Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault welcomes F-town Brewing Company July 30, 2015

A logo on the taproom wall, which opens to a street-side patio. To the left in the photo, up the hill, is Central Avenue. That

The taproom, right, opens to a street-side fenced patio. To the left, up the hill, lies Central Avenue, the main street through Faribault’s historic business district. F-Town encourages patrons to order carry-out at local restaurants and bring the food to the brewery to enjoy with beer.

ONE OF MINNESOTA’S newest craft breweries, F-Town Brewing Company, has opened in the heart of historic downtown Faribault, in a community with a rich beer history. The Fleckenstein family brewed Fleck’s beer and other beverages here for 108 years, until 1964.

An overview of the Peterson building which houses architectural salvage and antiques, left, with the brewery on the left.

An overview of the Peterson Art Furniture building which houses architectural salvage and antiques, right, with the brewery on the left.

Now locals Noah Strouth, Chris Voegele and Travis Temke have brought beer back to Faribault, housing their operation in a section of the aged Peterson Art Furniture Co. complex with the taproom in an adjoining converted garage space.

We wanted to sample all of the beers on tap, so we ordered a flight.

A snippet photo of the F-Town flight staged on the brewery’s signature orange picnic table.

F-Town has proven a popular gathering spot for craft beer lovers since opening about a month ago. Saturday evening my husband and I stopped by for the first time, purposely allowing the initial hoopla to settle. We ordered a $12 flight—a sampling of six beers ranging from the FlexLess light lager to the robust Nutso which tasted of coffee to me.

The beers included in our flight.

The beers included in our flight.

I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite. But Randy picked FlexLess without a second thought. He found it the most similar to mass-produced beers, which can be a good thing or not, depending on the type of beer you like. He prefers a less hoppy taste. I wondered about that name, FlexLess, and the similarity to the historic Fleck’s name. The founders of F-Town early on hoped to bottle Fleck’s branded beer at a brewery they initially named Patriot’s Brewing. That all changed following legal and trademark issues.

A block from F-Town, you'll find a mural honoring Fleck's beer.

A block from F-Town, you’ll find a mural honoring Fleck’s beer, once brewed in Faribault.

Eventually, the brewery became F-Town with beers bearing monikers like #1 American (there’s that patriotism), Ipalicious (an IPA) and We’ve Gone Plaid (a Scottish ale). The beers (only Ipalicious and Nutso at this point) are sold in cans, not bottles, a disappointment since I think craft beer should be bottled. But my son-in-law noted that cans are becoming a more common choice for craft breweries, including at the wildly popular Surly Brewing Co. I have yet to purchase F-Town beer off-sale as the one time I tried, the liquor store was sold out. The beer is being distributed only locally, for now, by College City Beverage.

In this photo, you see the door into the taproom and the patio.

In this photo, you see the door into the taproom and then the patio.

About that brewery name. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some dislike that the “f-word” pops into your head upon hearing F-Town. But, on the positive side, the name is short and memorable and connects to the town name, Faribault with an “F,”  and purposely or not to the long-ago Fleckenstein breweries, also with an “F,” at least in my mind.

The taps.

The taps.

F-Town's IPA beer, Ipalicious.

F-Town’s IPA beer, Ipalicious.

I’ll admit, though, I’m not impressed by the wild-faced creature graphics for the Ipalicious and Nutso beers, the two F-Town beers currently canned and retailed. I was expecting art and beer names reflective of our historic community, local heritage, geographic setting and/or even the historic former furniture building in which the brewery is housed. I’m sure much thought was put in to both. But I am not making the strong connection to Faribault with the choices. I hope that changes.

Here's where the beer is made, just down the steps from the taproom.

Here’s where the beer is made, just down the steps from the taproom.

Words matter. A guy drinking beer next to my husband and me at F-Town pegged us as “beer hippies,” folks who apparently wander about checking out craft breweries. We’re not hippie anything other than coming of age in the early 1970s. He assessed us as such after I asked if he’d been to Montgomery Brewing in neighboring Montgomery. He hasn’t. We haven’t. We’ve only ever visited August Schell Brewing Company in New Ulm. And now F-Town, new on the Minnesota craft brewery scene and right here in the heart of historic Faribault.

Except for the sidewalk flag, there's no identifying  exterior street-side signage on F-Town Brewing. It's needed and perhaps it's coming. The garage doors are opened, if the weather is nice, when the taproom is open.

Except for the sidewalk flag, there’s no identifying exterior street-side signage on F-Town Brewing. It’s needed. Perhaps it’s coming.

FYI: The F-Town Brewing Company taproom is open from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; from 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. Fridays; from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Tours are available at 3 p.m. Thursday and 1 p.m. Saturday.

The brewery is located at 22 Fourth Street Northeast/Minnesota State Highway 60, just half a block off Central Avenue.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The scene at eye level of the historic Peterson Art Furniture. Plan time to explore this multi-level complex stuffed with antiques and collectibles and architectural salvage.

