Mounted on the northernmost wall of the brewing space, Saint Arnold of Metz presides over the final preparations at the nearly-opened Fergus Brewing Co.
“He’s the patron saint of brewers,” shares head brewer Andy Beck. “He watches over me when I brew. He got a lot of people to drink beer instead of the contaminated water, so he saved a bunch of lives.”
Despite his stern demeanor (do patron saints ever really look happy?), Arnold clearly favors Beck’s work. With a grand opening tentatively scheduled for mid-September, Fergus Brewing Co. has already generated major excitement in their hometown.
“We got Best Beer at the Fergus Beer Tour. We got Best Brewery at [Fergus Falls] Summerfest… [and] … the Downtown Chowdown was kind of a collaboration win [with Dining Car #423], so we’ll take it!”
Then again, collaboration and community are what Fergus Brewing are all about. “We’re all from the Fergus community,” Beck explains. “A lot of places were closing, so we wanted to do something to bring something back. This spot had sat vacant for a long time. It’s such a prominent spot for Fergus and Fergus history.” It used to be a scale house for a beef-rendering plant which, Beck notes, everybody hated. “So it’s nice to bring a little bit of fun back to the spot.”
Appropriately, the brewery is very much a collaborative effort. The taproom, a separate building from the brewing space, belonged to local artist Jeff Zachmann. Intended to be an art gallery, Zachmann thought the space was underutilized and—together with his wife Deb, Beck and Beck’s wife Klara, and Klara’s parent’s Scott and Kathy Wagnild—undertook the task of renovating the space into a brewery.
Many of the final artistic touches are Zachmann’s, including the signs, flight boards, tap handles, and a kinetic sculpture featured in the taproom. Scott Wagnild, a dentist in town, is responsible for much of the physical construction. Even smaller details are crowd-sourced efforts. The bartop wood came from a local bakery (it spent all summer weeping olive oil, Beck tells us). The bocce ball turf is from the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. Additional plans for the future include a large beer garden, farmers markets, giant beer pong, food trucks and even an ice rink in the winter.
Located along the I-94 corridor, Beck hopes that Fergus Brewing Co. will not only be a frequent stop for locals but for travelers as well. “With multiple breweries [Union Pizza and Brewing has been open downtown since 2015, and Outstate Brewing Co. is set to open within the next couple of months] it becomes a destination instead of just a spot. Having multiple breweries in one spot is more incentive for people to come [to Fergus Falls]. You’ve got a lot of people coming in for the lakes who will stop […] and then they’ll go on.”
Aesthetically, the taproom pulls from both the building’s original purpose as an art gallery and the Fergus Falls community’s heritage. “Heavy on the white and the wood, just to give a little bit of warmth,” says Beck. “And then, since it’s such a Scandinavian area, we wanted to do more of a Scandinavian, mid-century modern-type feel to it—so nice windows, lots of sunlight, bright whites just to give it a clean feel.” With a capacity of around 55, the taproom will be close and cozy.
Beck, who previously worked in quality control at Third Street Brewhouse in Cold Spring, Minnesota, is already attentive to the tastes of the local community. He says they’ll start with four flagships: a stout, IPA, Pilsner, and saison. “People seem to like those styles of beer; they’re very light, they’re very easy to drink. Especially in this community, they’re not huge on overly-hoppy beers. That’s what we’ve noticed in trends. But that could change, too. It just depends on what people tell me and drink. We’re really flexible here; the consumers tell me what to do, and I can do it!”
In addition to the flagships, Fergus Brewing Co. will feature six additional tap lines rotating seasonally or situationally—Beck told us he was currently working on a New England IPA with plans for a Mexican-style lager, a dunkelweizen, and a smoked pumpkin porter to follow. The flagship Postman’s Breakfast Stout, which is currently served around Fergus, is named after Beck’s dad who recently passed away—a tribute to his many years as a mailman.
More than anything, Beck is just eager to see his beer served in the taproom. “The end is in sight. It’s just getting there. September 21 is the first day of fall, so it would be cool to open on that.” Ready or not, things need to be completed before then. “We have to be open in two weeks!” jokes Beck. “We’re hosting a fundraiser on September 9.”
Brewer: Andy Beck
Beers: Lager, blond ale, blood orange saison, Postman’s Breakfast Stout, NEIPA, Mexican-style lager, dunkelweizen, Oktoberfest
Address: 1683 Ottertail Dr., Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Hours: Mon: 4pm–11pm; Tue: closed; Wed: 4pm–11pm; Thu: 4pm–11pm; Fri: 4pm–11pm; Sat: 12pm–11pm; Sun: 12pm–8pm
Opening: Mid-September 2019