With Surly Brewing founder and President of the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild, Omar Ansari


People have been drinking beer for thousands of years. It was evidenced in early Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture all the way back in 9500BC. Beer has a knack for bringing people together over conversation after a long day of work, in a job-well-done sort of aspect. Drinking beer with others seems to evoke a certain camaraderie and it’s also good for working up the gall to speak to a potential mate. And in reasonable quantities beer even has some health benefits. After a day, week or a lifetime of hard work, a good beer is always welcome to the palette. (Unless of course you’re allergic to gluten or are too cool for a fine brew. Even then, sorghum and rice beers have you covered.) The diversity and variety of beer is a vast expanse of flavor and shouldn’t be confined to your comfort zone. This Saturday lager lovers, pilsner proponents, hop heads and the like should be heading down to Bayfront for the All Pints North Summer Brewfest . Featured will be the suds of Minnesota breweries and brewpubs from all around the state as well as some great Minnesota bands. I recently caught up with Omar Ansari, the man behind Surly Brewing, who’s also the president of the Minnesota Craft Brewer’s Guild. Ansari and a host of other dedicated individuals helped make All Pints North a unique event for the area. His passion is all things brew:

Talk a little bit about the All Pints North Summer Brew Fest. What will brewers be serving up for attendees?
What’s great about events from the Brewer’s Guild is that they are special to the brewers – there’s so many beer festivals out there now that it can be hard to decide what to bring. But Guild events like the All Pints North Summer Brew Fest are organized by the brewers themselves, so they go all out and make them really special. You’ll find a lot of beers unique to the festival being poured that you will not be able to find in any bar or liquor store, or other beer fests.

This is a pretty unique event. Who’s involved and what brought everyone together? Why Duluth?
The Guild has been talking about organizing a beer festival outside the Twin Cities for a few years now (Winterfest and the Autumn Brew Review take place in St. Paul and Minneapolis) because a lot of craft beer fans are from all over the state, as are a lot of the Guild’s members. Duluth is the best, most logical fit for All Pints North because it’s a great location in the summertime to gather and enjoy good craft beer. The Guild itself is made up of more than 50 breweries, brewpubs, liquor stores and other businesses involved in the Minnesota beer industry, many of whom will be in Duluth this weekend.

Other than drinking craft beers, what else will be happening at All Pints North?
Aside from more than 100 beers from nearly 40 breweries and brewpubs, we’ve got great live music from Duluth’s own The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank and The Blackeyed Snakes, as well as , Farewell Milwaukee. We’ve got Duluth’s new food trucks on-site – both The Rambler & Chow Haul, and we’ll have many of the state’s top brewers in attendance ready to share a beer and a joke. And best of all, it all takes place on beautiful Lake Superior.

Surly Furious is one of a kind. It has kicked my ass, furiously, multiple times. A lot of Minnesota’s craft beers tend to beckon to the palette and have high alcohol content. Is there an option for all the babies out there?
There’s going to be plenty of beer variations at the festival. Surly, for example, is bringing its lighter Hell lager, and many of the other brewers will be bringing beers that have a lower alcohol content. That’s the fun thing about beer, because there are so many different variations there’s never just one type of ale to try. A summer beer festival is a great opportunity to get hold of beers that are a little more refreshing – but I’d recommend interspersing the lighter summer ales with some ass-kicking brews throughout the afternoon.

MN has an impressive brewery and brewpub resume. What are some of your favorites from around MN?
I’m a big fan of Fitger’s El-Nino IPA, and of course I always have time for a Grain Belt, which is a Minnesota classic. I love Big Wood Brewery’s Morning Wood, and Summit’s EPA was my first experience of craft beer, so it’s always got a special place for me. I also like Mankato Brewing’s Kolsch, which is a great summer beer. I’m also looking forward to trying the new beers from Third Street Brewing, which just opened last month.

What can ale aficionados expect from MN breweries and brewpubs in the future?
I think you’ll see a continuing diversification of styles from Minnesota’s brewers. There’s a lot of new breweries and brewpubs opening around the state this year, and once those guys have been open a while they’ll start to develop their own niches which will lead to a lot more interesting beers. Festival beers in particular are going to get a lot more interesting as more of our brewers have time to perfect their beers and get time to begin playing around with new recipes and ideas.