Minnesota’s Fair State Brewing Cooperative is using its powers of collaboration to make the North Star State a little more chill.
The cooperatively owned brewery, founded in 2014, introduced Chill State, a line of seltzers infused with hemp-derived THC and CBD, late last year. Now, Fair State is leveraging its experience in the beverage space to launch Chill State Collective, a co-packing house and distribution center for five other THC beverage brands.
Led by program director Rob Shellman, Chill State Collective offers co-manufacturing, warehousing and distribution services at its 42,000 sq. ft. facility in St. Paul. The collective also has channel-specific teams that can assist with new product development, merchandising and sales, as well as marketing and event planning.
Shellman said it taps into its connections throughout the Twin Cities — including record stores, bars, restaurants and music venues — to expand the reach of its partner brands.
“We’re all beverage professionals,” he said. “We come from the craft beer industry with decades of experience. I knew that I wanted to build a fire team around the Chill State Collective — really leaning on those relationships of the past. I knew that I wanted to have a dedicated team of true beverage professionals to come through and lead this caliber of brand partners.”
Chill State Collective currently works with Bent Paddle, Find WUNDER, Happi, Offfield and Plift. While the collective seeks to avoid saturating the Minnesota market with similar products, Shellman said it welcomes conversations around THC beverages and aims to inform the state’s consumers.
And education is still very needed in Minnesota’s nascent market, Shellman added. Food and beverages containing hemp-derived THC became legal July 1, 2022. Servings are capped at 5 mg THC, and packages must contain no more than 50 mg THC.
These rules paved the way for brewers to develop hemp-derived THC beverages and offer them alongside alcoholic options. And so far, it’s been a success, Shellman said.
“We’re all happy that we have some sensible laws in place where we can have low-dose edibles and consumables in Minnesota,” Shellman said. “This is very different from any other state in the country where we’re able to play in the same sandbox — and it’s a wonderful thing — but the stigma still exists. For us, we need to get out and educate and normalize this as much as we can.”
With the goal of staying true to the plant, Chill State’s seltzers are flavored with terpenes. The Grapefruit Kush variety, also blended with King Louis terpenes, has notes of citrus and earthy pine. The Pineapple Express variety has both tropical and “dank” flavor notes.
“Terpenes can be a polarizing flavor for some, but once we explain the flavors and aromas of the terpenes — as well as that the seltzer itself is highly refreshing — the two marry really well. A lot of people are rather surprised,” Shellman said.
Chill State has plans to extend the seltzer line, but one of its current concerns is an adult-use bill introduced by Minnesota State Rep. Zack Stephenson and Senator Lindsey Port earlier this month.
While it would allow consumers to possess, buy and grow their own cannabis flower — and open the door for licensed cultivation and retail sales — it would change how breweries offer THC-infused beverages. Specifically, the bill requires dedicated manufacturing facilities and restricts on-site consumption to zoned-off areas and one serving per customer.
“There is an appetite to finally push this through — which is wonderful — but the language that’s currently written is a little problematic for breweries on the manufacturing side,” Shellman said.
Nonetheless, Shellman said he hopes cannabis use will continue to become accepted and adopted within Minnesota.
“I want to see more normalization there,” he said.