The latest edition of our Microbrewery of the Week is Fulton Beer. We visited Fulton, located in the shadow of Target Field, and talked to one of the four co-founders, Brian Hoffman.
How did your brewery come to be?
My partner Jim [Diley] got a Mr. Beer kit for Christmas from his then-girlfriend/now-wife and he brewed it with his brother-in-law Pete [Grande, brewmaster at Fulton] up at their cabin. He thought it was fun and right after we graduated, he called me and [Fulton co-founder] Ryan [Betz] and said, "Hey, do you guys want to come over, watch some water boil and drink some beer?" We said, "Sweet. Sounds awesome," and got into it pretty quick. Within the first year of brewing, we had manufactured our own three-tier homebrew system out of some old kegs we cut the tops off of, an old bed frame we welded together for the stand and just kind of built out that system and started homebrewing consistently over the next three-and-a-half years. Then, we started contract brewing at Sand Creek [Brewing Co. in Black River Falls, Wis.]. It was the closest place we could find that would let us come out and do the brewing, under their supervision at first, but by the end, Pete was out there brewing our beer for us once a week. In theory, brewing five gallons of beer and brewing 1,200 gallons of beer is the same thing, but the equipment is just very different.
We had a really nice mix of backgrounds. I was a biology major in college, Ryan got his MBA from Carlson School of Management, Jim has his law degree from William & Mitchell, and Pete was a general contractor. We all have skills that have really served us well.
How did you name your brewery?
We started homebrewing in the Fulton neighborhood of southwest Minneapolis. At the time, we weren't that creative when we named our homebrew club, so we were the Fulton Homebrew Club. As we got to the point where we were going to start a business, we tried to think of what's the perfect brewing company name. We spent three or four weeks rolling names around and did a little bit of research into the Fulton neighborhood. We found out it was named after Robert Fulton who commercialized the steam engine, built submarines and was this really cool innovative guy. In the end, we decided it felt the best and Fulton we were.
What's your favorite beer you make?
It really depends on what the weather's like, where I'm at, when I'm drinking it... Probably right now, Ringer is my favorite just because it's the new one. It's the last of the five homebrew recipes we had when we started the company. One of my favorite desserts ever if I'm making dinner is to do Worth Adversary with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream in it. It really depends on the situation. Hot day on a patio, it's Lonely Blonde all the way.
What's your favorite beer someone else makes?
I'm really enjoying all of the new - and old - brews that we have now in Minnesota. We have so much good beer here locally that I find myself drinking a lot of local beers. I had a Forgotten Flem from Brau Brothers; that was delicious. I have to say, if I had to pick one, it would be the Summit EPA. It's the beer that made me fall in love with good beer. It was one of the only craft beers available at the bar in St. Joseph, Minn. It's such a perfect English-style EPA. It's a beautiful beer.
What are your hopes for the brewery's future?
There has been a fair amount of growth in the market for everybody, us included. It's been super exciting. We have three more fermenters on the way right now so we'll get to almost double the amount of beer we're able to produce out of this facility. The one exciting thing for us is by the end of July, all four of the partners will finally be full-time with the company. For us to be able to have the company pay our salaries, to be able to concentrate and spend all of our time working at the company and help grow it is very exciting for us. As we go forward, we have a little more room to pack a few more fermenters in.
What is the best piece of advice someone you can give homebrewers?
Take good notes. After the first year-and-a-half or two years, we finally invested in some good brewing software just so we could actually track our recipes. Whether you want to actually make a business out of it or you just want to be able to replicate that beer at home so you always have your mild on tap or your IPA on tap, take great notes.
Describe the local craft beer scene in 11 words or less.
Solid base, up and coming, exciting. I'll just leave it there. [laughs] I could think of five more words to add to that if you want me to. "Drink more good local beer."
If you're not drinking beer, what are you drinking?
I generally am drinking scotch or a bourbon. I don't necessarily have a favorite; I haven't found that one that I have to keep going back to. But a couple of fingers of scotch on the rocks at night is a nice little nightcap.
Fulton's brewery and popular tap room is in Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood at 414 6th Ave. N. The tap room is open Fridays and Saturdays as well as all Minnesota Twins home games. A map of where to find Fulton's beers is available here.
Find Fulton on Facebook and Twitter, too.
Previous Microbreweries of the Week:
Boom Island Brewing Commpany
(Copyright 2012 KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)