Conservation Minnesota

Hoppy Oktoberfest!

Fergus Falls Brewing

Our Legacy Destinations program gets information to thousands of Minnesotans every month about the positive  impact the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment is having in their community.  In addition to funding wildlife habitat, water clean up, and parks projects, the Legacy Amendment also helps preserve our state’s history.  This month’s event reaches deep into the history of Fergus Falls to celebrate a beverage that is yet another reason to care about clean water.

Minnesota was a settling point for thousands of Scandinavian and Germanic immigrants.  So, it comes as no surprise that they’d bring their skills of beer-making along with them.  Besides, Minnesota’s plains were ripe lands for the growing of grains and hops to make the ales and lagers they’d enjoyed in their homelands. Of course, living in the land of sky blue waters didn’t hurt either.

Fergus Falls, for example, was once home to thirteen different breweries from 1875-1952.  That is, if historians include the ones that went out of business and re-opened under a different name. One premium pilsner, the “Falls Velvet,” came in a cone-topped can-for easier drinking, perhaps.

In 1895, the old Aberle Brewery became the Bender Brewery and began operation only to change hands again and be called the Fergus Brewery.  That location near Ann Street and Mt. Faith Avenue on the east side of Fergus Falls would brew a lot of beer.   So would the building at 121 North Peck Street in Fergus, which hosted the J. K. O’Brien brewery until 1883, the Theodore Hubner brewery until 1908 and then the Fergus Falls Brewing Company until prohibition shut the operation in 1920.  Not even that sad epoch could stop brewing in Fergus, however.  The Fergus Falls brewery received a license to brew non-alcoholic beer and emerged in 1935 as the Fergus Brewing Company, which produced Heinie’s Lager, later to be renamed Heinrich’s.

Other brews in Fergus included the Six Horse, Staat’s and Lord Chumleys and Viking Lager from 1935-1948.  After a 1948 reorganization the brewery saw its greatest success when the product line was simply Falls Pilsner and the previously mentioned Falls Velvet.

It’s fitting then, with such a history of brewing, that a fundraiser for the Otter Tail Historical Society should be a homebrewers’ festival.  Amateur brewmasters will be on hand to let visitors sample their latest beers, “Parrothead Red,” which must have some Jimmy Buffet essence behind it.

The Brewers Fest at the VFW, a benefit for the Otter Tail County Historical Society, is part of Legacy Destination Weekend in Fergus October 13-15, 2011.  Other events include blues guitarist Trent Romens in concert at A Center for the Arts on October 13, a nature photography class at the Prarie Wetlands Learning Center, and the film premiere of the “Fergus Falls Aerosol Art documentary” at the Kaddatz Gallery.

Legacy Weekends celebrate the events, locations, and resources supported by the Clean Water, Land, & Legacy Amendment voters passed in 2008.

Beer information for this spotlight courtesy of Doug Hoverson’s book, “Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota.”

About Paul Austin

Paul Austin
Paul Austin has 23 years of public service as an elected leader, advocate and political strategist, Paul Austin brings a rare combination of skills and experience to his position as Executive Director. At age 25, Paul was elected Mayor of Clinton, Connecticut – the youngest in state history. Paul has served as Executive Director of Conservation Minnesota since 2004.
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