There was a time when the term “outstate” carried an offensive connotation around Fergus Falls, Minnesota, with some residents even campaigning to get people to stop using the term. So when co-founders Dan Mohagen and Patrick Lundberg decided to name their brewery Outstate Brewing Company, it created some buzz around town.
“When we explain [the name] to people, we never do it as a way of apologizing for it,” says head brewer Lundberg, “but just to help them understand what we’re going for. I think we want to be a community—in my ever so humble opinion—that is full of experiences and opportunities for people to gather, have fun, and enjoy the outstate lifestyle. That’s really what drove the brand.”
“I like to say: if you live in outstate, you love it,” Lundberg adds. “It’s home. You want to be here. If you’re not there, you want to be there, even if for just a few days because it’s vacation on the lakes, it’s gatherings of family and friends, campfires, fishing, hunting—all of the things that make outstate greater.”
Mohagen and Lundberg hope that their taproom—which opened its doors on November 27—feels that way to locals and visitors alike.
“I want our taproom to embody the experience that we’re talking about,” Lundberg states. “And not just people who enjoy the cabin but enjoy a frickin’ awesome patio,” he says, waving to the patio space beyond the big sliding garage door that overlooks the Otter Tail River Reservoir.
The taproom is a cozy space, and might remind one of a cabin. It has a giant garage door facing the Otter Tail River with rustic elements such as wood paneling on the walls, originating from Mohagen’s family farm in Wendell, Minnesota. There is a stone fireplace with a beautiful wooden mantel made by local artist, Jim Bjork.
Outstate’s facility currently sits tucked away in a quiet corner of downtown Fergus Falls overlooking the river. “It’s the best lot in town,” Mohagen, also head of sales and marketing, proudly states. He would know; before setting his sights on opening a brewery, he worked for his family’s real estate office the next block over. In fact, it was a work Christmas party that set everything in motion.
After retiring from YoungLife as the area director, Lundberg had joined Mohagen in real estate where, Mohagen notes, Lundberg had an outstanding first year. Lundberg, who had been homebrewing for years, was serving his beer at a work Christmas party in 2017 when a local gentleman expressed interest in helping them open up a brewery.
“It was a huge confidence booster, I think,” says Mohagen. But ultimately Mohagen and Lundberg decided to start the brewery on their own. “It was end of November 2017—I came into the office […] I put my knuckles down on Pat’s desk and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ And we decided to find a way to own it and build it ourselves.”
They pulled a lot of inspiration from New Belgium Brewing and the craft beer culture in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“Three breweries kind of popped up about the same time—New Belgium, Odell, and Fort Collins Brewing Company. And those three guys were all brewing together in one basement before that happened. And they were all friends. And it wasn’t a split-up that drove them to open three; it was a decision of ‘Let’s do this, let’s all do this really well. Let’s open three and build a culture.” Together with Union Pizza & Brewing Co. and the newly-opened Fergus Brewing Co., Mohagen and Lundberg hope to create their own similar craft beer destination in outstate Minnesota.
Mike Cothran—formerly of New Belgium Brewing and an illustrious figure in the brewing world—has also been a huge addition and inspiration to the Outstate team, coming on as an equity partner and consultant.
“He was my neighbor when I lived in Fort Collins,” says Lundberg. “I call him Beer Jesus, because, if you were to go to church on Sunday and have Jesus preaching your sermon, that’s Mike talking about beer and the process of beer. So he […] has saved us three to five years of troubleshooting off the top.”
His experience and insights are already paying off in dividends for Lundberg and Mohagen and the reason they were distributing beer in the area before the taproom had even opened. Local liquor stores have sold through cases of Outstate Star Island IPA, Bucket Pale Ale, and Northern Lite Lager (which they received a cease and desist letter from Granite City Food & Brewery for) much faster than anticipated. “The reality was, there is this huge gap in production and distribution brewing,” Mohagen says of the decision to be a production and distribution brewery in central Minnesota. “And I think there’s something unique about that, in that, in this style of a brewery we’re able to put something on the shelves at, hopefully, a considerable distance as we establish. And then, the people that are from here and the people that are attached to it can have pride in it.”
Their beer has also gone over well with local bars like Fergus Falls’ American Legion, which Mohagen says is one of the top-performing Legions in the state. When the bar ran out of Summit Saga on tap, the owner called him up. “[She said] ‘I have an open spot; I need an IPA, and I won’t be able to get one for at least a week. Can you bring your stuff?’” Mohagen gladly dropped off a keg of Star Island and got another call one day later. “She called back the next afternoon and said, ‘I’m sold out. Can you bring two more and can we make this a constant thing?’”
Lundberg hopes to open with six or seven beers on tap, including the three flagships, an amber, a mango double IPA, a Belgian quad, and a chocolate stout. With a full tap capacity of 14, a couple of lines will be left open for non-alcoholic options like nitro coffee and craft soda.
“There’s something that is attractive about not having a neighbor living on top of you,” Mohagen concludes, “about being able to see the stars when there’s no clouds in the sky.” Whether you call Fergus Falls rural, outstate, home, or just a place to visit, it’s a place for one and all.
Brewer: Patrick Lundberg
Beers: Bucket Pale Ale, Star Island IPA, Northern Light Lager, Sanctuary Tripel, Mango Double IPA, Amber Ale,
Address: 309 South Vine Street, Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Hours: Wed: 4pm–1am; Thu: CLOSED; Fri: 12pm–1am; Sat: 11am–1am; Sun: 12pm–8pm