Two Families Brought Together by Craft Beer and Food

Food truck owned by two Maple Grove couples blends craft beer into its food.
Greg Miller, Mark Smail, Linda Govin and Jamie Miller

Two Maple Grove couples are fusing business with pleasure, one bowl of chili at a time.

Greg and Jamie Miller and Mark Smail and Linda Goodvin have been friends for years, first meeting when their daughters started dance classes. Now, the four are co-founders of Fused Craft Brewed Eats—a food truck that’s been rolling out to Twin Cities brewery taprooms since last August.

Chili is the specialty, but with a twist spelled out right in its name: Fused into most of its dishes you’ll find craft beer provided primarily from the taproom it visits. In its logo, on the side of the truck, the “F” in the word Fused is a tap dropping beer into the “u” shaped like a chili bowl.

Taprooms are a growing trend, and a boon for the food truck industry as breweries look to feed thirsty customers.

Fused has set up shop at OMNI Brewing Co. in Maple Grove, Back Channel Brewing in Spring Park, Dangerous Man Brewing Company and 612Brew, both in northeast Minneapolis where the craft beer scene is especially hopping.

“Taprooms are coming up with all these funky flavors and names,” says Greg. So, they created a menu that pairs well with the full, hearty beer being served.

The idea for Fused began when the friends entered a local chili cook-off contest. They fared so well they tried a bigger cook-off and won first place. That got them thinking of business ideas and taking advantage of Jaime’s culinary skills. A chef at Truffles & Tortes Dessert Cafe in Anoka, Jamie wrote a cookbook titled Make It Your Own, in 2007. She’s also won many cooking awards.

The partners all have other jobs. Mark and Greg work in sales, Linda in advertising.

“I’m the one with the main food background, but we are all foodies at heart,” Jaime says.

After researching the local food truck market, they decided to focus on chili. Four chilis headline the menu: the traditional Defender of the North, the Texas-style Sneaky Heat (because the heat “sneaks up on you,” Greg says), the vegetarian Red-Headed Step Chili and the chicken chili Voodoo Verde.

Fused also offers three flights—or samples—of its four chilis, with a slice of cornbread, to team with taproom beer flights (usually four to six samples).
However, the menu doesn’t end with chili. Other items, fused in some way with beer, include Mark’s Coney-style dogs, craft-brewed nachos and brownie bites.

“I’m from New York, and I was particular about the dog we were going to use,” Mark says of the menu item bearing his name. “Nathan’s [Famous] is my dog of choice.”

The quartet also spends much time dreaming up amusing names for their dishes. Three Dog Flight which includes slider Coney dogs with all the fixings, gets its name from the band Three Dog Night. And, a character on The Brady Bunch inspired the Red-Headed Step Chili.

“Vegetarian chili is the one nobody thinks about, then we thought of Jan Brady,” says Greg, pinning the sensitive middle sister on the old TV sitcom. “We had a tagline on it, too: ‘It makes you yell Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!’”

Jaime is the chef, but all partners help prepare items, then work together on the truck, grilling hot dogs, filling orders or manning the register. Mark and Greg drum up business, and Linda—who designed the truck’s look—gets the word out on social media about their schedule and any “special fuses.”

Despite the challenges of building a business, the four remain close. “People have different opinions sometimes, but we work hard to keep the friendships first because no one wants to lose that,” Jaime says.