Minnesota’s first brewing cooperative has announced it will open up a taproom in the Northeast Investment Cooperative’s (NEIC) renovated building at 2506 Central Ave. NE.
Fair State Brewing signed a five-year lease with the NEIC earlier this month and is shooting for a May opening date. It will be neighbors with a German bakery called Aki’s BreadHaus, which will open sometime this spring.
The only cooperative brewery currently operating in the United States is Black Star Co-op in Austin, Tex., although efforts are underway in San Jose, Calif. and Grand Rapids, Mich.
Fair State Head Brewer Niko Tonks graduated from Carleton College, then moved to Austin, Tex. to work at Live Oak Brewing Company. Tonks and Fair State CEO Evan Sallee were sitting at Black Star Co-op in Austin when their idea was born.
“Niko really wanted to come back to Minnesota, and I said ‘well, let’s start our own brewery, and here’s a way we could do it in a really interesting way,’” said Sallee.
Fair State Brewery has more than 125 members. It costs $200 to become a member, but Sallee said several big investors helped them raise in excess of $200,000 so far. Members get a variety of discounts, special happy hours and can vote on and run for the board of directors.
“Minnesota has a very robust community of cooperatives, people are very familiar with the idea. We want to bridge the gap between the home brewer, the craft beer drinker and the brewery itself,” said Sallee.
The NEIC currently has 173 members with more than $230,000 invested in the renovating its Central Avenue storefront. Last week the much-maligned pale yellow aluminum façade finally came down and the NEIC estimates it will have the former furniture store ready for Fair State to move in and begin its renovation by March.
NEIC board member Colleen O’Connor Toberman said they talked to several other breweries, a fitness studio, a café and a musical school, but in the end Fair State ended up being the best fit.
“We feel there is a ton of support for co-ops in our community and can’t wait to watch [Fair State] grow,” said Toberman. She added that the NEIC has plans to purchase, renovate and rent another building in the future, but before that happens the NEIC needs to start generating income from its current property.