by Bret Amundson
If I told you that you could create more wildlife habitat just by drinking beer, you’d ask me how many I’d already had.
But it’s true.
That’s the mission behind Beer For Wildlife. A portion of the Hendricks, MN based brewing company’s profits go back into land conservation and the Build A Wildlife Area program with Pheasants Forever.
“I started Beer For Wildlife in 2009 as a way to generate revenue to give back to conservation,” said owner Jason Markkula. “We teamed up right away with Build A Wildlife Area from Pheasants Forever and we started donating money from the sale of Rooster Lager and then Walleye Chop after that and Longbeard after that. Those monies get multiplied through the (program), because they get matching grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota DNR…they go out and buy land and turn it into WMA’s (State Wildlife Management Areas).”
Markkula is the man behind the malts and invited us to see the renovated buildings that house his brewery (and old creamery) and tap room (and old bank building complete with a vault that houses the bathroom). Both buildings are over 100 years old.
“We have a brand new beautiful production facility in the second building we restored, which was an old creamery building complete with a 30 foot smokestack. Both of the buildings had been vacant for 25 years before I got them,” Markkula said. “Maybe 30 years. The roof was caved in and you could have shot bottle rockets off from the basement all the way out through the third floor.”
I’ve had Rooster Lager, Walleye Chop and Longbeard before, but during this trip we’d be trying a number of new varieties including Smoke Bomb and Hop Bandit. Smoke Bomb will give you a feeling of standing grill-side in the backyard.
“It costs about 3 times as much to make because we use specialty malts that have been literally smoked over wood and gives the beer such a unique taste, you almost get a smoked meat flavor-I know for some people that might not sound awesome, but to the people that are (reading this) when they hear ‘Smoked meat and beer combined? That sounds awesome!’ Everybody has heard about the jelly donut beer and this is kinda more of what we think of on a daily basis.”
Walking around the facility you’ll notice outdoor themes every where you look. Artwork that features pheasants and waterfowl, t-shirts with deer/bear hybrids (aptly named “BEER) and handles on the doors unlike any I’ve ever seen before.
“We asked around if anybody had any wallhanger double-barreled shotguns because we had big sliding doors and we wanted big handles,” Markkula continued. “We were lucky enough (that) somebody showed up with a collection of rusty old shotguns and we got to pick some that were around the same age or even older than the building.”
Why Hendricks, MN?
“Hendricks picked me. I guess I’m the adopted son because I don’t reside in Hendricks, but I choose to work there which happens to be 3 hours from my home.”
That’s quite a commute.
“It is quite a commute, but it’s no different than any other person who has a sales job and has to be on the road 2 or 3 days a week. I was going there for another job and fell in love with it. ‘Young guy buys farm-buys bank building to convert into hunting lodge-turns into bar slash brewery-and it explodes from there’ and we expand with a new production facility. You know, happens all the time,” Markkula says while laughing.
“We’re located on Main Street in Hendricks USA. That’s in Lincoln County, Minnesota and if you want to chase some birds, this is the place. There’s a lot of people that are going to be mad for announcing this, but we want people to come by and buy the new Build A Wildlife Package…and then go hunt…and then try some beer…and then spend some money when you’re in Hendricks at some of the other places-the cafe, the bakery, some of the other places-we’ve got a movie theater coming to Hendricks for crying out loud!”
If you find yourself in western Minnesota, make a trip to Hendricks and try out their latest concoctions. Or ask for the Beer For Wildlife brands at your favorite watering hole. I’m a little partial to Rooster Lager and Longbeard myself, but they’re all good. They’re Minnesota beers and they give back to create more wildlife. What more do you need?
You can start today by getting yourself a “Build A Wildlife Area Package“. For $20 you will get a subscription to MNSJ Magazine (Valued at $18!) a Rooster Lager Pint Glass, a coupon for a free beer in the Tap Room and $5 will go towards the Build A Wildlife Area program with Pheasants Forever (which then triples your donation to $15). It’s a $40 value for only $20 and it is something that will last for generations. It would make a perfect gift idea for the holiday season.
Enjoy more pictures from the Brewery Tour.