Behind the Beer: Saison

Du Pounde

Head Brewer Niko Tonks on Saisons.

Saison is a beer style that we love very much, yet is very much misunderstood. It’s been put forth as the “next big thing” in craft beer many times, and never quite gotten over the hump. In our opinion, this is due, at least in part, to the fact that it is tough to nail down.

As beer drinkers, we’re used to beers we can easily classify. Sure, everybody and their brother (including us) likes to mess with “IPA,” but those style descriptions tend towards the self-explanatory: Black IPA (it’s an IPA, but it’s dark), Session IPA (it’s an IPA, but you can drink a few), Hazy IPA (let’s not go there), etc, etc. The word “Saison” is often more problematic – because it has been appended to so many different things over the years, it has been rendered nearly meaningless.

We make no claims to historical accuracy in Saison brewing, fraught as any modern “farmhouse” claims may be. We do, however, recognize that, as Yvan de Baets of Brasserie de le Senne has said (as quoted in Farmhouse Ales, by Phil Markowski):

“A saison must, therefore, be low in alcohol … around 4.5 to 6.5%. It must be highly attenuated … and dry. It must also be either sour or very bitter (with a bitterness obtained by the use of a massive amount of hops low in alpha acid). It shouldn’t, in any case, be smooth. If spices are used, it must be with the utmost moderation. A saison is not by any means a spice soup.”

He goes on to state that Saisons should, properly, be fermented by a mix of organisms, not simply saccharomyces of a single variety. While that isn’t always possible for us, his dichotomy of “bitter” or “sour” is a meaningful one that we have taken to heart.

So. Let’s do our best, if not to clarify than at least to stake a claim: Saison is not a “kitchen sink” beer. It shouldn’t have 35 ingredients. It is a beer for drinking, and as such shouldn’t be 9% ABV. Simplicity should be at its core. We view our Saison grain bills much the same way we view our lager beers – if an ingredient isn’t serving a vital purpose, it’s probably best to leave it out altogether.

How, then, to put this into practice? We have chosen two routes. First, Du Pounde, our year-round “clean” Saison. Fermented without temperature control, brewed with wheat, Vienna, and Pilsner malts, and heavily hopped with Centennial. This beer brings elements of classic Saison expression, American hop character, and continental sensibilities into one simple, easy to parse package. It’s hoppy enough for hopheads, but light and estery enough for those who enjoy fruity wheat beers. Best consumed fresh, with yeast still in suspension, Du Pounde is an everyday beer that we treasure.

Second, we have been working on a mixed culture Saison that embraces, as de Baets says, the “small ‘wild’ side (of saison), rustic, indefinable, far from the clean aspect of certain engineered beers of today.” Beginning July 15 at our Mixed Culture festival in St. Paul, we are proud to present, in collaboration with Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery, “Barrel Fermented Du Pounde” (or BFD# as we have been calling it), a blend of our favorite mature pale sour barrels from the cellar. This beer is the culmination of many brew days, lots of barrel samples, and copious amounts of microbes. It utilizes a similar base recipe to Du Pounde, and spends anywhere from 4-8 months in oak. Funky, sour, oaky, and complex, BFD# is our attempt to capture that second trajectory of what Saison can be.

We are excited to continue down these two paths, and to better understand what Saison means, in the here and now of craft brewing. Hopefully, you’ll join us.

Fair State Saisons

Cans: Du Pounde

Bottles: Saison Drei, Barrel-Fermented Du Pounde (July 22)

On draft: Du Pounde, Points North, Dakota Skipper (July 13)

On draft at Mixed Culture 2017 (July 15):

  • Barrel-Fermented Du Pounde
  • Passionfruit Barrel-Fermented Du Pounde
  • Blueberry Barrel-Fermented Du Pounde
Du Pounde

National Night Out with Fair State

Celebrate NE Parade

Fair State invites our Members-Owners to be proactive in their communities while also being leaders in demonstrating our cooperative values. National Night Out is an annual nationwide event that encourages residents to get out in the community, holding block parties and getting to know their neighbors as a way to encourage crime prevention.

So, Fair State wants to help throw your National Night Out block party. Here’s how you can have a chance to get FREE BEER to share with your neighbors & friends.

