Fair State on the Prairie

Fair State & the Minnesota Zoo: A Wild Partnership

By Rose Picklo, QA/QC and Production Tech.

Last Friday I had the privilege of hiking through Glacial Lakes State Park with Cale Nordmeyer of the Minnesota Zoo. My goal was to capture wild yeast; Cale’s, to spot a Regal fritillary. This butterfly is designated as Minnesota Special Concern, meaning that a species is extremely uncommon, or that it has highly unique and specific habitat requirements (Minnesota DNR). The Regal fritillary only lives in tallgrass prairie; Glacial Lakes is part of the 1% of natural prairie remaining in Minnesota.

Glacial Lakes State Park
Glacial Lakes State Park. Photo Credit: Cale Nordmeyer, MN Zoo

Butterflies and the prairie are intertwined. Prairie flowers rely on them for pollination, which occurs as they feed on the flower’s nectar.  As our natural prairies have dwindled, so have species like the Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling. The Dakota skipper is a prairie specialist, unable to survive in any other environment. Until the early 2000s, Dakota skippers were fairly common. Now, they can only be found in declining numbers at one or two other protected sites in the state. The Poweshiek skipperling hasn’t been seen in Minnesota since 2007 and may already be extinct in North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. Less than 500 Poweshieks may exist globally.

Cale works at the Minnesota Zoo’s Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program, the world’s first and only rearing and breeding program for the endangered Dakota skipper. Studying the Dakota skipper in a modified shipping container, Cale creates miniature habitats with a few blades of grass, wire, and pantyhose. Dakota skippers seem to prefer porcupine grass, with which they build small, volcanic-shaped structures. These structures are necessary for the skipper caterpillars to survive the harsh prairie winters. Cale experiments with other prairie grasses such as big bluestem, little bluestem, and Indian grass to mimic how the test subjects may perform in the wild. It is worth noting Dakota skippers have only been successfully bred since 2014.

Painted Lady on Purple Cone Flower. Photo Credit: Cale Nordmeyer, MN Zoo

Thanks to the Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program, about 200 Dakota skippers were reintroduced to the wild for the very first time this past June. However, the battle for survival is not over yet. Natural prairie sites are small, few and far between. The skippers must manage to actually find a mate within their sites. Even if pairs mate successfully, maintaining genetic diversity in small populations is a struggle without outside gene flow. And if a natural disaster were to occur at one of these isolated sites, that population may be entirely wiped out. Imagine flying hundreds of miles between habitats, battling the elements, dodging predators, finally arriving at a tallgrass prairie site, certain you’re going to find more Dakota skippers like yourself…and realizing you are completely alone.

So what can we do? Vast fields of monocultures and pesticides aren’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future; wild prairie restoration isn’t going to happen overnight. Planting pollinator friendly gardens is a step in the right direction. Some of you may remember Dakota Skipper, our summer saison brewed with prairie grasses and bee balm. Our goal is to raise both awareness and funds for the conservation effort. A beer alone isn’t going to save the butterflies, but it’s a start. 

Introducing Fair State University

From Sarah Williams, Events & Education Coordinator

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of pioneering the role of Education Coordinator at Fair State. Thus far, this role has primarily focused on staff training but beginning in January, we’re bringing the program to you, our members and the general public with our free education series, Fair State University.

Personally, I’m excited to coordinate this program because I have a background in teaching and am fascinated by the process of learning. As a crew, we are passionate about this project because it is an integral part of our cooperative mission. Education is the fifth cooperative principle and we’re seeking new ways to incorporate this principle into our daily lives. At Fair State Brewing Cooperative we strive to both educate and learn continuously. Whether it’s discussing our beer with a taproom customer or collaborating with our industry peers, we strive to gain a better understanding of our industry, our community, and the world around us. Fair State University will be one more opportunity for us to learn from each other. FSU will be hosted in the taproom at 12:30 pm on the last Sunday of every month. The format may range from a seminar, group discussion, panel, or hands-on-learning. FSU instructors may cover beer knowledge, community values, academic or practical knowledge.

