“Where to next?” I asked. We had finished lunch with our friends Megan & Mitch at Hai Hai, which followed a morning of coffee and beer at BlackStack. They live a fair distance south of the Twin Cities. They also share our love for craft beer and breweries so we give them leeway to choose the destinations. “Is Fair State close? We haven’t been there yet” Mitch asked. “Very close” I responded.
Fair State Brewing Cooperative is located in Northeast, Minneapolis, and they are one of the “old guard” of craft breweries in the community. I always hear about their excellent beer and unique membership model. They are a true co-op, giving members a say in how the operations and run and provide a host of other benefits. Become a member and you’ll get happy hour all-day, first chance at special beers, member events throughout the year, and various other deals and discounts. For $200 you can join as an individual and $300 gets you membership as a couple. Benefits last a lifetime.
Despite their reputation it’s a brewery that I don’t visit often, but enjoy when I do. They popped back onto my radar when I saw October’s article on Spirit Foul, the Fair State and Modern Times collaboration. They gave it a 99/100 rating and described it as a near perfect IPA. We had recently returned from San Diego where we visited Modern Time’s at their Point Loma location. I had to try the collaboration from the source.
I love Minnesota, but our winters can be brutal. This was one of those days where you wish you could find a parking spot closer to the brewery. As my wife and friends rushed into the taproom I took a moment to grab a few photographs. I hesitate to say that I regretted it, we’ll just say that my hands were frozen. The light was cold and blue outside and warm and orange inside. Emblematic of most Minnesota winters. We grabbed the table of a group that was packing their things and snapping their coats. Time for beer.
I started with Wired & Well Connected, a nitro coffee stout brewed with cold press coffee from Duluth Coffee Company. Beers with cold press were my introduction to coffee and they are still one of my favorite styles. This one didn’t disappoint. The creaminess of the nitro played well against the dark chocolate and espresso. Lurking deeper were hints of berry. A fantastic beer that earned a single star.
Fair State’s taproom is long and narrow with light colored brick on one side and painted light blue on the other. Photos of their members fill the painted wall, a friendly touch to see smiling faces. The front of the building has rail seating against a wall of windows next to a super sized mural that features only a third of their logo. Speaking of logos, Fair State’s identity is one of the cleanest and most minimal in the state. I love it. The typography is tight and the logo is simple and iconic. It features an infinity symbol on top of a pint glass, a symbol of their connection between brewery and community. Hats off to local agency Little & Co. for their excellent work.
I’m not a fan of digital tap boards. I have issues with televisions in taprooms in general, but I’ll give Fair State a pass for one of the better digital boards I’ve seen. Beers are color coded by style and it fits with the rest of their decor and branding. These details add up. Barking dogs and jingling dog tags greeted me back at our table. I must’ve stirred something in the air.
It was time for Spirit Foul. As I said earlier, this is a collaboration with Modern Times, one of the craft brewery darlings of San Diego. They lived up to the hype when I visited them in California and now it was a chance to see if the beer did the same. It did. Orange and mandarin aroma, orange and citrus flavors with a comforting soft mouthfeel. I don’t go crazy for NEIPAs or DIPAs but I could tell this one was special. Two stars, worth ordering every time.
I ended with a small sample of their FSB 2019: Part 1. An imperial pastry stout weighing in at 13%. Also a collaboration with Humble Forager, Forager Brewery’s distribution arm. Marshmallow smooth, dark chocolate, and ultra sweet. Not that boozy either which is surprising for how big it is.
We visited in the winter, but I did jump out back to snap a shot of their patio. I’ve only visited Fair State once when it was warm enough to enjoy it. It’s a lovely spit of crushed rock that lets their community vibe spill into their backyard. Simple picnic tables, umbrellas, and barrels. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On my way back to the table I spotted a poster promoting their Journeys + Sidequests bottle club. I hadn’t heard about this before and did some research for this post. It’s limited – separate from the cooperative – that explores small batch inventive beers. If descriptors like “barrel-fermented mixed fermentation sour with apricot puree and whole house-smoked peaches” or “cocktail-inspired mixed fermentation sour wheat fermented in gin barrels and then racked in tanks with gin botanicals, lemon, and honey” speak to you, then this is the bottle club you’ve been waiting for. Membership is closed right now but visit their website if you’re looking to sign up in the future.
I underrate Fair State. It doesn’t pop up in my mind when I’m asked about my favorite breweries in the state, but they’ve never let me down. It’s interesting how I assess the quality of the beer between visits. Without thought I’d say the quality is improving but it in retrospect it’s always been this good. I’ve now had a lot more beer and I can appreciate it even more. I now rate them much higher; I wish I lived closer.