The State of American Craft Beer – North Dakota

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With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.

In case you missed the last 33 states, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. And we’re shocked to have made it all the way to the 34th state on our list, The Peace Garden State, North Dakota. Their nickname is derived from the International Peace Garden that’s split in half between ND and Manitoba, Canada. The state is also known as the “Flickertail State,” referring to the tail flicking Richardson Squirrel and the “Roughrider State,” on account of a few of the cowboys who joined Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish American War being from the state.

North Dakota ranks 47th in total population (roughly 758,000), is ranked 47th in population density and houses 9 craft breweries as of 2015 (an increase of 7 since 2011) who are represented by the North Dakota Brewers Guild. The state ranks 50th in total breweries (including D.C.) and 31st in breweries per capita as of 2015, according to the Brewers Association.

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History

Trying to find details about the history of brewing in North Dakota is a difficult proposition. We do know that the state’s original constitution, drawn up and ratified in 1889, including a provision for prohibition, but was later removed for fear of it keeping the entire document from being ratified by voters. Ultimately the state’s residents voted on state prohibition separately, passing it by only 1,159 votes and it was the first state to be admitted with a prohibition clause in its constitution.

During this dry era, illegal taverns called “Blind Pigs” (the owners charged a fee to “see an attraction” such as a pig) were the place to get your drink on with booze bootlegged south from Canada, stills bubbling in thefargo-brewing-logos1 countryside and home brewers were always cooking in homes. The difference in North Dakota is that everyone has always drank, but with the original European settlers being predominantly versed in the conservative sects of Christianity, public drunkenness was frowned upon.

While it’s one of the least populated states in the country with less than a million residents, their annual consumption per person is 2nd in the nation, consuming over 1600 gallons per capita, annually. This averages out to over 40 gallons per person. So it’s ponderous to learn that there was only one locally owned brewery in North Dakota until the 90’s, Bismark’s Dakota Malting and Brewing Company, which only lasted from 1961 to 1965.

Now, when it comes to the oldest craft brewer in the state, that’s a little more complicated. The oldest legally licensed brewery in the state, Fargo Brewing Company, became so in 2010. The trick is, they contract brewed their beer in Wisconsin until they opened their taproom in 2013. Known for their Wood Chipper IPA, they are one of two breweries in the state to have won GABF medals; the other, Dakota Brewing in 1990, is defunct.

3 More North Dakota Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out

Drekker Brewingdrekker (Fargo) – Opening in 2014, Drekker is a Viking themed brewpub offering constantly rotating taps, small plates for munching, live music and local art. Best known for their Broken Rudder Red Ale, they also offer anything from the Burn the Boats IPA to their top rated The Nightman Cometh Russian Imperial Stout and everything in-between.

Laughing Sun Brewing (Bismark) laughingsunlogo7
– The second oldest continuous brewer in the state, Laughing Sun has been the go to place in Bismark since 2012. Working with a 3.5 bbl mash, they offer a great variety of beers on tap including the popular Feast Like a Sultan IPA, Sinister Pear Belgian Strong Golden and a Strawberry Wheat.

Souris River Brewingbte-zfco (Minot) – Officially opening their doors in early 2013, Souris River has in that short time created over 30 varieties of beer. Offering a full dining menu filled with locally sourced ingredients to pair with tasty brews such as their Mint Chocolate Stout, Boxcar Coffee Porter or East Brown & Down Ale, they always have something new to try.

About Warren Wills

Warren is the former Assistant Editor & Portland Correspondent for American Craft Beer. Creator of "The State of American Craft Beer" series, he now maintains his own site at craftbeerscribe.com.
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