next was a stout glass. Now they have teamed up with the folks at Bell’s to design a glass for wheat beers – specifically American and Belgian wheat beers.

I support these efforts. It’s time for the beer world to look beyond tradition and explore glassware that will give the best possible sensory experience of different beer styles. I think though, that the results have so far been mixed. I gave the IPA glass a marginal thumbs up. But the stout glass delivered all that was promised.

So how does the wheat beer glass stack up?

I put it to the test against a standard shaker pint and a tulip glass. I tested with both an American wheat beer and a Belgian witbier. The glasses were cleaned in an identical manner. Each was rinsed with cold water just prior to testing. Effort was made to fill each glass with equal volume and to pour with equal vigor. As with all of these tests the disclaimer must be made that glassware can’t be tested blind. My evaluation may have been colored by preconceptions or expectations. I tried to be objective.

These are the claims made by Spiegelau.

  • Large, voluminous bowl harnesses and retains the delicate aromas of wheat beer.
  • Mouth opening delivers beer evenly across the palate to enhance mouth feel and harmony of sweetness and acidity.
  • Laser cut lip ensures crisp, clean delivery in every sip.
  • Open bottom glass base drives beer and aromatic foam upward into main bowl after every sip.
  • Ultra-pure quartz material makes for unsurpassed clarity and flawless, true color presentation.
  • Stark, angular shape and open base creates dramatic visual cascading effect into glass as beer is poured.


My evaluation.

New Belgium Brewing Company
Style: American Wheat Beer
5% ABV
13 IBU
Special Ingredients: Coriander, Grains of Paradise, Lactobacillus

Aroma: The difference was significant. The shaker pint flattened everything, giving nice lime citrus notes, but lacking any bready wheat or spicy yeast character. The tulip delivered a more layered experience with more of the pepper and wheat. The step up to the wheat beer glass was huge. The aromatics overall were brighter with more layers of complexity. Citrus and bready wheat were in fine balance. Added notes of bubblegum and peppery spice were evident.

Appearance: Color, head formation and retention, and clarity were similar in all three glasses. Aesthetic shape of the wheat beer glass was better than the shaker, but similar to the tulip. I did not notice any cascading foam effect.

Flavor: As with the aroma, the shaker pint dulled everything, leaving a thin and flat sensory experience with an unpleasant, lingering bitterness. The tulip emphasized the citrus fruitiness and acidity of the beer, but also retained some bready wheat and a touch of sweetness to balance. The wheat beer glass emphasized the wheat and spice at the expense of the brighter fruit notes. The rougher edges of flavor were smoothed out, giving a somewhat flattened experience.

Mouthfeel: The beer in the shaker pint seemed under carbonated and lacked liveliness. The tulip glass held the carbonation better, giving a bright and sparkling experience. The wheat beer glass smoothed the prickly carbonation and delivered what felt like a fuller mouthfeel.

Overall Impression: The shaker pint was the clear loser here, giving an overall dull and lifeless sensory experience. While the wheat beer glass was heads and tails the winner in terms of delivery of aromatics, my overall glass pick for this beer was the tulip. The sparkling, bright quality of the flavors and mouthfeel was more interesting and pleasing. I preferred the emphasis on fruit and acidity that resulted in a better-balanced flavor.


Brouwerij Bavik, Bavikhove West Flanders, Belgium
Style: Belgian Witbier
5% ABV
11 IBU
Special Ingredients: Orange Peel and Coriander

Aroma: Aromatics in the shaker pint were low overall. Fruitiness was emphasized with faint acidic, lemony notes. The tulip delivered a fuller experience that still emphasized citric fruit. Orange was prominent and obviously orange. There was some perception of bready wheat. The wheat beer glass delivered a fantastically full aromatic experience. Saltine cracker-like wheat was prominent with some bready/yeasty notes. Fruit was in proper balance with the grain base – oranges and lemons. The floral coriander came through. All of the aromas melded better.

Appearance: Color, head formation and retention, and clarity were similar in all three glasses. Aesthetic shape of the wheat beer glass was better than the shaker, but similar to the tulip. I did not notice any cascading foam effect.

Flavor: Flavor delivery from the shaker pint was low overall, emphasizing lemony fruit with subtle, cracker-like wheat and coriander underneath. Flavors from the tulip were crisp, sharp and lively with fruit as the dominant note – orange, lemon. The wheat base came through clearly and the coriander made a pleasant appearance. The wheat beer glass deemphasized the fruitiness in favor of the wheat. The orange peel tasted like pithy orange peel. Coriander was pushed forward, leaving a somewhat soapy impression.

Mouthfeel: The shaker pint and wheat beer glass both left the beer feeling somewhat under carbonated. The tulip better maintained the high level of carbonation expected from the style.

Overall Impression: Once again the shaker pint proved itself inferior, delivering an overall flat and lifeless sensory experience. Once again the wheat beer glass dominated in terms of aromatics. But the soapy coriander and the lessened fruit character left me longing for the brighter, better balanced flavors from the tulip glass.

To sum it up

the wheat beer glass delivers everything promised in terms of aromatic experience. It provides a much fuller nose with clearly articulated layers of aromas that the other glasses just cannot match. In terms of flavor however, the wheat beer glass seemed to flatten things in a way that made them less interesting. The bright acidity from the tulip glass was lost in the wheat beer glass and the articulation of flavors became a bit muddy. In terms of appearance it was a tie between the tulip and the wheat beer glass that depends mostly in which glass shape the drinker finds more appealing.

Although the aromatics of the wheat beer glass far surpassed the tulip, the brighter flavor experience from the tulip leaves me leaning toward it. For American wheat and witbier I’ll stick with my tulip.

As a side note, I tried a couple other non-wheat beer styles in the glass. In each case the result was the same. Aromatics were awesome. Flavors were just a bit flattened.