This is an eye level scene of the Peterson Art Furniture Company building from the F-Town patio. Therein you will find 25,000 square feet of antiques and collectibles, architectural salvage, lighting, furniture and more. Plan time to explore this multi-level complex. Faribault has a rich history of furniture makers.

Another perspective of our flight.

Another perspective of our flight.

When you're sipping on the patio, don't miss this mural of iceskaters on the Straight River.

When you’re sipping on the patio, don’t miss this mural of iceskaters on the Straight River.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Faribault’s long-standing historic appreciation for Fleck’s beer February 19, 2013

YOU NEEDN’T LOOK FAR to see the notable imprint the Fleckenstein breweries made on Faribault.

A downtown Faribault mural featuring Fleck's beer.

A downtown Faribault mural featuring Fleck’s beer.

In the heart of Faribault’s historic downtown, a mural at 513 Central Avenue features Fleck’s beer barrels stacked upon a horse-drawn wagon in one of seven historical-themed murals created by the Mural Society of Faribault.

Kitty-corner across the street at the State Bank of Faribault, 428 Central Avenue, bank President John R. Carlander’s personal collection of Fleckenstein/Fleck’s memorabilia is displayed.

The Fleckenstein building houses Twin City Underwriters in the south front with empty space for lease in the other half.

The Fleckenstein building, home to several businesses including an  insurance company, photo studio and salon. If anyone knows the story behind the Fleckenstein family’s connection to the building, I’d like to hear.

Two blocks away in Faribault’s Historic Commercial District, the Fleckenstein building stands at 220 Central Avenue.

Across town at the Rice County Historical Society, 1814 N.W. Second Avenue, you’ll find a permanent Fleckenstein breweries exhibit.

And who knows how many locals own pieces of Fleckenstein history from the breweries of brothers Gottfried and Ernst Fleckenstein. The two began as partners, opening the Fleckenstein Brewery along the banks of the Straight River in 1856. There they aged and stored their beer in caves.

Eventually the two split, Gottfried’s brewery remaining at the original site at 222 Third Avenue N.E. Meanwhile, Ernst moved farther north along the Straight River and established Ernst Fleckenstein Brewing Company in 1872. That would continue in operation until 1964. Gottfried’s brewery, which had been passed along to his son, Louis, closed in 1907.

Chris Voegele, left, and Noah Strouth inside the space that will house Patriot's Brewing brewery.

Chris Voegele, left, and Noah Strouth inside the space that will house Patriot’s Brewing brewery.

With 108 years of business history in Faribault, it’s no wonder the Fleckenstein breweries made an impression upon locals like Noah Strouth and Chris Voegele who will bottle Fleck’s branded beers at Patriot’s Brewing Company, set to open this fall in downtown Faribault within blocks of the first Fleckenstein brewery. You can read about that new brewery by clicking here to a previous post.

The two plan to eventually open a tap room which will feature Fleck’s/Fleckenstein memorabilia culled from their personal inventory and from the collections of others who’ve already offered their historical pieces for display. I don’t expect Strouth will show his 1958 unopened bottle of Fleck’s beer. But it’s interesting to hear his claim that this 55-year-old bottle has always been kept cold. He knows that, he says, because of the beer’s clarity.

If anyone knows Fleck’s beer, it would be Faribault resident Brian Schmidt who owns more than 300 collectible pieces from the Fleckenstein breweries and has created a Fleck’s website. (Click here to reach that.) Schmidt grew up on Faribault’s north side and remembers digging for bottles in the Fleckenstein brewery “bottle pit.”

Faribault artist Rhody Yule created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck's beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents took a brewery tour.

Faribault artist Rhody Yule created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck’s beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents took a brewery tour. The brewery also made soda.

I’ve yet to see Schmidt’s collection, although I’ve viewed one piece, a 1976 brewery painting by my artist friend Rhody Yule of Faribault. Schmidt brought the artwork, which he purchased for $90 at a local auction, to “A Lifetime of Art: The Rhody Yule Collection” exhibit in January 2011 at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault. Click here to read my post about that brewery painting and another piece Schmidt shared at Yule’s show.

Equally as interesting are the brewery related stories shared by locals, including that of a 92-year-old friend who wished to remain anonymous. The Faribault native remembers her sister picking tight-bud peonies from the family farm in June and storing the flowers inside a brewery cave until her early July wedding.

This I learned when I phoned to ask about the Fleckenstein-donated stained glass windows which grace my church, Trinity Lutheran, along Fourth Street in Faribault. My friend couldn’t offer any details on the windows, or even if the Fleckensteins were Trinity members. But I certainly appreciated hearing her sister’s wedding flower story.

Likewise I spoke with another longtime Faribault resident who knew members of the Fleckenstein family—Al, Ruge, John and Chauncey—from his days of bowling against the Fleck’s Brewery team. In his early 20s at the time, my friend recalls the Fleckensteins, 15-plus years his senior, as strong supporters/sponsors of bowling in Faribault. Several generations of Fleckensteins operated the breweries.