For January’s event, we are proud to announce that we’ll be partnering with our neighbors from Water Bar & Public Studio for a tap water tasting and illustrated talk about their work to connect artists, environmental advocates, and local government in and around Northeast Minneapolis.

Our cooperative members have a wide background with a range of knowledge and experience. Are you a member with teaching skills and knowledge to share? Do you know an expert in their field who would be interested in sharing their work with Fair State members and customers? Send your suggestions to me at sarah@fairstate.coop. Join us in the taproom Sunday, January 29 at 12:30 for our inaugural FSU session. Let’s think and drink!

Join us in the Taproom Sunday, January 29 at 12:30 for our inaugural FSU session. Let’s think and drink!

Sarah Williams, Events & Education Coordinator



When it comes to brewing beer, the best way to learn is by doing. Last week, the women of the Fair State staff—Sarah, Alena, Donelle, Jill, and Rose—packed up lots of beer for sharing and trekked to Duluth for a hands-on brewing lesson from Allyson Rolph, head brewer at Thirsty Pagan in Superior, Wisconsin.

“Allyson spent so much time with us explaining things and letting us pick her brain,” says Donelle. She graciously welcomed us into her seven-barrel brewhouse for an interactive demonstration of how Thirsty Pagan’s staple North Coast Amber Ale is brewed. “She broke down the elements of beer by talking about them as agricultural products,” adds Sarah.


PHOTO: Microbiology and brewing intern Rose shows off her mad rake-out game during our brewing lesson at Thirsty Pagan.

We tasted an organized array of barley to learn about the range of flavors that can be produced by the malting process. We smelled and crumbled a variety of hops to tease out their nuances. We toured Thirsty Pagan’s cellar, where beers age in whiskey or wine barrels. We may have also tasted a few beers here and there—in order to ground our learning in real-world context, of course. After all, what would beer education be without the beer?


PHOTO: A sensory sampling chart from our training with Allyson. “We tasted malts and smelled hops and thought about how those parts come together to make the whole,” says Sarah.

Finally, it was our turn to step into the brewer’s boots. “We all put our minds together and put together a beer that I think is gonna be delicious,” says Donelle. We concocted an amber ale of our own that included our favorite malts from the prior day’s tasting lesson and just enough hops for maximal flavor with minimal bitterness. For this brew, we used Allyson’s smaller two-barrel system, which made for a VERY hands-on process. We split up to weigh and measure ingredients, then took turns adding them, stirring, timing, and connecting tubes to cycle the hot liquor through the mash tun or route it into the fermenter.


PHOTO: Sarah gets things moving as Rose looks on and Allyson tests the mash temperature.

But all work and no play isn’t the Fair State way, so the trip included lunch at the sandwich lover’s destination, Northern Waters Smokehaus and beverage sampling at Castle Danger, the local Cedar bar, and Vikre Distillery, where Allyson’s wife, Sarah Lee, is a distiller. We also spent an afternoon carousing along the shore of the greatest of the great lakes at Tettegouche State Park.


PHOTO: We brought the infinite community the shore of Lake Superior. The Fair State gals’ road trip included a stop north of Duluth at Tettegouche State Park.

“So many amazing things came out of the few days we stayed in Duluth,” said Donelle. “I learned so much about the brewing process and have a better understanding of what happens. In turn it has helped me to better describe beer in the taproom.” We also took away a deepened sense of pride in the community of women within the brewing world. “It was so refreshing and inspiring to have a group of women from this industry learning together,” said Sarah. “Everybody brought something to the table.”


PHOTO: “It was also really incredible getting to know some other ladies in the industry,” said Donelle. Front row, from left: Ashlee Martin (OMNI), Allyson Rolph (Thirsty Pagan), Jill Carson (Fair State), Sarah Beahan (Northgate), Rose Picklo (Fair State), Sarah Williams (Fair State). Elevated, from bottom left: Alena Hejl (Fair State), Barb Gettel (Northgate), Donelle Lindscheid (Fair State).

Our thanks to Allyson Rolph, Sarah Lee, and the Thirsty Pagan team for their outrageously spectacular hospitality.

Pantsuit Amber Lager, brewed at Thirsty Pagan by the Fair State-Northgate-OMNI team, will be released January 20, 2017.