Brewer’s Statement on Journeys + SIdequests


One of the best parts of being a brewer in a small setting is that ideas seem closer at hand, thoughts easier to pull into liquid reality. A great many wacky things – apple brandy barrel-aged barleywine made with heirloom grains and re-fermented on blackberry puree, for example – just don’t make sense for broad distribution, but are possible on a small scale.

Now that our Saint Paul Brewery is running with a great team, it’s taken a lot of pressure off of our original, tiny brewery in Minneapolis. That equipment, and I, are now begging for a chance to brew the kinds of “What if?” beers we never had time to do before.

Our new annual bottle club, Journeys + Sidequests, is that chance, and the beers in our 2019 edition, Bag of Tricks, feature difficult-to-source or extremely local ingredients, non-traditional collaborations, and processes that we don’t normally have the time or resources to pursue. Most of them are barrel-aged or fermented, many of them are higher in the ABV register than we normally go, and all of them take risks.

I’m excited for Journeys + Sidequests because it’s an opportunity to really stretch creatively, and what makes it truly special is knowing that there are people along for the ride. You can join from now through January 31, and then we’ll start dropping bottles in February. As a gift for joining, we’ll send you some excellent merch, and you plus a guest will also be invited to a party later in the year. If this sounds as fun to you as it does to me, then I hope you’ll show your support and join now so that we can dial in our plans. Plus, member-owners get $50 off using the coupon code we’ve sent (check your email!)

We know it’s a risk to sign up for something like this, but we’re confident this particular adventure will be worth it. Thanks for being with us for so many great beers along the way, and here’s hoping you’ll share many more with us in 2019.

Niko Tonks
Co-Founder and Head Brewer
Fair State Brewing Cooperative


Click to Join the Party!

FSB 2018: Behind the Beer

FSB 2018 | Behind the Beer
Head Brewer Niko Tonks, weighs in on our heaviest beer to date…

“FSB is different every year – 2014 was a smoked RIS, fermented clean in stainless. 2015 was a barrel-aged gigantic stout fermented with Saison yeast, 2016 was a very similar approach but slightly scaled back – that beer was probably the driest imperial stout ever produced – and 2017 was a blend of barrel-aged clean stout and 3 year old Brett. old ale. For 2018, we’re putting FSB in cans for the first time, and we decided to take a pretty serious left turn from our previous approach of cultivating dryness and unorthodox fermentations. This year’s beer is squarely in the ‘pastry stout’ category – it is massively viscous, much sweeter than previous years, with tons of chocolate and roast notes. We also added a trace amount of orange zest, and a pretty big slug of vanilla.

FSB employs a pretty extreme brewing process, involving easily double the amount of malt we use in our regular beers, and some super extended-length boils, to produce the signature viscosity and complex finish. Joe, our resident pastry wizard, spent two overnights at the brewery shepherding the longest and most intense brew days we’ve ever attempted.

FSB was the first beer we ever named, approximately 10 months before we even opened. FSB are our initials, but they’re also the initials of the Russian state security agency that followed the KGB, and so the Russian Imperial Stout connection was too much to ignore. We make a bunch of different stouts throughout the year, but FSB is always the wackiest, biggest, and lowest volume one.”

FSB 2018 is packaged in 16oz cans which are marching out to craft beer stores this week. The taproom will have bottles and draft of an exclusive variant featuring cold press from Duluth Coffee Co, and a double dose of vanilla. On tap Thursday the 13th, and limited bottles Saturday 12/15 at noon.


Raspberry Roselle: Behind the Beer

It’s December! Which means Raspberry Roselle is here to brighten your long winter nights with a lovely combination of tart and jammy berry flavors.



Head Brewer Niko Tonks goes behind the beer with Raspberry Roselle…

“RASPBERRY ROSELLE WAS A NATURAL FOR US – Hibiscus, the overriding flavor in Roselle, and Raspberry (which we clearly add to this beer) are mutually reinforcing, and play very well together.