  1. Submit your application to host a National Night Out block party, or find out if one is already happening in your neighborhood.
  2. Fill out our brief Google form here.

Applications for Twin Cities-area Members can be found here:


St. Paul

If you register your event by July 18, you can block your street for free. Registration from July 19-26 is a $100 fee. No registration accepted after July 26. Lucky beer recipients will be notified by the end of July 27.

This opportunity is for Members of Fair State Co-op. Want to participate? Join in our collective perspective.

Beer Bucket

Jobs @ Fair State: Street Team Member

Fair State Brewing Cooperative is seeking several individuals to join our Street Team, which introduces our beer to new consumers at liquor store tastings and festivals. We are growing quickly and are excited to add staff to help meet the demand for our beer.

A little about us: Fair State is one of very few cooperatively-owned breweries in the US. We began operations at our brewery/taproom in August of 2014. We were fortunate enough to be named one of RateBeer’s 10 best new brewers in the world for 2015 and recently expanded into a 40,000 sq. ft. production brewery in St. Paul, MN. We focus on traditional German-style beers (especially lager beer), sour beer (ranging from kettle sours to 100% barrel-fermented mixed culture beers), and hoppy beers. Our new production facility has enabled us to supply an expanded assortment of products to a larger number of off-premise accounts.

A little about you: we’re looking for friendly, knowledgeable, and responsible individuals to help us share our beer with new consumers. The ideal candidate would have some experience in the service roles, enjoy talking with and educating others, and be able to work independently.


The Street Team pours samples of our beer at liquor store tastings and festivals. Liquor store tastings are typically from either 4 pm – 7 pm or 4 pm – 6 pm on weeknights, often on Thursdays and Fridays, and occasionally on Saturdays. Festivals are typically on weekend afternoons. Street Team members will be notified of upcoming events and asked to respond with their availability on a rolling basis.

For each event, Street Team members will be responsible for:

  • Picking up and returning supplies to our taproom or production brewery (e.g., tablecloths, tasting notes, ice tubs, beer)
  • Setting up and breaking down a display table
  • Pouring samples, engaging consumers in conversation, and educating them about our beers and our cooperative business model

Requirements / Qualifications

  • General knowledge of beer styles
  • Experience in customer service, sales, or teaching roles is a plus
  • Willingness to work weekday afternoons and evenings, as well as weekend afternoons
  • Ability to safely lift and move 30 lbs.
  • Ability to follow training on safe and legal service of alcohol

Compensation and Benefits

This is a part-time hourly position with irregular hours. For each event, Street Team members will be paid for the full scheduled length of the event plus 30 minutes for setup and breakdown. Any time worked in excess of that amount will be paid at $10 / hr. Street Team members will also receive a beer allotment, typically (2) 4-packs, for each event worked.

Application Instructions

Applications are due by July 7, interviews will be conducted in July, and we’re looking for individuals to be available for events starting at the end of July of this year.

To apply, please send a short email to answering three questions:

  1. What do you like about beer?
  2. What have you done before (your experience) that would make you a great Street Team member?
  3. What would you enjoy about working on the Street Team?

No phone calls, please.

Fair State Brewing Cooperative is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to excellence through diversity. Employment offers are made on the basis of qualifications and without regard to race, sex, religion, national or ethnic origin, disability, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation.

Donate Your Discount

In the last 18 months, our Fair State Cooperates program has successfully donated thousands of dollars to our nonprofit partners. As the brewery and our membership expands, so does our community-based initiative.

When we first launched FSC, $1 from every growler and $.50 from every 750ml purchase went to our partner of the month. This Spring we began the transition to CROWLERs, and with it, increased giving. Now, 10% of all CROWLER and growler sales go to our nonprofit partner.

Recently, we decided to change this yet again. The idea did not come from us, however. I was playing around with the new CROWLER 3 pack carriers, trying to design a 9 pack holder, and ultimately succeeding. A couple member-owners sitting at the bar could see the pride I had in my invention, and thus decided to give it a test by purchasing nine CROWLERs of IPA. For those of you that do not yet know, every time you purchase three CROWLERs in the taproom, there is a $2 price break. This couple just so happened to have a $6 break on their purchase. Instead of pocketing their discount, they asked if the savings could be passed on to the month’s Cooperates partner. Charlie and I looked at each other, and said “yes, we’ll figure something out.” Shortly thereafter, a few of us had a sit-down, and figured out how we can make such an occurrence a standard option.

