It’s Time to Open Up the North Dakota State Fair

His name is Eric Johnson. His trade name is Eric the Sour. If you see him on the street, you might even say he looks like a Viking. But he’s not a Viking; he’s a brewer. His beer Gin & Spruce won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2022. Inspired by Juniper Berries and Spruce Trees (noticing some Scandinavian themes?) – it was among 100 out of 11,000 entries to earn the honor. The beer is brewed right here in Minot at Atypical Brewing & Barrelworks.

Yes, you read that right. A beer recognized as one of the best in the world is brewed right here in the Magic City.

Unfortunately, you weren’t able to enjoy Gin & Spruce or any other Minot-brewed beer at this year’s Norsk Hostfest or North Dakota State Fair. Why? It was locked out. The exclusive contractual agreements the NDSF makes with its concessionaire and distributors do this very effectively.

Again, you read correctly. The publicly-held North Dakota State Fair and fair grounds and all the events there are, largely, not open to North Dakota breweries.

In the past when I’ve asked about these contracts, I was told by NDSF leadership these arrangements were industry standard. When I called the other state fairs in the region like Minnesota and Iowa, I was told the opposite. These exclusive contracts are most certainly NOT industry-standard. North Dakota is unique in locking out local businesses from its largest expo and events.

Mr. Rudland, Mr. Berning, you may not be responsible for beginning this practice, but you’re in charge now. Will the North Dakota State Fair grounds be a place that’s open to all businesses? Or will it continue to endorse anti-competitive monopolistic practices? We see you and we’re watching.

And Minot Area Chamber-EDC, you’re on the hook, too. Which values and policies are you going to stand up for? Which business environment is good for Minot? We the public know the answer.

It should be noted: this letter reads better with a singular Scandinavian hook at the beginning, but the beer at Atypical is the result of a great team; they ALL deserve credit! And though I am fan and patron, I have no role or ownership in Atypical Brewery, and Atypical did not prompt or endorse this letter in any way. It is written in the spirit of hoping Minot’s marquee events have the best chance at continued success and community support both locally and from across the state.

Josh Wolsky

Developer & Writer @TheMinot Voice, Fan of the Souris River, SavorMinot Advocate. Fortunate to be a 'former' City Council member ;)

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4 comments on “It’s Time to Open Up the North Dakota State Fair

Ray Dixon

Great article Josh. I whole heartedly agree with your commentary.

Jason C.

Love it. Not to mention “Beerfest” which is turning into a seltzer fest. Magic City Bev distributes Laughing Sun, Fargo & Stonehome but you won’t see them represented during the NDSF. Atypical deserves their spot in all of these 58701 celebrations.

J. Hamel

Agree Josh, Minot is only “for” the good ‘ole boys network. We need to enjoy all ND products at OUR state fair. Open up the food & beverage options Minot chamber & NDSF.


There’s a group of 10 of us from Canada who go to the NDSF every year for the entire 10 days. We all like our adult beverages and while the fair has brought in more variety over the last couple years, it’s not showing off North Dakota in any way – North Dakota is known for its barley. We always love to check out the Pride ice cream stand and all the other local food stands but the fact that there’s no beer stand to showcase the end result of North Dakota’s best grains is a huge surprise – Many may not know but North Dakota has one of the most under-rated beer scenes in the entire country. It only makes sense to support local craft breweries – the money gets invested right back in the economy and “craft” beer now days isn’t the overly bitter beer from yesteryear, it’s crisp lagers, citrusy wheat ales and yes, gin & spruce beers! Lastly, it’s interesting that I was able to find beer brewed in North Dakota (Drekker) at a pub in Netherlands.

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