We’ve been making Raspberry Roselle for at least six months longer than we’ve been selling it. The idea to make a fruited version of Roselle is as old as the beer itself, and the first batch of the Rasberry Roselle is a pretty funny piece of Fair State history. Back in the day, we didn’t have a whole lot of equipment or flexibility, especially with regards to packaging beer in bottles, so the first time we made Rasberry Roselle, we just ran some finished beer into a blending tank, added raspberries, waited a while, tried it, loved it, and went to package it. What we didn’t anticipate, however, was the sheer amount of fruit puree that would make it into the bottles. Needless to say, we didn’t sell any of it, and we all enjoyed super thick fruity pours of Rasberry Roselle at home for many months thereafter. The stuff tasted too good to not do it again, and the second time we nailed our process a little better. We’ve produced it in December every year since, as a bright and fruity antidote to seasonal affective disorder.

Raspberry Roselle’s process mirrors that of “regular” Roselle very closely, in that it is a kettle or hot side sour, fermented clean with a relatively neutral ale yeast. We add a very large amount of raspberries to the tail end of fermentation, which ensures proper fermentation but limits the amount of delicate fruit aroma and flavor we lose to carbon dioxide scrubbing during active fermentation.


Raspberry Roselle is a fun yearly counterpart to U-Pick, the mixed fermentation whole local fruit beer we make once a year. With Rasberry Roselle, you get a very “jammy” raspberry flavor that seems sweeter than it is, even. With U-Pick, you get a slightly more nuanced whole fruit presentation that skews towards being, for lack of a better word, “seedy,” and indicative of wholly unprocessed fruit. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily better than the other; they are different and interesting presentations of fruit character both. Fruit flavors and aromas are very delicate and will degrade with excessive age. As with all fruited sour beer, Raspberry Roselle is best consumed fresh.”



Rasberry Roselle is available at our Northeast Mpls taproom on December 6th and at a craft beer retailer near you starting December 10th. Use the locator below to find the Raspberry Roselle retailer nearest you.



Brut Squad: Behind the Beer

Brut Squad, our bone-dry IPA is on shelves in Minnesota now!

What is a Brut IPA? Think dry, aromatic IPA with very little residual sugar. We’ve stripped down the malt bill on this one to really let the hops shine.

Head Brewer Niko Tonks, on his decision to brew a Brut IPA:

Really, with this one, I just wanted to try out making a Brut IPA. Most beer trends, to me, seem to come with one downside or another (usually related to the overuse of adjuncts or the reliance on sweetness), and Brut IPA, to me, is just exactly what I’d want in an IPA, to begin with, so it’s cool to have it be a thing people are seeking out. It’s a fun beer to brew, also, which helps. I think one of the interesting, and sometimes frustrating, thing about IPAs is that the style has expanded to be an entire category, and new things are always coming and going. Oftentimes these new trends take the form of “more is more”— the attractive thing about Brut IPA is that it seems more interested in stripping things away and providing a sensory experience more focused on the hops themselves. Dry, effervescent, and aromatic are things that I would always hope to use to describe an IPA (or really, a beer in general), so getting to focus on them is fun for us.

Our goal with Brut Squad was to produce a beer that’s primarily recognizable as a killer, super aromatic IPA. We stripped the malt bill down as far as we could, and added a whole bunch of Citra Cryo and Idaho 7 hops, which make for a tropical, citrus, lemon-y beer that’s easy to crush.


“Brut IPA and Light beer have a lot in common”


One really fun thing about Brut IPAs is that they are the lowest sugar, lowest carb, lowest calorie IPAs out there. A 12oz serving of Brut Squad has something like 0.5 grams of carbohydrates more than a Bud Light, for example. Brut IPA and light beer have a lot in common — trying to drive down the finishing gravity/residual sugar in a beer as much as is humanly possible, using a specialized enzyme which is much more effective than the enzymes naturally present in malted barley at turning starches into simple sugars. Yeast are only able to eat certain forms of sugar, and with most beers and most yeast strains they will hit a wall after a while, and be unable to completely digest all of the available sugar. When you add this special enzyme to a fermentation, it moves ahead of the yeast, breaking all of the sugars in the beer down into their simplest forms. This means that yeast can completely digest the sugar that is there, and produce the driest, highest alcohol environment possible, given the starting sugar concentration. In practice, what this means is that your typical Brut IPA will be dry as a bone, with zero residual sweetness, which means that bitterness is pushed towards the fore. We’ve intentionally kept the bitterness level in Brut Squad to a low level, which allows for a balance between dryness and hop aroma without being a punishingly bitter beer.