Introducing Donate Your Discount!
Now, any time you have some sort of price break in your taproom purchase, you can elect to pay full price and pass the savings along to the month’s selected nonprofit partner. The most common ways this will be used is for $2 off CROWLER 3 packs, or $1 off pints during member happy hour. By default, we will always give you the discount. Only if you state “I would like to donate my discount” will we charge full price, and pass along your donation.

The Donate Your Discount program will operate in addition to the existing 10% of sales donations.

– Davin

Mixed Culture 2017

Mixed Culture

Our 2nd Annual Celebration of the Fruity, Funky, and Terrifically Tart.  This year’s festival will take place at our new production brewery in the Midway – St. Paul neighborhood.

Wild/Sour/mixed-fermentation beer is becoming one of the fastest growing segments of American craft beer. To celebrate this vibrant genre, we’re digging into the barrel cellar in a big way.

We’ll pour 16+ mixed culture beers, including:

-unreleased barrel-aged sours

-limited reserves of previously-released small-batch bottles

-award-winning favorites

Flyover Country
Simcoe Sour
Saison Deri
Dorado Gold
and more to be announced throughout the upcoming weeks.

Our favorite t-shirt shapers Shameless, Inc will be live screen printing.
Rogue Citizen will be doing a live art activation over multiple canvasses.
Gerhard’s Brats, Gastrotruck, & Hot Indian Foods will be serving up their signature eats.

Prohibition Kombucha’s NA mixed culture drinks will be available for sampling.


Your ticket includes a commemorative tasting glass.

21+ Event | ID required at entry | Rain or Shine | Hot asphalt event, leave your pets at home | Limited parking available. We recommend finding a lift.

Camp Fair State

Camp Fair State

Attention campers, registration is now open for Camp Fair State! We are heading up to Mighty Axe Hops farm for a fully loaded adult summer camp experience. Stuff your weekend with outdoor games, breakout sessions for your brain & hands, campfire, food, and beer! In this special opportunity for Fair State members (and friends), we will get an intimate look at the operations of Minnesota’s biggest hop farm. Pitch your tent among the hop vines and dream of all the beer that it will become.

Camp Fair State is held at Mighty Axe Hops farm in Foley, MN.
Camp runs Saturday, July 8th at 9 am to Sunday, July 9th at 11 am.
The registration fee for campers is $99 per attendee.
Space is limited and registration closes midnight Sunday 6/18.


Registration Includes:
Food – Four meals plus snacks.
Beer – We’re bringing the cans. A bunch of them.
Shirt – Camp Fair State ringer t-shirt (camper exclusive). Not available for registrations received after 6.18.
Pint – Camp Fair State stainless steel pint (camper exclusive). Not available for registrations received after 6.18.
+ A full itinerary of fun!

9 am: Roll Call
Campers arrive at Mighty Axe Hops farm. Sign in, set up tents, have breakfast.
10 am-12 pm: Skillshare
Attend sessions led by members and staff.
Noon: Sandwich Bar Lunch
1-3 pm: Skillshare
Further sessions led by members and staff.
3-6 pm: HopYard Games
Cracking beers and tossing frisbees, bags, bocce balls, etc…
6 pm: Dinner on the Grill
Grilling up some delicious Gerhard’s Brats.
7 pm: Campfire
Gather around the fire to share stories, song, and s’mores.
8-10 am Break fast/camp
Leisurely wake up to coffee, have some bagels and break camp.
10-11 am Goodbyes
Hugs goodbye as we all promise to write letters and see each other next summer!

The Camp Grounds
This isn’t just any campground. In fact, it isn’t a campground at all, it’s a hop farm! Camp Fair State is held at Mighty Axe Hops farm in Foley, MN, just outside of St. Cloud. Mighty Axe is a leader in the regional hop market. Just this year they added 80 acres to the fold, thus tripling a number of hops to be produced in Minnesota! And that new land is exactly where we are staying. Come be one of the first to check this space out! In addition to staying on the grounds, we’ll hang out with the staff and get a tour of the operations.

What should I pack for camp?
We are camping in tents. BYOT. Yup, bring a tent, sleeping bag, mat, pillow, etc. Dress for a day in the sun, but this is Minnesota, pants are handy at night. Sunscreen, bug spray, flashlight. All good things. A camp chair is recommended for sitting around the campfire.

Who can come to Camp Fair State?
This is an adult summer camp, therefore Camp Fair State is 21+

How do I get to camp?
Camp is in Foley, MN. A 90-minute drive from the Twin Cities. While there is ample parking, campers are encouraged to carpool.

Mighty Axe Hops
8505 95th street NE
Foley, MN 56329

Sharing of Skills!
Staff and members will be leading a host of breakout sessions from hands on homebrewing, to a stretch of yoga, to some caffeinated coffee education. Do you have a skill that you would like to share? Send an email to, and you may get a special deal on camp!

Camp Fair State is made possible with the help of Mighty Axe Hops, as well as:
Tiny Footprint Coffee
Tiny Footprint Coffee is the world’s first Carbon Negative coffee roaster. For every one pound of coffee sold, they sequester 50 lbs of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by funding reforestation. In addition to providing excellent coffee throughout the day, Tiny Footprint will lead a coffee themed session.
Gerhard’s Brats
Authentic old-world bratwurst, made in Minneapolis with no fillers, chemicals, or allergens. Just natural, antibiotic-free pork, hand-made in small batches, with natural casings and time-honored techniques.
Eastside Food Co-op
A neighborhood co-op in Northeast Minneapolis since 2003. An emphasis and organic and natural foods, and a belief that everyone should have access to healthy foods.




Behind the Beer: Hefeweizen


Head Brewer Niko Tonks on Hefeweizen.

Bavarian wheat beer is a very particular animal, with an interesting story. Wheat beers were produced across Bavaria for quite some time before the famous German purity law of 1516 (the Reinheitsgebot) was passed, but after that law (which was in large part a tax grab and an effort at protectionism) went into effect, its production had to be specifically licensed under an exception to the rule. Thankfully, someone of royal descent liked wheat beers, or the whole thing might have gone kaput right then and there.

Hefeweizen is a deeply idiosyncratic style – unlike most German (or German-inspired) beers, it is intentionally cloudy, has intense yeast character, and is inherently unstable. Its production requires a very long day in the brewhouse, since dealing with wheat is more difficult than barley, and because a multiple-temperature mash regimen is necessary to bring the clove and banana (phenol and ester) flavors into balance.

The yeast we use was originally isolated by the oldest continually operating brewery in the world, and it is the most commonly used hefeweizen yeast on this side of the pond. It ferments quickly, aggressively, and prefers to do its work under at least a little stress. It also prefers shallow, wide vessels, as opposed to tall skinny ones. We ferment ours in an old dairy tank for optimum yeast expression because of course, we do.

Hefeweizen is often regarded as a gateway craft beer, for some odd reason – I find it to be one of the most interesting and potentially difficult to parse beer styles out there. It is very low bitterness, requires a high level of carbonation, and has a super unique flavor profile.

My old boss, Chip McElroy – owner of Live Oak Brewing in Austin, Texas puts it this way:

“American Wheat Beer and Hefeweizen are often lumped together in the same breath, which is a mistake. It’s like this: there’s nothing wrong with a hot dog and cole slaw, but if you ordered a bratwurst and sauerkraut and someone handed you that hot dog and slaw, you might be kinda pissed off. Real deal hefeweizen is like that – you have to pay the price in terms of process to really get the thing right.”

Always pour your Hefeweizen into a glass. It’s unfiltered, so there will be a sediment on the bottom of the can. That is yeast, and also what packs the most flavor. Pour 3/4th of the beer into the glass, then swirl the remaining beer in the can to rouse the yeast, and then pour the rest into your glass.

Find Fair State Hefeweizen in yellow cans at your favorite beer store or on draft at our Taproom in NE Minneapolis now.


Homebrew Member Challenge #2

Have you been searching for a way to bring your homebrew to the next level?

Well, now is your chance!

