FARGO, N.D. — The Fargo Brewing Co. has been selling its Wood Chipper India Pale Ale and other varieties of beer for more than two years, but the four native sons who founded the company unveiled something new Tuesday: their first homemade beer.
The largest craft brewing operation in North Dakota has gone out of state to make its beer for the last two years while the group found a warehouse near downtown Fargo to convert into a microbrewery. The first taste was a culmination of a five-year dream for Chris Anderson, the brew master.
"To actually put grain into steel is pretty exciting," Anderson said Tuesday.
Anderson picked Stone's Throw Scottish Ale, the company's top-selling beer, to test the new equipment. There was little fanfare for the first sip. Anderson dipped a shot glass into the boiling pot, took a drink of the raw product he compared to hot cereal, and declared it fit for fermentation.
"That's really good flavor," he said of the mixture for Stone's Throw, a sweeter beer that is lower in alcohol than the other beers and doesn't have a hoppy or bitter taste. The beer should be ready to drink in three weeks.
"Making beer, it's a job," Anderson said. "But being able to control the process and produce what we want, what we expect ... that's where things get much more interesting."
Fargo Brewing Co. is the brainchild of brothers Chris and John Anderson, Jared Hardy and Aaron Hill. It debuted in September 2011 with the Wood Chipper IPA, a quirk reference to the movie "Fargo." A wood chipper is an important prop in the 1996 dark comedy. Now the group is hoping the beer makes a name for itself.
"Fargo does have a certain draw and imagery. The movie helps with that. Also having been in the news for flooding multiple times and winning worst weather city, it paints a picture for other people and the rest of the country," John Anderson said. "But it would nice to have something else associated with the name."
In addition to the Wood Chipper and the Stone's Throw, the company is brewing Northbound Porter, Summer Wheat and Oktoberfest. Other recipes are forthcoming.
The beer is being sold primarily in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota, but there are plans to expand to Sioux Falls, S.D., Duluth, Minn., and the Twin Cities area. The group is exploring the possibility of selling in Canada.
Ian Dickmeyer, general manager of Rhombus Guys, a popular pizza place in downtown Fargo, keeps four of the Fargo beers on tap.
"The flavor is there. It's a great beer to drink," Dickmeyer said. "People travelling through, which is really quite often, want something local, and they're pretty happy with it. It's good to have that variety."
Fargo Brewing Co. recently wrapped up its contract with Sand Creek Brewery in Black River Falls, Wis., which had been using Chris Anderson's recipes to make the beer. In addition to changing locations, the brewery is switching from bottled to canned beer, which many craft operators have done to improve the quality and extend the shelf life.
The first kegs are expected to roll out of the Fargo facility in a couple of weeks. The tap room, where people who want to tour the brewery can sample the beer, is expected to open in the next couple of months.
Chris Anderson, who honed his beer-making skills at a brewery in Idaho before moving back to his hometown, said his most important tool is his palate. He tastes each creation starting from the raw ingredients in the grain room to the final product.
"It's very exciting and it's very nerve-racking at the same time," he said. "There's kind of a lot riding on making sure that I do it right."
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