Hearing stories like this reinforces the results of a Faribault Main Street downtown market analysis report prepared in September 2011. According to that report by (IN)ALLIANCE, LLC, “downtown Faribault would be an ideal location for a craft brew pub.”

The report went on to state this:

Given the history of brewing in Faribault and its consumer who is attracted to culture and history, naming a brewpub solicitation as “Fleckenstein Brew Pub” would prove to be a good promotional tool.

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

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

When I interviewed Patriot Brewing owners Strouth and Voegele, I mentioned the market analysis (of which they were unaware) and they concurred with that important historic connection and Faribault promotional aspect. “People in Faribault seem to like their history,” Voegele said.

With the opening of a brewery and a tap room (not a brewpub), Patriot’s Brewing will assuredly add to the beloved history of Fleck’s beer in Faribault.

© Copyright 2013 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

 

The mystery of the brewery and bank paintings January 17, 2011

I DIDN’T GROW UP in Faribault. But I’ve lived here longer than any place in my life—28 ½ years—so I suppose that makes me somewhat of a local.

As such, I’ve developed an appreciation for the history that surrounds me, especially in the downtown. Faribault boasts a historic commercial district graced by many beautiful brick buildings.

So when two paintings of old Faribault buildings mysteriously showed up at my friend Rhody Yule’s art exhibit, I was intrigued. I knew the pieces in the exhibit inside and out, backward and forward, upside down and right side up because I submitted the application for Rhody’s show and then helped select the art.

Then, suddenly, these two additional paintings—of the Fleckenstein Brewery and the Security Bank—appear. How did they get there?

 

Faribault artist Rhody Yule created this oil painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery in 1976. The building, and the brewery, no longer exist. The 20-foot Fleck's beer bottle on the right side of the painting sat near the brewery entrance. Children often had their pictures taken here when their parents toured the brewery.

In 1964, Rhody Yule painted this picture of the Security Bank in downtown Faribault. The original 1870 stone structure was covered with a brick facade. The building is no longer a bank.

I asked around, but no one could solve the mystery.

Thanks to my sleuthing husband, who thought to look at the backs of the paintings, the mystery was quickly solved and I had a name and number.

Local history buff Brian Schmidt owns the oil paintings. When he learned of Rhody’s art show, he hustled the two pieces down to the Paradise Center for the Arts because he figured others would be interested.

Brian was right and I had lots of questions for him, starting with, “Where did you get these paintings?”

Turns out he purchased them at Woody Schrader auctions, which are held on Sundays and Wednesdays at Schrader’s Faribault auction house.

As long as we were talking, I didn’t shy from asking Brian how much he paid for the paintings. He purchased the 1964 bank painting for $30 seven years ago. He got the 1976 painting of the Fleckenstein Brewery about 10 years ago for $90.

I told Brian he got a deal. He knew it.

But here’s the best part about this whole story. Brian grew up on the north side of Faribault and often dug for bottles in the “bottle pit” at the Fleckenstein Brewery. He’s also considered the local expert on the brewery, he says, and has some 300 collectible brewery items.

Who better to own these paintings than Brian?

“I love Faribault history,” says this Rice County Historical Society member who is always seeking treasures from the city’s past.

He can tell you that the Fleckenstein Brewery had a 108-year history in Faribault, opening in 1856 and closing in 1964. The Fleckensteins made Fleck’s beer and pop. He’s eager to share more and has invited me and my husband to see his collection.

For now, though, we focused primarily on those paintings.

“I was so glad to put to rest the mystery of the paintings that I own from Rhody Yule,” Brian wrote in an e-mail follow-up to our phone conversation. “I have often wondered where his studio was and who was the man behind the wonderful art work that I found. It was a pleasure to finally see the man who actually painted these wonderful paintings. I will cherish these paintings FOREVER now!”

 

The former Security Bank, today, along Central Avenue in downtown Faribault.

The clock that graces the corner of the Security Bank building has fallen apart. A number of years ago there was discussion about refurbishing the clock, but that didn't happen, I believe, because of the high costs to undertake such a project.

The lovely stone entrance to the Security Bank.

FYI: Rhody Yule, who was a Faribault sign painter for 33 years, never had a studio. He painted quietly at home for enjoyment.

IF ANYONE OWNS paintings by Rhody, please submit a comment here and tell me about the art pieces you have.

If you would like to see the Security Bank and Fleckenstein Brewery paintings, which Brian Schmidt terms “so spectacular and detailed,” check out “A Lifetime of Art: The Rhody Yule Collection” at the Paradise Center for the Arts. Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday and noon – 5 p.m. Saturday. This first-ever gallery show for 92-year-old Rhody runs through February 26.

Other exhibit paintings of Faribault buildings include one of the old Trinity Lutheran Church and School and the Faribault Woolen Mill.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling