Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Patriot’s Brewing Company opening in Faribault with a nod to the past February 16, 2013

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO I overheard several antique dealers discussing a brewery in Faribault. I lingered nearby, feigning interest in merchandise so I could eavesdrop. With tidbits of information filed in my memory, I meandered farther into the Peterson Art Furniture Company complex.

There I spotted Northfield attorney, historic preservationist, and Peterson building and architectural salvage business owner David Hvistendahl eating lunch. Perfect timing. “What’s this about a brewery coming to Faribault?” I asked.

Chris Voegele , left, and Noah Strouth, owners of Patriot's Brewing Company

Chris Voegele , left, and Noah Strouth, owners of Patriot’s Brewing Company.

And thus I was introduced to Patriot’s Brewing Company, a Faribault-based regional brewery slated to open this fall, according to owners Noah Strouth, 40, and Chris Voegele, 41. Saturday morning I met with these longtime friends and 1990 Faribault High School graduates to learn more about their craft beer business. Up until then, I’d been asked not to publicly divulge news about the brewery.

The brewery will be housed in the lower level of the brick building on the left with a tap room opening later in the small white building in the center of the Peterson Art Furniture complex.

The brewery will be housed in the lower level of the brick building on the left with a tap room opening later in the small white building in the front of the Peterson Art Furniture complex.

But word had gotten around town and the time seemed right to share their plans for the brewery which will be housed in a 3,250 square foot basement section in the southwest corner of the former Peterson Art Furniture Company (before that home to the Faribault Furniture Company) building along Fourth Street in the heart of historic downtown Faribault.

David Hvistendahl, from whom Patriot's is renting space for the brewery, sports a Fleck's beer t-shirt. A line of Fleck's Hvistendahl and a partner plan to eventually open an event center int he space above the brewery.

David Hvistendahl, from whom Patriot’s is renting space for the brewery, sports a Fleck’s beer t-shirt. Fleck’s branded clothing will soon be available for purchase through Patriot’s Brewing. Hvistendahl and a partner plan to eventually open an event center in the space above the brewery.

For the first time since 1964, when Fleckenstein Brewery closed, Faribault will have its own brewery, and one which will brew Fleck’s labeled bock and lagers. Patriot’s Brewing has trademarked the Fleck’s name, which had been left in the public domain, Voegele said.

“People in Faribault seem to like their history,” Voegele said, both he and Strouth emphasizing the name recognition and importance of Fleck’s beer in Faribault history.

They’ve even talked to locals who drank Fleck’s beer to learn more about the taste, something they hope to re-create in a Fleck’s lager. The recipes died with Ernst “Boots” Fleckenstein, the last brewmaster, Voegele said. The pair has also considered the historic grains and the water at the time (the brewery drew its water from an artesian well) the popular Faribault beer was produced. They’ll never exactly replicate Fleck’s, especially since they cannot re-create the yeast strain (of major importance in the brewing process), but they will try, the two say.

The brewery space.

The brewery space.

“Everything is in motion,” said Voegele as he and Strouth stood in the sprawling brewery space defined by rugged stone walls of local gray quarry stone and by thick support posts. The former storage area has been cleared and the two are working on the infrastructure with projects like tuckpointing and reinstalling the original windows in the 1886 building. Additional water and sewer lines are set for June installation during a street reconstruction project.

The walls are constructed from locally quarried stone.

The walls, constructed from locally quarried stone, will be tuckpointed.

They hope to begin brewing in the fall, starting with 80-100 barrels a month, producing one or two beers initially in their 25-barrel brewhouse. Each barrel holds 31 gallons. A Fleck’s branded lager will be among their first beers.

Strouth and Voegele are no novices at beer brewing, For five years already they’ve brewed beer in a small scale mini brewery in the basement of Strouth’s rural Faribault home. They can produce about 16 gallons and will use the same operating system in the brewery, only on a much larger scale.

They are, they agree, passionate about brewing beer, bringing their home-brewed beers to taste testers at local beer clubs and to area craft beer competitions. In 2012, their beer earned four first place ribbons at the Rice County Fair.

“We make beer that we like to drink,” Strouth said. “And people seem to like our beer.”

Patriot’s Brewing already has created recipes for five beers: #1 American Pale Ale, IPA Olicious (an India Pale Ale), Nutso (a nut brown ale), Stouty McStouterton (an oatmeal stout) and Fleck’s bock (a helles bock). The brewers are also working on lagers.

“We have a high appreciation for fine beer,” Voegele said, admitting it took awhile, though, for his beer palate to develop.

This view looks toward the  steps leading to the future tap room.

This view looks toward the steps leading to the future tap room. Only beer, and not food, will be served here.

