Eden Prairie’s 8335 Crystal View Rd. used to be a Panino Brothers. Before that, the Lariat Center corner haunt was a Baja Sol. In past lives, the space played host to a half-dozen other fast-casual restaurants, through it all maintaining a very ’90s footprint in an unremarkable suburban strip mall.
Today, Don, Linda, and Elizabeth Anderson will change all that.
“Eden Prairie has a lot of great places to eat, but it doesn’t have a lot of great places to hang out,” says Don, an EP resident since 1978. Don and Linda looked at an array of possible locations, but opening Fat Pants Brewing in their adopted hometown seemed fated. “I didn’t originally set out with a place in mind, we were just looking for the right feel,” Don adds. “We are trying to create a space where people can come out and be themselves.”
Eden Prairie is home to 7,213 businesses, but Fat Pants will be the southwestern city’s first brewery. With over 60,000 residents and a light rail extension planned for 2023, the area is absolutely primed for a brewery, something it hasn’t seen since Hops Restaurant Bar & Brewery became a hibachi restaurant in 2007.
The Andersons are easing EP into the transition by welcoming them full-on into a brewery that reflects their lives. Named for the stretchy garments the family puts on when they get home from work, Fat Pants is a quirky space with a very intuitive charm.
The main taproom is full of soft-seated enclaves and geometric chandeliers. In the middle is a familiar landmark for any Eden Prairie resident—a scale model of Eden Prairie’s now-demolished Graffiti Bridge, made famous by Prince in Purple Rain and its lesser sequel of the same name. The model was poured by Don and Linda, and Don’s longtime friend Hugh Bennewitz painted the concrete structure to get the piece looking like the bridge did during the Purple One’s heyday.
Bennewitz painted several other pieces in the space, including tongue-in-cheek takeoffs on American Gothic, The Son of Man, and Dogs Playing Poker, toying with the idea of the familiar. This playfulness carries into Fat Pants’ back room, where a decommissioned HVAC van masquerades as a food truck, with working lights and all. Linda had dreamed of having a food truck pull up at her husband’s brewery, but since the space they landed in had a commercial kitchen, she decided to create an ordering counter that could recreate the feeling even if it stood in front of a massive culinary space.
The menu will rotate, mimicking a series of visiting food trucks, but the through-line to all the food will be menus based on the family’s shared food history. One item, a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches for a bun, was inspired by a family trip to La Crosse. Another, the buffalo chicken dip, is a plate they routinely share on Sundays.
Fat Pants boasts 24 taplines, though not every one will pour a unique offering at first. Don, a seasoned homebrewer going commercial for the first time, is working off a 10-barrel Minnetonka Brewing Equipment system custom-designed for his space. Though a professed fan of IPAs (he promises drinkers will enjoy his rotating double IPA series, which starts off with Monkey Grinder Mosaic), Don holds no allegiance to any one profile. Simply, he brews what he’s comfortable with.
“I don’t get hung up on styles, I just brew what I like and what I hope other people will like,” he says. “There’s not many that I don’t like. A lot of things we stumble on just experimenting.”
A perfect example of this is the Prairie Pilsner, a pale, Czech-style lager bittered with the ever-juicy Laurel hop. The beer came about when the homebrewer ran out of Saaz hops, and he improvised, making a grapefruity hybrid that still finished dry. The Shirley T comes from a more personal place. It’s a drink he devised after a family trip to Mexico where his daughter drank her weight in Shirley Temples. He turned that lust for grenadine into spicy cherry wit that’s topped with a luxardo cherry.
The Shirley T is a highlight from the brewery’s Fancy Pants menu, a subsection of the drink list that caused some commotion in the local beer scene after a Southwest News Media article printed an incriminating quote from Linda about the reasoning behind Fancy Pants in August. The menu’s fizzy, fruity offerings, coupled with the buxom logo, led many to conclude the Eden Prairie taproom was patronizing female drinkers by offering a separate menu within the brewery that seemingly catered to women. Linda wants to be clear that is not what Fancy Pants is about.
“The Fancy Pants menu is for those who aren’t really beer drinkers,” Linda says, noting that only 15 percent of people in the United States identify as fans of craft beer. “We wanted to focus on individuals who come in and say, ‘We’ll, I’m really not a beer drinker, I’m more into wine or cocktails.’”
The menu is not implicitly gendered, other than the unfortunate branding. It consists of nonalcoholic drinks (like root beer) alongside beer mixes (like the Shirley T) and cocktails made with a malted beverage base that Don developed. “Think of Mike’s Hard Lemonade with a lot more hit, a lot more flavor,” he explains. “We’ve also done some experiments with using a very dry brut IPA and mixing in some other things, and ultimately, I’d like to get into doing seltzers.”
The controversy hasn’t derailed the Andersons’ excitement for their 275-person taproom. It’s been a family dream of theirs to graduate Don into a space all his own and begin sharing their traditions with Eden Prairie neighbors. The city has likewise been enthused about the destination brewery finally opening to the public. When Fat Pants was initially struggling with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, a Chamber of Commerce member suggested they reach out to 3rd District Congressman Dean Phillips for help. A day later, Don got a call from the TTB saying they had a congressional inquiry into their license, and an hour later, Fat Pants was officially licensed.
“I like the idea of staying close to home,” Don says. “It feels comfortable.”