Smoked meat and beer: Fat Pat's in Spring Grove adds brewery to meet demand
Fat Pat's Brewery and BBQ grows its business in a burgeoning craft beer region.
SPRING GROVE, MINNESOTA — A first-time visitor to Fat Pat’s Brewing and BBQ might first curse whatever direction finding app sent them to a grocery store.
The brewery isn’t in the store, but they share a roof.
“I think it’s funny when some people pull into this parking lot, I don’t think they’re expecting it to be attached to a grocery store,” said brewery owner and founder Pat Longmire, Jr. “Even when we were talking about plans and licensing with the state, they were like, ‘what are you?’”
Longmire’s father, Pat Longmire, Sr., has owned the Red’s IGA grocery store since the 1980s.
The father and son started a Texas-style barbecue trailer in 2017 .
Longmire Jr. took an interest in the barbecue style while living in Austin and touring as a musician in Texas for six years.
However, in 2020, Fat Pat’s barbecue trailer went from a key asset for the young business to temporarily useless almost overnight. A summer of outdoor events that would sustain the business evaporated as COVID-19 spread across the globe.
Longmire Jr. decided to sell the trailer and do barbecue from the expanded kitchen and deli at Red’s IGA. The brewery was shoehorned into the expansion later.
“The brewery was very much an afterthought,” Longmire said, adding that his focus is still on his barbecue.
Longmire used to have the trailer at events or in town Fridays and Saturdays. Even before the pandemic, he said something had to change. He and his wife have children ages 5 and 7.
“It just ended up being too much,” he said. “Being gone, not just Monday through Friday, but Friday night, through Saturday night, it ended up taking a toll on us.”
Pat started with take-out service from the IGA kitchen and his commercial smoker. When dine-in service was allowed again, he decided to reduce the barbecue to one night a week. Despite reducing the number of nights, sales have been on par or above what two days of sales from the trailer were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On average, each Friday Longmire sells six to eight briskets, a dozen racks of ribs, up to 10 half chickens, four turkey breasts, 15 pounds of pulled pork and about 60 burgers.
“It’s becoming a destination,” he said. “We begin taking orders at 4 p.m. and usually there’s already a line.”
The beer also draws from the region but often a different kind of customer. Southeast Minnesota is experiencing a growth in breweries in a region that already has a reputation for being a destination for craft beer enthusiasts .
Some beer enthusiasts stop by for a dinner before their next brewery destination on a road trip, he said.
It wasn’t Longmire’s plan to open a brewery.
“The brewery was very much an afterthought,” he said.
As the pandemic kept people at home, Longmire taught himself how to brew. Being located in an area between other destination breweries, it seemed like a good fit.
“Being right in the middle, I was like, well son of a gun, people might travel in between,” he said. “But I think food overall has been an anchor.”
It also remains the anchor of his interest. However, dialing in good brews has been rewarding in a familiar way, he added.
“I’m enjoying every bit of it as much as I enjoyed learning about barbecue,” he said.