Surly Brewing Company Stands Out

Over the past year, Surly Brewing Company has become one of my favorite breweries. It started with Surly Furious, which led me to the seasonally-tasty Surly Wet and now I find myself paying $15.99 for four-packs of Surly Abrasive. Seriously, how did that happen?

Last Thursday, I finally made it out to a tour of the Surly brewery for an Ad Fed Minnesota event. The founder of Surly, Omar Ansari, gave us a private tour where he charismatically told us about Surly’s history and shared his perspective on business.

After visiting Surly, I came away with a better understanding of why I get myself into situations where spending $15.99 on a four-pack of 16-ounce cans seems like a good idea. First, Surly is distinctively tasty. As a beer snob, I have a very specific preference for certain microbrews. Surly fits the bill. You know it when you taste it. Second, Surly stands out. On one end, their logo depicts an unhappy dude with a nearly empty beer. Flip the logo over and you’ll see a happy-looking dude with a full beer. There colors and font all scream surliness. Their identity carries over nicely into their uniquely identifiable 16-ounce cans on the shelves at liquor stores. “Beer for a glass, poured from a can.”

Surly’s made it about something other than price. I willingly pay far too much for a great beer to access the sum of the parts known as the Surly brand. They have a high-quality product, a fun and engaging identity system that leads people nicely into their brewery where you’ll feel the same vibe. It’s very obvious their brand is an expression of their culture. The fact that the founder is still giving brewery tours speaks to this. He’s a great storyteller and expresses passion for the anger fueled by the inability to find good beer – A.K.A. “Surly”.

Surly is a great example of a brand that stands out. They go about taste, logo design, packaging, pricing and culture in a way that’s unmatched by others. It’s no wonder they’re working to open a $20 million brewery in Brooklyn Park. Marketers should take note of Surly and follow them along as they continue their quest to help us find good beer.