We have indulged in our love of beer for thousands of years. It is one of the civilization’s oldest beverages, dating all the way back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Today beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the world and the third most popular beverage after water and tea. More than 35 billion gallons of beer are sold each year, accounting for global revenues in excess of $300 billion. Much of this beer is sold by craft breweries.Craft breweries are classified as small, independent brewers that produce fewer than 6 million barrels of beer annually. Several breweries in the greater Fargo-Moorhead are part of the craft brewery movement that has exploded in the past few years. This is your guide to the major players.
Drekker Brewing Company
Jesse Feigum, co-founder of Drekker Brewing Company, grew up in nearby Barnesville, MN. Together with three friends, Jesse started making beer by experimenting with home brewing, eventually pooling their funds to purchase a small brewing system. “Like most home brewers, we talked a lot about what we’d do if we had our own brewery, and the more we talked the more realistic it seemed,” Jesse explained. “Pretty soon our brewing sessions were also business strategy meetings, and we realized that we each had a different skill set that would be essential to starting a brewery.”
Drekker Brewing has enjoyed taking part in such an exciting and burgeoning industry. “I think that there’s a growing movement where people are seeking out authenticity in whichever products they buy,” Jesse said. “This definitely isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s a big part of the reason that small breweries are opening at such an amazing rate.”
Jesse believes that creating a product that customers can connect with is the key to a successful brewery. “Today people seek out that connection and want to know where their beer comes from,” he said. “People of all ages and walks of life are seeking out new and different beers to try and they’re genuinely interested in where it was brewed and who brewed it.”
For Jesse and his co-owners, the brewery is all about passion and fun. “Our motto is ‘Beer is fun. Act accordingly.’ We have that written up on the wall in big letters in the brewery and the message is there for everyone who walks in the doors,” said Jesse. “We want to create an atmosphere in the brewery where people come to have a good time and enjoy themselves.”
Drekker Brewing Company is located in Downtown Fargo. For more information, visit drekkerbrewing.com.
Junkyard Brewing Company
On the other side of the river from Dekker sits Junkyard Brewing Company. When co-owner Aaron Juhnke decided it was time to figure out what to do with his life, he turned to what he loved. “I didn’t know very many other people who were really into craft beer, so I figured there must be a ton of folks out there who could discover and fall in love with the huge spectrum of beer flavors like I had,” he said. When Aaron’s brother Dan graduated from college the duo decided they “either needed to make something happen or give up on our dream and get jobs.”
Aaron attributes the rise in breweries to a number of factors: “Because people are realizing that there are nearly endless flavors to discover in beer, because the attitude of most breweries is very approachable as they try to be take part in their communities, because there is a general trend in our economy to favor local producers and products, and because breweries have historically held a significant place in the composition of their local cultures.”
At Junkyard, the focus is on the customer — the part of the job Aaron enjoys the most. “I like the people who are into breweries and craft beer. They’re honestly some of the best customers that any business could hope to have,” he said. “I don’t know what it is about beer people, but they’re pretty much all great people.”
More information about Moorhead’s Junkyard Brewing Company can be obtained at junkyardbeer.com.
Fargo Brewing Company
Co-founder Jared Hardy has helped grow Fargo Brewing Company into one of the largest in the area. “Fargo Brewing is the oldest and largest brewery in North Dakota with distribution across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Western Wisconsin,” he explained. “In 2017 we will make over 40 varieties of beer and package over 12 styles in cans.” As a testament to its growth, the company opened Fargo Brewing Ale House in South Fargo where customers can find a few beers not currently available at their North Fargo taproom.
“The increase of breweries in the region is a reflection of the communities we represent,” Jared observed. “Customers are increasingly looking for local, quality products, and beer is no exception.” Jared also points out that North Dakota’s regulatory changes that allow limited, direct sales to customers have made introducing new beers to customers easier than ever.
Like other brewmasters, Jared’s love of brewing is part science, part art. “The best thing about my job is that there is always something new to learn; I’m always learning about new ways to improve processes and solve problems in the brewery, which is a lot of fun,” he said. “Seeing the results of those new processes and programs that have been implemented is very rewarding.”
More information about Fargo Brewing Company can be obtained at fargobrewing.com.
Kilstone Brewing is one of the newer players in the area’s craft brewing scene. Marketing and Events Coordinator Paul Hankel is excited about the direction of the industry. “By the end of this year there will be seven or eight of us, which is following a national trend,” he said. “People are getting over more mainstream beer and falling in love with small batch craft.”
According to Paul, one of the best aspects of Kilstone is its size. “We are able to do a little more experimentation,” he said. “We have a two-barrel system rather than the larger 16-barrel variety, so we can experiment. If a batch doesn’t turn out right, dumping it isn’t too costly.”
Paul is excited to see where the growth of breweries is going to take Kilstone. “I’d like to see a snapshot of three to five years from now,” he said. “I’d be interested in seeing where the wine and spirits industry goes as well.”
Kilstone Brewing is located in Fargo. More information can be obtained at facebook.com/KilstoneBrewing.
By Jamee Larson