Read More about the birth of Brut IPA’s in this article from Punch.



The Return of Mirror Universe


Mirror Universe is a Double Dry Hopped Hazy IPA brewed with wheat, oats, and far too many Citra, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops. We’ve really missed this one. So much so, that we decided to bring it back as a year ’round beer.

Mirror Universe is the spiritual successor to Spirit Føul. As such, it’s hazy as can be, brewed with an unusual water profile and a ridiculously high-protein wheat and oat forward malt bill, fermented with the fruitiest of ale yeasts, and double dry hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and El Dorado. This beer explodes with hop aroma: tropical, fruity, juicy, all the things. Soft bitterness and big mouthfeel round out the experience.

As with all beers of this variety, we ask but one thing of you, beer drinker: keep this one cold and drink it fresh. Avoid the temptation to sock one away for later, and don’t worry if you miss that primo ‘gram opportunity because Mirror Universe is here for good. #donthazemebro


Watch Mirror Universe make its return to earth here:


Behind the Beer: Giantsbane



Head Brewer Niko Tonks on Giantsbane Double Stout.

“Style conventions are a funny thing. At their best, they’re useful guidelines – a roadmap to a successful beer recipe. At their worst, they strangle creativity and box people into practices that probably never made sense in the first place (see: crystal malt in pale ales). Brewery portfolios can be the same way. You start out brewing to a personal style, and hopefully, that continues to evolve and change as you go, but you get to be known for a few things. In our case, you’ve probably heard of our lager biers, and our sour stuff. That’s how we like it, but it doesn’t mean that’s all we enjoy doing.”

Giantsbane, our “double stout,” is a solid example of both of these truths. It’s not a beer built to a style designation, and it’s not something that you’d immediately point to as being in our wheelhouse: high alcohol, malty, not afraid to be a little bit sweet. It’s a demonstration of when going outside the norm can be a rewarding thing.

The beer takes cues from the classic “Foreign Export” stout designation, but with a more modern American bent. It’s closer to an Imperial Stout than a standard American Stout (if that’s really even a thing), but it doesn’t rely on a full motor oil consistency to bludgeon you into submission. It’s a beer built for long, dark winters. The magic here is in the combination of specialty malts and grains we employ. Brown Malt and oats are stout secret sauce, and we’ve employed both of them here. Oats buoy the mouthfeel of what could otherwise be a roast bomb, and brown malt is the Goldilocks zone of roasted malts: lots of roast flavors, but none of the ashy char of black malt. It’s a fine line to tread, brewing a big stout that emphasizes harmony, and we hope you agree we’ve managed to stay on that tightrope.


Giantsbane goes on tap at our Northeast Minneapolis taproom on Thursday, November 1. Cans go into distribution in Minnesota in the first week of November and in Wisconsin starting November 6.


City Pages: “Local suds: 5 beers to try in November.”



People Power Pils

Minnesota Breweries Join People Power Beer Campaign in support of the American Civil Liberties Union


Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Bent Paddle Brewing Company, and Modist Brewing Company join a collection of over 70 craft breweries across the country in the People Power Beer campaign, a self-organized grassroots effort to support the American Civil Liberties Union’s work to protect the right of equality for all. Conceived of by Brooklyn-based Threes Brewing, the initiative calls for craft breweries around the country to take the People Power Beer Pledge by committing to brew their own interpretation of a new beer called People Power, then donate 10% of the profits of their version of People Power beer to the ACLU. 

