All year Minnesota has been riveted by Surly’s bold, ultimately successful push to get Minnesota state laws modified so that breweries can sell pints. But guess what brewer is going to have the first operating tap room in Minneapolis?
It’s not Surly.
It’s downtown Minneapolis’ brand-new Fulton. If you’re saying Fulton is not so new—yes and no. Fulton, the little brewery-that-could, the group of four friends who started brewing in their garage in 2006, actually just opened their bricks-and-mortar brewery to the public last weekend.
“Come down and take a tour!” co-owner Jim Diley told me. “We build it with an open house format in mind, so that people could come by, walk around, ask questions, sample beer, and take home a growler, if you wish.”
A growler, of course, is a half-gallon, 64-ounce refillable glass container of beer, and it’s another of the big developments in local brewing in Minneapolis of the last few years. A few years ago, it was illegal to sell a growler in Minneapolis, but now it’s permitted, and even popular, and you can get growlers-to-go from Harriet Brewing, Barley John’s, Town Hall Brewery, and others. Why would you? Because it’s a way to sample, and give as a gift, some of the Twin Cities’ rarest and best beers—there are only two ways to get Barley John’s beer, for instance. Go there or take a growler somewhere. Ditto now for some of Fulton’s limited-edition seasonal brews, like their “Libertine,” a seasonal red ale that should be very food-friendly, because that’s what red ales are. (If they run out of the limited edition Libertine, my advice for food pairing is to go with their IPA “Sweet Child of Vine,” which isn’t nearly as hoppy as many, balancing a nice robust maltiness with the palate-cleansing hops.) I’m also going to call a growler the most on-trend Thanksgiving tipple you can drink this year, and a wonderful gift for a beer-loving Thanksgiving host, as it shows you both know your stuff and went out of your way. (If you want a growler of Fulton, they’re posting their growler-sales hours on their website; they’re open today from 3 to 7 p.m.; for other growler-selling times, check fultonbeer.com.) In that vein, keep an eye out for their Imperial Stout, the “Worthy Adversary,” scheduled for limited release (and frenzied release? Like Surly’s Darkness?) right around New Year’s.
But that’s not all! Sometime this late winter, or early spring, Diley says that Fulton will open an on-site tap room to the public. “We’re right near the Twins stadium,” Diley told me, “so we’d love to be open for the opening game.” Here’s hoping…
What would a local tap room be like? For more on that, stop by Stillwater’s Lift Bridge, which quietly opened to the public six weeks ago. They’re now open for growler sales, free tours, and pint sales. Lift Bridge’s Jim Pierson told me that while the Saturday-only tours are free, you have to sign up for a spot on the website in advance because the fire marshal only lets them bring in 49 people at a time. And every single tour has sold out, so to speak. Pierson told me that while Lift Bridge doesn’t sell food, they’ve had lots of people eat dinner on site, calling in food from local spots like Grand Pizza. Perhaps you could bring your own Thanksgiving leftovers?
A final note in local beer is the debut of “Founding Fathers,” a new beer brand launched with the mission of giving half its profits to military families. “Three years ago we came up with the concept,” president Phil Knutsen told me. “To be like Newman’s Own, but giving back to the troops, and producing high-quality American-made products.” To that end, beer is their first product, but not their last. “Salad dressing, potato chips, pizza, wine,” Knutsen told me. “We’ll find a leading brand of a particular product, and make something better, that’s made in America. Then donate half the profits. It could be anything, but our initial focus will be food products. We really leaped feet-first into the beer game because so many of the largest breweries are foreign-owned—Budweiser is Belgian-owned, Miller is South African-owned.” Knutsen told me they’re donating their profits to Tee it Up for the Troops and the Minnesota Military Family Foundation because those two charities have such good fiduciary records of passing money on without great administrative costs. “I think we’ve had a lot of strain on our military, and how can we give back?” Knutsen told me. “This is a group of people who donate so much of their time to our freedoms, I thought it would be a great cause for our customers to rally around their cause.” In light of how popular the founding fathers, the Constitution, and so forth have been with the Tea Party lately, I asked Knutsen if there was any Tea Party or other political affiliation to Founding Fathers. “Not at all,” he told me. “As far as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, I respect what they did for this country, but there’s no political association at all.” Founding Fathers beer should be in all the big metro liquor stores right now.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’m grateful for all of you, and for the fact that local beer goes so very well with local pumpkin pie.
414 6th Ave N, Mpls. (612) 333-3208
Lift Bridge Brewing
1900 Tower Drive Stillwater, (888) 430-2337
Founding Fathers Brewing Co.