August 28, 2015

Meet the AZ Brewers, A-Z: Fate Brewing Co.

This place gives me wood.
Fate’s been destined for greatness since the get-go. Their beers have been lauded by locals and those out of state lucky enough to get their hands on a growler. They’ve won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their wildly popular Candy Bar Milk Stout. And in a span of just a few years, Fate has gone from a teeny brewpub in north Scottsdale to a spectacularly beautiful, spacious brewpub spanning 2.5 acres in south Scottsdale. Was it luck that owner Steve McFate found brewer Adam Schmeichel, or did fate bring the two together? Let’s find out.

Steve wooing the industry crowd.
Steve’s story
Before becoming the beer businessman he is today, Mr. McFate enjoyed a successful career crunching numbers in the financial field. He homebrewed as a hobby for 10+ years, but then came the economic collapse around 2009. And, as you can imagine, it greatly affected his financial business. 

Steve decided it was time for a break from his business and opted to take a year to tour Beer Heaven, aka Colorado. It was there he met Tom Hennessy of Colorado Boy Brewing, a small brewery in the small town of Ridgway. Tom teaches a well-known brewery immersion course, which Steve attended for a few days in hopes of getting enough confidence to move back to Arizona and start his own brewery. But he wasn’t quite ready. So one Seibel Institute seminar later plus one more year under Tom’s tutelage in Ridgway, and Steve was ready to quit the financial industry for good and start what we now know as Fate North in 2012.

The original North location was originally a pizza and wine joint, replete with a dark, cave-like atmosphere. That didn’t fit into Steve’s design scheme, so he brightened up the place with new paint, built a beautiful bar and added the other detailed touches Steve is known for. What about the brewing equipment, you ask? McFate smartly knew the beer industry was booming, and felt confident enough to purchase his equipment a whole year in advance. He had to store it in family members’ garages until the time came to put them to use.

Steve regards himself as a solid brewer, but he knew he needed to bring someone onboard with the chops to make Fate something truly special. Enter Adam Schmeichel.

Schmeichel’s story
Never underestimate the power of good friends. Looking for a head brewer, Steve put out an ad in an online homebrewer’s forum and received a response from a fellow residing in upstate New York. Well, that was a long way from Arizona and McFate was hesitant to hire someone he only communicated with over the phone and by email. So Steve sent his good friends in Maine to meet Adam and his girlfriend in Lake George, New York. I guess that meeting went well.
Backing up a bit, Schmeichel attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. It’s important to note that having this kind of culinary background is key in developing a refined palate and parlays perfectly into other ventures — like brewing beer. Though Adam enjoyed his time at the Culinary Institute, he found his true calling when he began working at Round Barn Brewing in Baroda, Michigan, which was founded by the original brewer of Founders. From there, he really got his brewing legs at Adirondack Brewing in Lake George, which would be his last stop before finding his way to Fate.

Adam took a big chance moving cross-country to work for a small, unknown brewery. But it’s worked out brilliantly thus far, as his 10+ years of brewing experience has served him well. Not only is he still the head — and only — brewer at Fate, he’s on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. Not to mention beloved by the thousands of patrons who appreciate his knack for making kick-ass, creative beer.

The new digs and beyond
The temperature-controlled cellar.
Here were are today, 15,000+ square feet later with ample parking; a virtually endless supply of core and outside-the-box beer — which used to be a problem at Fate North — thanks to the brand-new, high-tech 15-barrel brewing system and 30-barrel fermenters; a spacious beer garden / patio with misters and heaters; plenty of room for indoor dining (check out the hand-carved chair backs below); warehouse space for storing kegs (think in-state distribution); an 800 sq. ft. cellar that doubles as a private event space; and a fully equipped kitchen that will churn out the same wood-fired pizzas as Fate North, plus smashed burgers, sammies and other delectable goodies. You really have to see it to believe it. 

Hand-carved chair backs. How fancy.

What’s next, you ask? That remains to be seen, as the new Fate South was quite the undertaking in of itself. I virtually guarantee you’ll start seeing Fate kegs in your local watering hole in the near future. As for cans or bottles, Steve says “never say never.” There is no canning or bottling line now, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. Because how cool would it be to quaff an International Pale Ale from a tallboy, or pour the decadent Candy Bar Milk Stout from bottle to your favorite tulip. One can dream, right?