When I think about Minnesota, three things come to mind. The first one is obvious. When you have 10,000 lakes to use for fishing, water sports, and naming a sports media company after, lake life should always be the first thought.The second piece of the state’s identity lies in a more repressed area of Minnesotan brains. Scary playoff losses play a big role in shaping this state’s personality. The Twins’ record 18-straight playoff losses, Blair Walsh going wide left, and the Timberwolves’ 26-point blown lead highlight just a few recent memories. I’m sorry to make everyone relive that, but you can’t heal without pain.
Fortunately, the last part of Minnesota’s identity is one we all love…beers at a brewery.Breweries fill the land of this great state. From the North Shore to the suburbs of Minneapolis, they’re more common than mosquitos in the summer. Any season of the year, any day of the week, and any time of the day, people want to drink beers at a brewery. Hoppy, sour, dark, and refreshing, the state’s got ‘em all.
It’s in Minnesotan DNA. According to various sources, there’s anywhere from 180 to 271 breweries in the state. However, each and every brewery has their own unique personality and flavor. Therefore, as Minnesotans, it becomes essential to learn about our heritage by visiting every brewery in our state. So we created the MN Brew Tour, and who better to share this story than 10K Takes, the voice of the true Minnesotans.The current plan involves writing blogs and creating social media for each brewery. They’ll focus on their story, taproom, and best beer in order to give you that little taste. You know, the one for beer that you start feeling every Friday afternoon. However, we’re not sure how long this journey will take or which directions it will go. But we do know one thing. The people need to know, and we’re always going to give the people what they want.
So without further ado, 10K Takes proudly presents…The MN Brew Tour: Fair State Brewing Cooperative
The first stop on our tour around Minnesotan Breweries brings us to Northeast Minneapolis, where Fair State Brewing Cooperative calls home. Founded in 2014, this brewery became the first cooperatively owned brewery in the state. Meaning that all of us, the Minnesotans, can become owners.
Fair State took one right out of the Packers’ handbook, but unlike a owning a fake piece of paper, Fair State’s Cooperative is a genius move. Not only can their diehard fans fulfill a lifelong dream of being a brewery owner, but they also locked themselves in as an integral part of the community. I couldn’t think of a better place to start. Also, my cousin Nick happened to be promoted from Senior Brewer to the New Product Development Manager, which gave me a pretty good in.
In all seriousness, Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s goals have always been creating a community atmosphere through their great tasting beers. Not only do they have a full taproom for people to come hang out, but they actually give back through their Fair State Cooperates program. By raising money through beer sales, they help fund different projects in the community focused on outreach, justice, safety, and creativity. Honestly, that’s pretty damn cool.Even cooler, for the first MN Brew Tour blog, that same manager/cousin Nick sat down with me to do an interview on the life of a brewer. I know if you’re reading this, you’ve definitely thought about brewing as a dream career. Let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. Not only will you find out that brewing is an intricate science, but it’s just as physical as playing middle linebacker.
10K: Hey Nick! We really appreciate you sitting down for an interview with us. Getting to know about the life of a Minnesotan brewer is the perfect way to start off the MN Brew Tour. So why did you decide to become a brewer? Was there a certain life event, experience, or beer that did it for you?
Nick: Honestly, I started work-life as a bank teller where I spent most of my days dealing with frustrated individuals. Working with people’s finances often creates those types of interactions, and I knew it wasn’t for me. At the same time, I really enjoyed being around people, hanging out, and I wanted to find a career that allowed me to be a little creative. A friend of mine mentioned that he was into home brewing, and it kind of struck me as a fun hobby. Also, it happened to be that my wife’s cousin was home brewing locally, and I joined him for some brew days. I was immediately hooked.
Like anyone else, I thought maybe I could turn my hobby into a career. I lucked out and got a job at a home brewing supply store in Roseville, MN. Working there helped me connect with local breweries and eventually led me to my first job in the craft beer industry at Summit Brewing Company.
That position led me to jobs at many local Twin Cities breweries, including Surly and Indeed to name a few. Now, I’m at Fair State Brewing Cooperative, and I just got promoted to the New Product Development Manager position. A lot of how I got to where I am today was being lucky, meeting the right people, and really honing in on my craft.
10K: That story will likely put some ideas in the brains of a lot of the 10K fans. Please, tell us about the best and worst parts of brewer life, so our fans know what they’re getting into.
Nick: Being a brewer is honestly a combination of mathematics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, mechanical engineering, biology, and chemistry. Home brewing can be very fun and easy-going, but at the commercial level it takes a lot of hard, physical labor and some serious technical knowledge.
On top of that, all the hours are odd, and it’s super hard on your body with lifting grain bags, cleaning tanks, and non-stop connecting of very thick, heavy hoses. Sometimes the process runs smoothly, and sometimes it’s pretty tough.
But, the really cool part is creating the perfect environment for a really old and traditional science to happen naturally and predictably. Also, you can’t beat tasting the final product after all the long hours and hard work.
10K: I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has no idea how to make beer. Can you give us a run down, while explaining it to me like I’m 10-years-old?
Nick: First, you collect the grain, whether it’s malted barley, flaked wheat, or one of the many other types of brewing grain. Then you run the grains through a mill to crack the husk of the grain to make it easier to access the grain’s sugars. The milled grain is then mixed with water at a very specific temp that converts the grain to a very sugary solution. Then the flavorful liquid is separated from the grain by a large vessel with a very fine grate in the bottom. Then the liquid, now called wort (pronounced “wert”), is pumped into a kettle where it boils off water to strengthen the sugar content of the solution. It also sterilizes the liquid. This further deepens the flavor and color depending on the length of time as well.
