There's no doubt about it-- breweries and taprooms are bubbling up everywhere. Recently, craft beer exploration and experimentation has been able to take quite a few steps forward with the recent legislation pioneered by the local Surly. But Surly isn't the only intriguing name in the game; Fair State Brewing Co-op adds a new twist to this movement, not just offering itself as another bar to wander in and enjoy good quality small-batch brew, but allowing the customers to get their own hands into it!
It all started with local and organic grocery stores, and now it’s moved to breweries as Fair State pioneers itself as Minnesota’s first Cooperative Brewery. Customers can now officially invest into the business, allowing official membership and part ownership in the company. Of course this action comes with more than a simple piece of paper and contract saying ‘member,’ the benefits are numerous and delicious!
For starters, all members are able to get discounted beer during special happy hour times at the taproom, a free pint on your membership anniversary, and first dibs on the beers packaged for sale. Speaking of annual rewards, they’re also able to receive a yearly refund based on the business’ own profits and how much they've spent in the taproom. As a shareholder, one is also involved in the Board of Directors, making them able to vote, elect, and run for office. Additionally, there are rewards for referrals, like receiving $10 for each new member brought in, along with a t-shirt and glass for the top referrer of the month. Occasional referral contests are also held, the winner of which gets quite the special prize: actual involvement with the next new product. They get to work with the brewer in developing a recipe based on your own idea.
The brewers behind the counter certainly know their stuff and are consistently creating fun products. While they say they don't strive for a particular style or specialty, they do have a few passions-- like lagers and sour styles. It's the "interesting" beers that they want to offer their customers.
For instance, the Schwarzbier, one of the four flagstone brews, a very dark lager that’s made with older style step-mashing, containing the color and flavor of stouts and porters. It’s not a style often played with, but that’s nothing compared to the Rauchbock; basically a classic bock (dark lager) that is made with malts which have been smoked.
They also offer IPAs, stouts, strong and imperials with fun names, saisons, and pilsners. On my second visit, I had a Double Hefeweizen (wheat beer) style, called "Cletus," which contained lots of fruity, yeasty notes with a creamy wheat structure. All in all, it was a great sipper, especially with food.
As for food, things at Fair State may look a little different. Whether it’s purely location or philosophy (likely a combo), one won’t find food trucks parked outside. Instead, a little cubby door connecting to the bakery next door stands open, offering a table selection of their tasty goodies. In particular, there are giant, soft, and delicious pretzels one can buy for $3, along with sides of sweet Bavarian and spicy beer mustard-- the perfect accompaniment with your brew. Soup, pickled eggs, bacon rolls and other options are also available.
If the bakery isn't open, or you feel like something else, the taproom offers 10 percent off vouchers for a little place right down the street: Taquerias la Hacienda. Fantastic, traditional Mexican style food, my visit included some classic tacos and a shared plate of nachos with great meat filling on top.
The next time you’re near Lowry and Central, stop by Fair State for a good brew. And if you're looking to enjoy it outside of the taproom, they do have kegs in a few local specialty restaurants and brewpubs like Pig Ate My Pizza, Republic, and Grumpy's. In one place or or another, find a way to enjoy some Fair State brews.