Before Prohibition, the majority of Minnesota towns large and small had their own breweries. Producing a few hundred to several thousand barrels of beer per year, these breweries offered significant contributions to the local economy and provided a gathering place for neighbors.
Faribault was no exception. In fact, some of Faribault’s breweries survived Prohibition only to fall victim to the contraction of local brewing in the mid-20th century.
Visiting Faribault today, it is not hard to imagine these breweries in their heyday, capitalizing on an expanding settlement with proximity to both water and rail — and full of thirsty industrial workers. And though the product and its consumers are now completely different, the brand-new F-Town Brewing Co. seems to fit, somehow.
Since the brewery opened to a private group of supporters on July 7, the owners, Noah Strouth, Travis Temke, and Chris Voegele, have been educating their community about craft beer.
“We could have opened in Northeast Minneapolis,” Temke says. “We would have had an established group of people who would have understood our beer.” Without exactly explaining the trio’s choice to stay in their own backyard, he explains the challenge of being separated from the Twin Cities: “We have to educate our customers about what craft beer is.” This has proven both a natural hurdle and a mission, but one which seems to have been navigated with success — on a recent visit, not a single seat was vacant in the small taproom or on the patio, which faces historic downtown.
F-Town’s medium for winning over macro-beer drinkers is their Flex Less light lager. The beer possesses many of the flavors of Budweiser or Coors, but in concentrated form. The substantial body is balanced with a crisp finish, and the restrained cereal character adds intrigue. The term “light” may be there only to lure the apprehensive, though: the beer has too much character and far too much body to fall into the same bin as Miller Lite.
Even more successful is the Nutso nut brown ale, on the other end of the flavor spectrum. The aroma floods the nose with toasted almond and hazelnut in such an invigorating way that our eyes grew big with anticipation. What hits the palate truly delivers — excellent malt complexity with enough bitterness to dry out the finish, mimicking the tannins present in the nuts themselves. It was the best beer of the flight.
Hop-forward beers were somewhat less successful, as seems to be a trend with breweries in their infancy. The American pale ale, #1 American, came off a bit anemic, possessing less body than the “light lager.” Although the ale had a nice pine hop aroma, no fruitiness or herbal notes sang through on the taste. Aditionally, the IPAlicious was on the monotone side, with resin and lemongrass on the nose, but only bitterness in the glass. The beer presented itself with under-attenuation and what felt like extreme bitterness for the sake of bitterness.
Despite a few flaws, F-Town deserves a visit. The diverse background of the founders — spanning engineering, biology, chemistry, and entrepreneurship — makes us confident that the risk of complacency is low; progress undoubtedly will be made. And while you’re in town, don’t miss a few other standouts: the Faribault Dairy Company’s Caves of Faribault for a small bite and cave-aged cheese for purchase, and the Faribault Woolen Mills, a historic industry recently revitalized. Each offers a glimpse of the town’s old-world charm and new, enthusiastic growth.
F-Town Brewing Co., 22 4th St NE, Faribault, MN 55021; 507.331.7677.