Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Old Fifty-six: A beer & a birthday September 26, 2012

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My second birthday and the clown cake my mom made for me.

WHEN MY HUSBAND ASKED what I was working on for blog posts, I answered, “I suppose I should write about my birthday.”

It wasn’t exactly an enthusiastic response because I’m not all that enthusiastic about turning 56 today. That number puts me closer to 60 than 50 and I favor a five in front of a zero rather than a six.

Now that I’ve exposed that bit of birthday melancholy, let’s focus on the positive.

A birthday truly is pause for celebration and thankfulness.

I am thankful for a family that loves me; a husband who supports me in my writing; friends who care and pray for me and who even think I’m sometimes funny; readers and editors who value my writing and photography; a house that’s paid for; my heavenly Father who loves and forgives and provides for me…

As for that celebrating part…I had this novel idea for a pre-birthday dinner we hosted on Sunday. I wanted to have some Old 56 beer on hand. I thought that would be cool (yes an outdated word, but, hey, I was a 70s teen), offering a memorable beverage for someone born in 1956 and turning 56.

Besides that, Old 56 is produced by my favorite craft brewery, Brau Brothers Brewing Company in tiny Lucan, five miles from the southwestern Minnesota farm where I grew up. I hear, though, that the brewery is relocating to Marshall 15 miles to the west, which saddens me. That is another story.

Do you think, though, that my husband could find any Old 56 locally, at least in the two liquor stores he had time to shop? No. So there was no Old 56 crisp light lager named after the fire engine the city of Lucan purchased in 1956.

Instead, we drank Schells.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


If only Jesse James had been a beer farmer September 8, 2011

Another craft beer, James-Younger 1876 Rye Ale, made right here in Minnesota honors the defeat of the James-Younger Gang during an 1876 bank robbery in Northfield.

CRAFT BEER LOVERS, here’s a new beer for you, James-Younger 1876 Rye Ale, a limited-edition beer selling this week during Northfield’s annual Defeat of Jesse James Days. Proceeds from beer sales will benefit the Northfield Historical Society.

Now I’m no beer connoisseur, but my husband and I like to try specialty beers such as James-Younger. He bought a six-pack a few weeks ago at Firehouse Liquor in Dundas. While this rye ale doesn’t suit our homogenized taste buds, I’m certain it will appeal to plenty of other folks.

That all said, if you pick up some James-Younger ale, I want you to turn the bottle on its side and read the small print: “Brewed and bottled for Bank Beer Co. by Brau Brothers Brewing Co. LLC. Lucan, MN

OK, then, about Lucan—it’s a town of 220 residents in Redwood County in southwestern Minnesota and about five miles from the farm where I grew up. I think it would be accurate to say that Brau Brothers Brewing has put Lucan on the map with its award-winning beers.

As for the Braus, they are three brothers and a Dad who produce craft beers like Ring Neck Braun Ale, Moo Joos, Hundred Yard Dash and my personal favorite, Strawberry Wheat.

Since I’m not too knowledgeable about beer stuff, I emailed Brau Brothers CEO and brewer Dustin Brau to inquire about the James-Younger ale. His family-owned business brewed the beer and co-packaged it for Bank Beer Company, a contract brewery based in Hendricks. That town of 725 lies even further west, in Lincoln County only miles from the South Dakota border.

Anyway, Dustin credits Jason Markkula at Bank Beer for the idea, recipe, marketing and distribution of the James-Younger ale. Brau Brothers brewed and bottled the beer.

And because Dustin clearly knows beer, I asked him to describe James-Younger 1876 Rye Ale: “Basically, a rye pale ale. Not crazy hoppy, but just enough. The spice from the rye comes through a bit, reminiscent of pepper.”

As for the rye, well, it comes right from the Brau Brothers’ fields. And, if you check the company’s Facebook page, you’ll read that the Braus tag this growing and harvesting of rye as “beer farming.” You just have to appreciate brewers who think that way.


FYI: You won’t find James-Younger 1876 Rye Ale just anywhere. Look for it in limited supplies in the Northfield area during the Defeat of Jesse James Days, which continues through Sunday.