Last year’s inaugural Homebrew Member Challenge had such great results (remember Kyle Schmidt’s Keller Blanc?), that we’re doing it again. Pretty much the same deal as last year – Submit your homebrew for a chance to have it brewed as a full-size commercial batch on our system (15bbl). We’re looking to try your finished product, in bottle form. So no sitting on your haunches. Get that brew kettle boiling!

We are accepting submissions from June 26-30th during taproom hours.

(4x) 12oz bottles or (2x) 22oz (or 750s) bottles of each beer you submit.
Limit of 4 submissions per person.

Rules are as follows:

This competition is open to member-owners of Fair State Brewing Cooperative.
Not yet a member? You can sign up right here!
Label your beer! (use an avery label/paper tag)
– Your name
– What you’re calling the beer

– A one-line description of the beer

YEAST: As long as it wasn’t harvested from a beard, it’s probably fair game.

MALT/HOPS: Feel free to use any malts or hops you want, but be aware that we’re unlikely able to source a bunch of Citra or Mosaic or the like (basically anything from the Southern Hemisphere is out).

ADJUNCTS: Fruits and other adjuncts (either in the mash, kettle, or fermenter) are fine, within reason. We can’t source 200# of Durian or Dragonfruit (please don’t make Durian beers, anyway). For a quick guide, anything available from Oregon Fruit in puree format is totally cool. Locally available things may be ok, but might not be depending on when this slots into the schedule. Herbs and spices are generally not problematic.

Kettle or quick sour beers are fine, Beers co-fermented with Lactobacillus and yeast are fine. Brett. fermentation in either primary or secondary is fine, but barrel-aging is out. Not enough room in the barrel room to make it work. This means no Pedio. While we do like sour and funky beer around here, that doesn’t mean we’re any more likely to pick a sour or funky beer than a clean one. Brew what you like, don’t try to conform to what we do just because you feel like you should.

The competition will be judged “best in show” style, and we don’t really care too much about style conventions. The Judging Panel will be made up of our brew team and last year’s winner, Kyle Schmidt.

We’ll brew 15 barrels of the winning beer, with the winner being invited to come sit in on brew day.

Member Week to Remember

Thank you to everyone that came out and took part in our first ever Member Week here at Fair State. All said and done, we had seven back to back days of events. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

Every good day begins with breakfast, and the same holds true of a week. Members filled up the big table with contributions from their kitchens (I brought donuts from Durango’s kitchen).

On Thursday we were joined by our friends at Planned Parenthood, Our April Fair State Cooperates partner. They brought an ample supply of art supplies for our volunteers to get creative with.

In additional to our full roster of Cooperators, a handful of taproom patrons grabbed markers to join in the fun. Our craftiness quickly flowed beyond the big table to satellite tables, benches, and the floor. Dozens of vibrant posters were made and will be used for Planned Parenthood’s annual Solidarity Day.

We closed the week with a party. Opting to forgo the party hats, we focused on the beer. Member-Owners enjoyed half-priced beer from open to close. The day was well attended, and some folks decided to join right then and there! As we always like to see your faces, we also took a bunch of portraits. Keep your eyes to the north side of the taproom to spot all the new additions to the Member Wall. Here is one of my favorites…

introducing Member Week!

We are quite proud of the more than 1,000 Member-Owners that are the foundation of our cooperative. These people have supported our business through patronage, our neighbors through volunteer initiatives, our community through social gatherings, and so much more! To highlight and highfive these great folks, we are throwing our first Member Week. April 1-7th will be packed full of events celebrating membership, cooperatives, and coming together around good beer. Everyone is Welcome!
(members get some special deals)

Members First – Potluck Brunch
& Super Member Happy Hour 12-2pm.
Crowler Debut,
Stand-Up Comedy at 8:30,
Member Happy Hour all day.
Cribbage Night 6-8pm,
1/2 off you first beer with another co-op’s card,
Member Happy Hour all day.
Fair State-sponsored music and $2 off all FS pours at 331 Club. Music at 8:30pm.
Co-op Trivia with Tommy.
Fair State Cooperates Planned Parenthood Poster Party 7-9PM. Sign up here.
Member Thank You Party
1/2 off all pours for member-owners, all day!
Member Wall photobooth 4-8pm.