If you don’t know how to find Forgotten Star, just look for the smokestacks.
The twin monoliths stand triumphant at the back of the sprawling Northern Stacks development in Fridley, reminders of the town’s mid-century prominence. They were once the exhaust valve of the largest building in Minnesota: the Northern Pump Company, recognized by the United States military for its contribution to production during World War II.
“It’s a forgotten part of our state history,” says Andy Risvold, owner of Forgotten Star. “Buildings like this are the reason why we won World War II. We out-produced every country in the world, and this building is a big part of that.”
Forgotten Star—Fridley’s first ever licensed brewery, which opens on November 16—bears the words “excellence and efficiency” right in its logo. These words are not only an ode to the military designation painted on the west stack’s tip but also a three-word manifesto for a brewery throwing itself under the microscope.
“That ‘E’ on the stacks stands for excellence in manufacturing and production,” says Forgotten Star owner Andy Risvold. “We put those words in our logo to inspire us.”
When Risvold and his co-owners secured the space, it was, in his words, “a big brick rectangle.” The exterior maintains that aesthetic—were it not for a freshly painted logo and the floor-to-ceiling glass on the front, you might mistake it for an abandoned warehouse at the back of the industrial park.
But the interior tells a different story. Light spills across a freshly sealed floor, carrying from the floor-to-ceiling picture windows at the front to the 15-barrel brewhouse at the back. An inviting bar curves around the base of the west stack, inviting regulars, and homey seating areas along the east wall resemble living rooms more than bar seating. The coffee tables that center the furniture were repurposed from warehouse carts that Risvold bought at a garage sale. Though the space is cavernous, it’s far from austere.
Trains have started honking at the building as they roll by. Townspeople, too, keep rolling by, poking their heads out car windows. Risvold knows that people have been waiting for something to open in the old pump house, and he’s ready to live up to those expectations.
“Twelve thousand people worked here during its peak. That’s somebody's grandpa, somebody’s uncle,” says Risvold. “When we announced we were coming into this building and started sharing photos of the stacks, we had people writing us Facebook messages. They’re so proud of their family that used to work here, and they should be.”
Rosvold knows he wouldn’t get far without a beer program that met Fridley’s standards, so he enlisted former Freehouse brewer Matt Asay. Asay’s been a friend of Risvold’s wife for a decade and a half, and when Risvold was looking to parlay his successful chiropractic business into brewery ownership, she suggested Asay might be the perfect fit.
Asay finds himself in an odd position. On the one hand, Forgotten Star is designed as a kind of neighborhood bar in a blue-collar suburb. On the other, they’re only eight miles from the craft beer hotspot of the North Loop. You can see Minneapolis’ skyline out Forgotten Star’s front window like the guard of a neighboring state.
“You gotta have the full spectrum,” Asay says. “I really enjoy the history and the technique of doing things with intention and true to style. I know that people want to try something new or exciting, and craft beer wouldn’t be what it is today without explorers trying new things, so we will do that, too.”
Asay has much more room to work than he did at Freehouse, and his brewhouse is custom designed for a grain-to-glass linear production process. He’s planning on having six to eight beers on tap at the opening, including a traditional IPA, an American amber, and a porter. There will be a rotating kettle sour as well as a Belgian session ale, which is Forgotten Star’s first seasonal. But Asay’s beer philosophy is capitulated in the cream ale—a beautiful refresher that could unite beer nerds and barflies alike.
“I’ve always been a little more casual when it comes to beer,” Asay says. “You want to bring people together, hang out, but not compromise.”
Both Asay and Risvold know they could never get away with compromising. Despite the feverish interest from the locals, Forgotten Star is moving into a lofty shadow. The beer better be good, but more than that, the business needs to live up to the history of their footprint. Those words in their logo are not an empty tagline. They’re a challenge to the owners and customers alike to hold this brewery to the excellence it bears on its facade.
“Of the 86,000 buildings manufacturing during World War II, only 4,200 got that E,” Risvold says. “Only seven buildings in the country got six stars, and this is one of two left standing. We want to hold ourselves to that standard.”
Forgotten Star Brewing Co.
38 Northern Stacks Dr., Fridley