Ever since the grand opening of Fair State Brewing Cooperative in October of 2014, many people have wondered about the letters STPL on the Northeast Minneapolis brewery’s logo.
“People are always asking, ‘Why does it say St. Paul?’ I’ve always said we love to claim both cities because it’s such a vibrant metro, but really it’s because we created the logo and had no idea where we’d be,” explains Fair State CEO and President Evan Sallee.
But now, after reaching full capacity at its seven-and-a-half-barrel brewery in Minneapolis in just a year and a half, the company will be able to fully claim St. Paul as its own. Late Tuesday evening at a meeting with its member-owners, the company announced its plans to build a new 30-barrel production facility in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. “So now [the logo] will be accurate,” Sallee laughs.
Sallee and co-founders Niko Tonks and Matthew Hauck brought the topic of expansion to the cooperative brewery’s board of directors last summer when the brewery reached full capacity. “This literally couldn’t have been done without their approval. Myself, Matt, and Niko do not have the authority to go and pull the trigger on something like this without running it past them, so they’ve been intimately involved in the plans since essentially our first meeting last summer,” explains Sallee.
After exploring options for expanding at their current facility but finding none, their search led them to 2077 Ellis Avenue, the former site of a glass recycling facility in St. Paul. Inside the 40,000-square-foot warehouse just blocks from Urban Growler and Bang Brewing, Fair State will install a 30-barrel brewhouse, four 90-barrel fermenters, and four 90-barrel lagering tanks, which will effectively increase the brewery’s annual capacity five-fold. If all goes to plan the company expects to be up and running in first quarter of 2017.
The new facility will also house an office for its staff (expected to grow from 17 to nearly two dozen), a cold storage room, and a “quite sizeable” barrel room, says Sallee. Not to mention a full laboratory.
“We’re definitely going to have a full lab from the get-go; it’s in the budget, we’re starting to buy equipment now,” he explains. “Because our mixed-culture stuff is so important to what we do, it’s pretty crucial to be able to have the capability to maintain that quality and consistency.”
Beyond consistency in the finished product, the brewery hopes to create a consistent presence at retail establishments around the city with more readily available packaged options. “We’re getting a canning line, so that will be something that we’ll have going right out of the gate,” he says. “We’ll be ramping up our canning production immensely because right now our Roselle and our Hefeweizen are the only things we do,” and fans are lucky to find either in stock at liquor stores, says Sallee. Pilsner is going to be one of the first lagers that the brewery will can in 2017 with more brands released throughout the year.
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Photos by Aaron Davidson, The Growler
With the new facility brewing Fair State brewing its flagship ales and lagers, the Minneapolis brewery and taproom will focus on producing its popular sour beers, like Roselle and the Bricoleur series, and to create new one-off sours.
“Being able to kind of have the old space as a test lab to do new and interesting things and push the envelope, and have the flexibility to do that while maintaining and keeping people happy, is an exciting prospect for us,” Sallee says.
One of the factors driving the demand is Fair State’s fervent following, led by the cooperative brewery’s ever-growing base of members. “It’s pretty crazy, I was looking at the membership stats recently. Before we even announced our first location we had 125 members—which was honestly a lot more than I thought we would have had at that time. By the time we opened our doors, it more than doubled. In our first year it doubled again. And right now we’re adding members at a pace of pretty close to one a day, which is pretty darn good,” says Sallee. The increasing membership was integral to the expansion plan, he explains. “I dare say we couldn’t do it without them.”
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Renderings courtesy of Fair State Brewing Cooperative
With the expansion, Fair State is looking to not only supply demand in the Twin Cities but extend distribution to Greater Minnesota. Though expanding to new markets presents the challenge of relating the brewery’s story and philosophy to new drinkers across the state, Fair State is hopeful that more Minnesotans will become familiar with the concept as the strong community of cooperative businesses continues to grow. In fact, Minnesota will soon gain another cooperative brewery, Broken Clock Brewing, which is slated to open in the old 56 Brewing space.
“I think it’s great. One of the reasons we started this is because we thought it’s a model that worked really well,” says Sallee, “and the sixth principle of cooperatives is ‘cooperation among cooperatives.’ I think the more of us that are out there, the better it will be.”
We’re gonna need some more room.???? pic.twitter.com/FJMl4dKR5Y
— Fair State Brewing (@FairStateCoop) September 7, 2016