For almost a century the ACLU has defended our rights in the courts. Recently, the organization introduced People Power, a mobilization program intended to effect meaningful policy change at the local, state and national levels. Their 2018 Voter campaign is designed to help voters across the country better understand where their candidates stand on civil rights issues, provide pathways for voters to engage during the election cycle, and ensure that civil liberties are a crucial component of political conversations in 2018. Our People Power Beer campaign is proud to support this essential work.

Breweries are pillars in local communities and gathering places in our neighborhoods, and we, therefore, felt uniquely positioned to raise awareness and bolster civic engagement. We brew beer for the moments we celebrate and the way it brings people together, and, whether big or small, red state or blue, we shared the sense of a moral imperative and patriotic duty to act.

The Beer

Fair State Brewing Cooperative and Bent Paddle Brewing Company came together to create a pilsner with Lemondrop hops and Weyermann pilsner malt. The same recipe was brewed at both locations, with both head brewers working on each beer together. This collaboration highlights the unique water sources of both breweries; Lake Superior for Bent Paddle and the Mississippi River for Fair State Brewing Co-op. Same beer, different water.

Learn More

Click here for more information about the People Power Beer campaign and the participating breweries. Click here for more information on the ACLU People Power Movement.


Fair State’s Spirit Føul Returns

Spirit Føul is a hazy IPA brewed in collaboration with San Diego’s Modern Times Beer. Super juicy, tropical, and dank. 6.3 ABV.

When we released Spirit Føul, our hazy IPA collaboration with Modern Times Beer, we expected it to be a beer that would be pretty popular, and one that might raise an eyebrow or two. Instead, #hazemania struck the Twin Cities and the beer was selling out in mere hours after delivery. We couldn’t be happier or more proud that you all enjoyed the beer so much, and so we’ve decided to re-release it. Learn more about our ever-expanding IPA program here.
Spirit Foul

Spirit Føul returns to draft lines and CROWLERS  in the taproom on Thursday, October 18.

Spirit Føul cans will roll out into distribution starting on November 5– it may be a week before it reaches all of its destinations. We strongly encourage you to call individual locations to confirm when they will have Spirit Føul in stock.



City Pages: “10 locally brewed New England IPAs to keep you on trend.”

The Heavy Table: “Spirit Foul has a funky pineapple charm all its own.”

The Minneapolis Egotist: “Little designed some beer cans. Totally nailed it.”

Pioneer Press: “Fair State’s hazy IPA, a collaboration with San Diego’s Modern Times, is re-released.”

GoMN‘s Melissa Turtinen and Zach McCormick get hazy.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative Announces Jerrod Johnson as Director of Brewing Operations

Fair State Brewing Cooperative Announces Jerrod Johnson, Former Head Brewer of Surly BC, as Director of Brewing Operations

It’s with great excitement that Fair State Brewing Cooperative welcomes Jerrod Johnson, formerly Head Brewer of Surly BC, as the new Director of Brewing Operations at FSBC. In conjunction with Joe Wells, Fair State’s recently hired Lead Brewer, Jerrod will manage operations at the production facility in St. Paul, help develop new and exciting beers, and ensure the consistent execution of the current offerings.

Co-founder Niko Tonks is to remain Head Brewer. With a highly capable team in place at the St. Paul production facility, Niko will focus on recipe and project development at the original Minneapolis brewery, in addition to playing a continued key role in the cooperative’s overall strategy.

“To me, this is a watershed moment in Fair State history,” said Fair State Co-Founder & Head Brewer Niko Tonks. “I think it puts more people in the right places, to make the right decisions, to spur further growth and inventiveness not only in terms of barrels produced but in the chances we can take with our beers. My hope is that 2019 will be the best year in our short history, and I know that Jerrod will be an integral part of making that happen.”

Jerrod’s background in brewing is extensive. He began homebrewing in 2001 and shortly after, took a job as a line cook at Steelhead Brewing in Eugene. Oregon. He became friends with head brewer Jamie Floyd, who later founded Ninkasi brewing, and eventually became the assistant brewer and spent most of his college years cleaning kegs, helping proctor homebrew competitions and helping with other tasks around the brewery.  After graduating with an English degree from the University of Oregon in 2004, Jerrod left the brewing industry to figure out what his ‘adult’ job would be. Within three months, he realized that brewing was the career he wanted to pursue. A passion and a curiosity for craft beer transformed into a career path.

