Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fulton Beer brewery tour (Minneapolis, MN)


I've lost track of how many brewery tours I've done--one of the few items I don't track.  I keep doing them because I learn a little something each time (after the mandatory beer is made of four ingredients lecture).  Also, every brewery has a unique history and physical set up, which I find interesting.  Fulton epitomizes my reasons for continuing to do brewery tours.

Our tour guide was Jay, dad and father-in-law of two of the founders: Jim and Peter.  Jay was friendly and spoke like a proud papa as he related Fulton's genesis as an alternative assignment for an internship.  Check out Fulton's story page for a well written summary.  In short, four buddies learn how to brew good beer together and their passion starts a brewery through research, hard work and faith.  The Local was the first bar to give them a draft line and they have grown from there. I admire their courage and resourcefulness--I would not have gotten over so many hurdles.
New pilot system that passes code--
unlike the original homebrew set up
that's on display in the taproom
"How Fulton beer is Made" display
According to Jay, Fulton's goal as always been to have "approachable and session-able beer."  Giving examples of great beers (that I'll leave nameless) that he loves but can't drink more than one or two, Jay contrasted Fulton's aim to be the beer to drink with friends at home for an evening or a tailgate for a day instead the beer geek trader.

Beginning of tour and art work of founders in upper left

The distance covered in the tour isn't far, so grab a pint to sip while listening to Jay entertain and inform.  He ranged from a Homerian quote (Simpson version: "Beer has food value, but food doesn't have food value") to beer politics to how much the cows of a local farmer love the spent grain.

Second part of tour by brewhouse
In one section, he discussed the value of the taproom and Fulton's investments in the brewhouse from the Surly bill profits: two tanks, a chiller, and new employees. Plus taxes from more beer and salaries are going to state.  By Jay's estimate, all of this is about 18 months ahead of schedule compared to how Fulton would have grown under previous state laws.  He also attributes beer expansion in Minnesota since 2009 to this change.  While formal analysis of the law's effect is beyond my scope, Fulton is clearly a fan and believes that it's allowed them to be a more successful business, faster.

While a trip into the business of beer was unique for tours and interesting, I marveled at the feel of Fulton--it's like a large homebrew operation.  Well designed, I can see the influence of their homebrew background, right down to the same brewing friend that I cherish: a spray bottle of sanitizer hanging by its trigger.

The brewery seems rather labor intensive compared to some that I've seen, but it felt to me like I was seeing an intermediate step, which Jay confirmed late in the tour.  Fulton is looking to expand to another location and do everything in house, including bottling.  Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to repeat the tour in a new facility and hear the next chapter of the Fulton story.

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