At this point, you create the personality of the beer by adding hops, honey, or any number of other ingredients. The kettle of liquid is then pumped to the fermenter through a heat exchanger. This brings down the temperature depending on the style of beer you are producing. For example, lagers typically sit in the 50s, where ales live in the mid-60s. Next, add the yeast to start the fermentation process that lasts from 2-3 weeks or even longer. Then the beer is centrifuged (spun really fast) to separate the solids and liquids. This finished beer then gets forced carbonated in an airtight tank where CO2 gas is added. The CO2 has nowhere to go but into the liquid. Lastly, you package the beer into cans or kegs, and it’s ready to drink.
10K: Wow, that does sound like the perfect blend of chemistry, engineering, labor, and biology. Now that we have a little better idea of the brewing process, let’s change gears. As a brewer, tell us about your first beer and the best beer you’ve ever had.
Nick: I’d say Miller High-Life is the safe bet for the first beer I ever had. Growing up in Wisconsin, Miller was everywhere. I honestly don’t remember as it’s been many years though. Funny enough, I also didn’t really enjoy beer for a long time. It took a while to develop the taste. As a college student, whatever beer you can get your hands on before you develop the taste usually works pretty well. As far as my favorite beer, I’d have to say New Glarus’ Moon Man. It’s world-class and phenomenal. However, there’s so many amazing beers out there.
10K: As a Wisconsin boy, I’d have to agree that’s an all-time beer. I think a lot of the people in this company and state would die on a hill for McGolden, but I think I’m on your side. As far as Fair State, what’s their best beer?
Nick: Year round? I’d have to say our Pilsner. It is one of my top 3 favorite beers of all time. At Fair State Brewing Cooperative, we do the modern stuff very well in terms of our hazy IPAs and THC drink brands. However, our Pils is my favorite beer at Fair State with its traditional flavor just hitting all the right notes.
10K: I heard you mention the phrase “year round” before answering. Are you holding out on us?
Nick: No, I’m not holding out. However, in the next couple months we’ll be releasing a new core brand that’s a German-style kölsch called “KÖLD.” The goal of this new beer was to leave it alone, while giving people an affordable price point that’s easy to drink with excellent taste. Also, we continue to further our Chill State THC/CBD beverage line that includes Grapefruit Kush and Pineapple Express.
10K: I won’t lie. Those are absolutely perfect names. Last question here, Nick. Imagine yourself as a normal beer drinking Minnesotan with no bias. Why are you spending your Saturday at Fair State Brewing Cooperative?
Nick: The main reason I’d check out our taproom is for the community atmosphere. The way we designed the room, with a long bar and big tables, allows people to meet and get to know one another. The bartenders are super friendly and are easy to talk to. In the summer months, you gotta check out the outdoor beer garden. It’s a simple, comfy spot to enjoy a great beer while also enjoying the great weather.
10K: I’m sold. To be fair, cold beers and a warm building probably get me in the door. If you throw in the community atmosphere and great people, how could you not go? Thank you so much for describing Fair State’s taproom, best beer, the process of brewing, and the life of a brewer!
Before I get to the actual review, I think it’s important for me to describe the process. All these reviews will go a certain way. The way is simple. I’m going to give my three best words to describe the brewery’s taproom and best beer. Then, we’ll plug the words into our MN brewery algorithm to come up with the correct, most accurate rating. The scoring may seem arbitrary, but believe me, there’s an exact mathematical and scientific relationship.
- Community: I couldn’t agree with Nick more on this one. Not only is the brewery staff kind and friendly, but Fair State takes community to a whole other level. They even dedicated an entire wall to their cooperative members
- Chill: Dimmed down lighting, summer-time beer garden, beer pun themed gear, and a bathroom covered head to toe in brewery stickers headline the chill atmosphere around Fair State. If you’re looking for a fun and low-key way to spend your weekend night, this is it.
- Late–Night: The Fair State Taproom beats all other breweries in this category. Open until midnight, this brewery allows you to enjoy the night actually during the night. I can’t count the number of times I finished a Saturday event and had no place to go but the bars. I also learned breweries usually close around 10-11:00pm on purpose so people keep in mind it’s a family atmosphere and not a place to go blackout.
Best Beer: Pilsner (ABV: 4.9%, IBU: 40, Flavor Profile: Crisp/Hoppy, Style: Lager/Pilsner)
- Genuine: This beer doesn’t pretend to be anyone else. It is who it is…a down to earth Pilsner that tastes great through and through. It’s crisp, a little hoppy, and easy to drink. The beer is genuine right down to the Pilsner glass it’s served in.
- Hard-Working: You know someone’s working hard when you see the blood, sweat, and tears their effort creates. You know someone’s working even harder when they accomplish the same goal, but make it look easy. Their Pilsner does the latter. German style pilsners typically taste in-between a hoppy IPA and lighter lager. This beer works real hard to get the best of both worlds without being too much.
- Easy-Going: Sometimes beers can be a lot. They can have too much hops, be too thick, or try to blend an overload of flavors. This one doesn’t do any of the above. You can have multiple without feeling bloated or tired of the taste. Sometimes you need to appreciate the little things in life, and Fair State’s Pilsner is one of those beers.
All future stops on 10K’s MN Brew Tour won’t be so long, but we had to go all-out for the first stop. We hope you enjoyed the interview with Nick, the New Product Development Manager, at Fair State Brewing Cooperative. As I’ve said before, this whole tour could go down a bunch of different paths. Don’t be afraid to share ideas and let us know where you want to go next.
I’m just the ugly stepson of the 10K family. Part Minnesotan, Part Wisconsinite. Half best friend, half mortal enemy. Can’t live with me, can’t live without me.