In 2005  Jerrod took a job with Rogue Ales, cooking, bartending, and working events while he sought out a brewing job, specifically hoping to work under Van Havig (currently the founder of Gigantic Brewing) at Rock Bottom who he respected greatly and knew would help bring him to the next level. Jerrod happened to drop by Rock Bottom again to see if Van had a job for him. Coincidentally, he was interviewing someone else when Jerrod walked in the door. After he finished the interview, Jerrod asked him, “how’d the interview go?” He said, “Terrible. By the way, are you still looking for a job?” Jerrod worked with Van over the next two years. He was a strict, detail-oriented head brewer who never took shortcuts nor excuses. He considers him a great mentor and friend, his Obi-Wan Kenobi, but more short-tempered, less zen, and infinitely more swearing.

As a native North Dakotan with many relatives in Minnesota, Jerrod realized it was time to live closer to his family. He saw a post for a brewer job at Surly Brewing and soon became employee #6. Over the next ten years, Jerrod experienced constant growth with the company, including the transition of opening the destination brewery in Minneapolis. When the new brewery was close to opening, he requested to stay at the original brewery and keep things running smoothly there. He was lead brewer there for several years, then assumed the Head Brewer position at that location when Todd Haug left in 2016.

Fair State Coop is honored to welcome Jerrod to the team. Jerrod is an immensely talented brewer, and he will no doubt do a superlative job of managing Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s rapidly expanding operations.

“I am excited to work with Fair State for many reasons,” said Jerrod Johnson, Fair State Coop’s new Director of Brewing Operations. “First and most importantly, the beer. From the traditional lagers to more experimental beers, Fair State always executes at a high level. I want to make beer that I am proud of and want the world to drink. Second, Fair State has a spirit of giving and community that pervades everything they do. I love my neighborhood (NE Minneapolis) and I love Minneapolis, and Fair State is committed to both. I want my work to help my neighborhood become a better place. Third, I like the people who work at Fair State and am excited to work with them. Also, Roselle is one of my wife’s favorite beers, so she’s on board. Ultimately, Fair State makes great beer and I hope to help them continue to do so.”


Behind the Beer: Keller Kazbek

The brewers here at Fair State are certified lager fanatics. We brew two lagers as flagships, and frequently make short runs of other traditional and experimental lagers we love such as Festbier or Helles and now we are reintroducing our fall seasonal lager, Keller Kazbek.

Keller Kazbek is an unfiltered German-style Pilsner brewed with Kazbek hops from the Czech Republic. The designation “keller” refers to beer served from the conditioning tank without the intermediary step of filtration, so you may notice some intentional haze in this beer . Kellerbiers can be modeled after any lager style – in our case the inspiration is northern German Pilsner. Kazbek is an interesting hop that has a unique “grassy” or almost hay-like aroma, combined with the classic spicy and floral notes you’d expect from a noble hop. Keller Kazbek hits shelves this week in 6 packs of 12 ounce cans.

Our co-founder and head brewer, Niko Tonks, occasionally waxes poetic about Pilsners and lagers in general. He says: “Pilsner is my first true beer love, and maybe my only real one. It contains multitudes, and it might just change your entire mindset about beer if you give it a chance. Pilsner began in the 1840s in Pilsen, in what is now the Czech Republic. It proved so popular that it was adopted, in turn, by the Germans, the rest of Northern Europe, and the world, all by the third quarter of the 19th century. Some perhaps less-than-ideal things have happened to Pilsner between then and now, sure, but we all make mistakes.

At its core, in the form that we do our best to emulate, lager bier is all about restraint, intention, detail, and mindset. Lager is not, as so many people would have you believe, the absence of things. It is, in fact, a deeply idiosyncratic palette upon which only certain things may be accurately projected. It requires selection of only the finest ingredients; a willingness to work them in the ways that they demand; and the patience, forbearance, and skill to ensure that those ingredients and our yeast friends play nice