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F-M’s expanding beer-brewing scene to soon include distillery, meadery

Drekker Brewing Co. is setting up in the Cityscapes Plaza Building in downtown Fargo where it plans to start brewing beer in August. Partners in the business are Mark Bjornstad, from left, Jesse Feigum, Mason Montplaisir and Darin Montplaisir. Dave Olson / The Forum1 / 2
A taproom takes shape at Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead. The new brewing location and taproom at 1416 1st Ave. N. are expected to begin operating by late July, said Aaron Juhnke, who owns the company with his brother Daniel. Special to The Forum 2 / 2

FARGO – Craft breweries are hopping in the Fargo-Moorhead area and a distillery and a meadery are fixing to join the party.

While backers of the distillery and meadery say those operations may still be a ways off, the beer-brewing scene has been building a head of steam for some time.

Fargo Brewing Co.

The first to belly up to the bar was Fargo Brewing Co., which has grown steadily since it was established in 2010.

It started out by contracting with an existing brewery to make its beer, but last summer the label began making its own brews in a shiny new setup inside a vintage building at 610 N. University Drive, in Fargo.

Fargo Brewing opened a taproom in September.

Today, it is on pace to produce three times the amount of beer it did in 2013, thanks to the installation in April of additional tanks that allowed the brewery to expand production as well as staff, which now stands at seven full-time employees.

Beers made by Fargo Brewing Co. are available throughout North Dakota and about half of Minnesota, and this summer F-M RedHawks fans will be able to get Fargo Brewing Co. beer at home games.

The partners behind the brewery are Jared Hardy, Aaron Hill, and brothers Chris and John Anderson.

Hardy said the rapid growth of the brewery required working long nights and weekends, but he said it’s been exciting to brew different styles of beer and expand into new markets.

“The name ‘Fargo’ resonates really well throughout the region and across the country,” he said.

“While we’re currently unable to ship beer because of regulations, we get many requests to mail beer,” Hardy said. “It is weird seeing empty Fargo Brewing cans selling on eBay.”

Junkyard Brewing Co.

Junkyard Brewing in Moorhead began selling kegged beer to area bars and restaurants in August 2012.

The company has been doing its brewing out of a building at 1320 1st Ave. N. and is now in the process of setting up in a larger building at 1416 1st Ave. N. in Moorhead, where it is also setting up a taproom.

The new brewing location and taproom are expected to begin operating by late July, said Aaron Juhnke, who owns the company with his brother Daniel.

Aaron Juhnke said they plan to increase their output from a one-and-a-half barrel system to a seven-barrel system, but they are still working on the financing needed for additional equipment.

With the imminent opening of Junkyard’s taproom and the need to service existing accounts in the area, the brewery expects demand for its beer will outpace the supply.

“As of this spring, we already don’t have enough beer to keep everyone happy,” Aaron Juhnke said.

For anyone considering starting up a microbrewery, Juhnke said there are several things people should keep in mind:

  • Profit margins on packaged beer – bottles, cans and kegs – are very slim for a brewery.
  • Expect not to pay yourself for one or two years.
  • Make friends with people in all parts of the industry.

Also, Juhnke said, “Understand how your business will fit into the community and whether it will step on another business’s toes because those businesses can sometimes make trouble for you, especially if they’re bigger than you.”

Drekker Brewing Co.

Drekker Brewing Co., the latest beer maker to enter the area’s brewing scene, recently secured a lease to make beer in the Cityscapes Plaza Building at 630 1st Ave. N., in Fargo.

Now the owners of the brewery – Mark Bjornstad, Jesse Feigum, and cousins Darin Montplaisir and Mason Montplaisir – are busy setting up the brewery as well as a taproom that will be an integral part of the layout.

They hope to be brewing by August, with a grand opening planned for this fall.

“This dream has been in the making for quite a while, and it’s just amazing to see it start coming to life,” said Bjornstad, president of the company.

Bjornstad said competition takes a backseat to camaraderie and mutual support in the local craft-brewing scene.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Bjornstad said.

“When another brewery two blocks down the street is doing really well, that’s good for us, because it’s making the whole industry look good,” he said.

Proof Artisan Distillers

A group of investors is still in the planning stages of setting up a micro-distillery – Proof Artisan Distillers – in downtown Fargo. Joel Kath, a spokesman for the group, said they hope to have it in place this year, with production starting early next year.

A micro-distillery is similar to a microbrewery and begins with the same brewing process.

However, a distillery takes the process a few steps further using a still to create gin and single-malt whiskeys from barley and corn-based whiskeys.

Proof Artisan also plans to make potato vodkas.

Kath said they recently signed a lease for a space in downtown Fargo that will be one block off Broadway.

“Our products will be handcrafted, batched-produced, distilled and bottled on site from locally grown products,” Kath said.

The operation will also have a tasting room.

Micro-distilling is experiencing growing popularity nationwide, with one expert estimating that the craft spirits industry has expanded from about 60 distilleries a decade ago to an estimated 600 today.

Prairie Rose Meadery

Bob and Susan Ruud have produced home-brewed mead, a type of wine made of honey, for many years and have the awards to prove it.

Now, the husband and wife team plan to turn their hobby into a business – Prairie Rose Meadery – with a goal of opening the enterprise by late summer or early fall.

It will be at 3100 39th St. S. in Fargo.

The business will sell bottles of mead and offer mead by the glass, according to Susan Ruud, who said they plan to be open evenings and weekends.

Dave Olson
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