While Patriot’s Brewing aims for regional distribution of its beer within a 60-mile radius of Faribault, the brewery is also relying on strong community support. As the business grows, plans call for opening of a tap room just up a set of steps from the brewery in a garage space occupied by Color My World. Voegele envisions a little bar with tables and chairs in an old style atmosphere in the cement-walled space. The pair plan to incorporate Fleckenstein Brewery/Fleck’s beer memorabilia into the tap room.

And then, as the business grows even more, the two hope to move the tap room elsewhere and use that vacated space for a grain room.

The ceiling of the historic building in the brewery area.

The ceiling of the historic building in the brewery area.

Eventually, they hope to offer brewery tours.

But that’s all in the future, after the brewery is established and sales are going strong. For now, Strouth and Voegele are concentrating on getting the brewery up and running while keeping their day jobs. Strouth works as a welder and fabricator at Lockerby Sheet Metal. Voegele teaches biology 105 at Minnesota State University, Mankato, works as an emergency medical technician in St. Peter and farms part-time in rural Morristown.

As they grow their regional brewery, they also plan to add employees.

Chris Voegele and Noah Strouth are grounded in Faribault, their hometown.

Chris Voegele and Noah Strouth are grounded in Faribault, their hometown.

They are committed to Faribault, to its rich history. “Our roots are in Faribault,” Voegele said.

They are also committed to using American made/grown products—from equipment to hops to bottles—whenever possible in their business.

Noah Strouth's nephew, Alex Strouth, a senior at Northfield High School, created the patriotic themed company logo.

Noah Strouth’s nephew, Alex Strouth, a senior at Northfield High School, created the patriotic themed company logo.

That sense of American pride explains the company name—Patriot’s Brewing Company. “We believe in America…promoting American businesses, the feeling of Americanism, pride in country,” Voegele said.

And although Voegele did not specifically state it, he and Strouth are now living the American dream in starting their own business, Patriot’s Brewing Company.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Patriot’s Brewing Company opening in Faribault with a nod to the past”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Love the boot shot! I hope this business takes root—sounds like a passionate pair and what a neat thing to bring back some history to Faribault!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yeah, the boot shot, I think Chris and Noah may have thought that a bit odd, but…

      I’m confident this brewery will succeed. Noah and Chris really have a good business plan in place and are passionate about beer and brewing it. I think Faribault is the perfect town for a brewery. And I know the locals love the Fleck’s history.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Sounds like they will have a winner and you got the scoop on the article!!!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I actually hadn’t planned to publish this post this until Tuesday. But, unbeknownst to me at the time the interview was scheduled, one had also apparently been set with a reporter from the local daily paper. I recognized her waiting in the wings for me to finish my interview and photos. So…I moved up my publication date.

  2. It was great to get this news. I’ve been waiting for awhile. Several months ago I spoke with a man who had received a license for a winery near Morristown. He had also helped a couple of guys from Faribault apply for a brewery license. No more information until now. There is a book at Buckham library called Minnesota Breweries that states that there have been three breweries in Faribault in the past. Also great that they are brewing Flecks beer.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This is exciting news for Faribault, isn’t it? I also have heard about the winery, or at least the vineyard, near Morristown. Thank you for reminding me of this. I’ll have to ask around and maybe check that out eventually. I’m familiar with that book you reference, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read it. The Fleckenstein brothers had two separate breweries. I don’t know about a third one in Faribault.

      • On an entirely different subject, Peter Allen and I met on New Years Eve. We have started a writers group meeting the 2nd Thursday each month. We met last week, had a good time. You should join us!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Thanks for the reminder. Peter actually invited me to the get together on Thursday, but I was at the Minnesota Sinfonia concert.

  3. Love the old brick downtown buildings! Good Luck to them!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I love our downtown historic district also. I was told that the city at one time wanted to tear down the Peterson Art Furniture complex and use the land for a parking lot. I’m so thankful that did not happen.

  4. How exciting!!! I love small breweries!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m thrilled that Patriot’s Brewing will be opening a brewery in Faribault. I expect many other folks will be equally as excited.

  5. treadlemusic Says:

    Way to go! I love a “scoop”!!!! That building is perfect for such an endeavor. Always wonderful to ‘hear’ of a new business venture in a smaller town. This past week a new restaurant opened in Houston (MN) called “Bluff Country Buffet”. Early reports are that the food is very excellent. Just the fact that there has been an “opening” has created the buzz! BTW, the owner lives locally/nearby so is a case, also, of hometown people getting creative in the business venue. Great post!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Like Noah and Chris, I’m confident the Faribault area will support their brewery. So good to hear about the new food venue in Houston, too.

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