Alumni entrepreneurs: Farm fresh food to craft brewed
Whether you’re looking for some great eats or a cool one to wet your whistle, enterprising alumni at our colleges may have something to fit the bill. And what a palatable endeavor it is to feature some of them now that summer is upon us.
- Finnegan’s Irish Amber - Jacquie Berglund ’87, Augsburg College
- Sociable Cider Werks - Wade Thompson ’07 and Jim Watkins ’07, Carleton College
- Meritage - Desta Collier Klein ’99, Hamline University
- Fair State Brewing Cooperative - Matthew Hauck ’06, Macalester College (along with Carleton alums Evan Sallee ’06 and Niko Tonks ’06)
- Belly Up Club - Noah Miwa '08, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
- Bollito’s Tuscan Red Sauce - Zachary Cizek ’11, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
- Farm fresh food - Amy Doeun ’03, St. Catherine University
- Witness Tree Vineyard - Dennis Devine ’61 and Carolyn (Hanson) Devine ’60, St. Olaf College
Jacquie Berglund ’87
“I read this article in Time magazine, interviewing all of these 80- and 90-year-old people,” said Jacquie Berglund ’87. “The overwhelming feedback from their question, ‘If you could change one thing, what would it be?’ was that they all wish they had taken more risks.”
That was 1983, when Berglund was in her first year at Augsburg College. Since then, she has faced many risks on her way to building one of Minnesota’s most successful social enterprises—an enterprise that uses beer sales to fund its community foundation.
One of her first risks? Backpacking through Europe during her sophomore year in the face of parental disapproval.
“My parents didn’t want me to do it,” Berglund said. “[My English professor] said, ‘Jacquie, you should absolutely do it. Let’s come up with a way for you to get credit for it here.’”
With that, Berglund ventured across the Atlantic for six weeks under the banner of an Augsburg creative-writing course. Her experience fostered a travel bug that would lead her back for a seven-year stay in France after Augsburg. “[Backpacking] helped me to think globally and really changed my perspective,” Berglund said. “That was a powerful turning point for me.”
Wade Thompson ’07 and Jim Watkins ’07
To craft beer enthusiasts, hard cider is something of a black sheep. “Cider is like Zima,” says Jim Watkins ’07, who launched Sociable Cider Werks last November with Wade Thompson ’07. “It’s a four-letter word. It’s considered the drink of choice for college girls.”
But Sociable is not your sorority’s cider. For one thing, unlike mainstream ciders such as Woodchuck and Angry Orchard, which are made from juice concentrate, Sociable is made from fresh-pressed apples grown in the Midwest. Second, the business is licensed as a brewery, not as a winery, which is more common among cider manufacturers. With fruit as its main ingredient, cider might logically be made like wine, fermenting the apples over time. But Thompson and Watkins introduced an unusual step. “We add a brewed component,” says Thompson. “We make beer ‘wort’ or starter, pump it into our apple juice, and ferment them together.”
The process results in, as Sociable’s tagline suggests, a “decidedly different” concoction. Freewheeler, the brand’s signature brew, tastes like one might expect a cider to taste—but bolder and not as sweet as those mainstream brands. “Sweet apples, such as Honeycrisp and McIntosh, are mainly for eating and lack tannins, which contribute to bitterness,” says Watkins. “Bitterness is essential for structure or body. It engages the back part of the tongue and gives the beverage some weight. When we couldn’t get that bitterness from the apples alone, we thought, ‘Well, let’s brew it in.’ ”
Desta Collier Klein ’99
Meritage, Saint Paul’s renowned French brasserie and oyster bar, is tucked on the ground floor of the historic Hamm Building on St. Peter Street, behind the Landmark Center. Whether you’re seated inside its charming dining room or outside on the sidewalk, you get the sense of being at a Paris street café, enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious meal while being attended to by friendly and knowledgeable servers.
That’s just how the restaurant’s owners, Desta Collier Klein ’99 and her husband, Chef Russell Klein, like it. “This place celebrates the Paris of the 1920s and ’30s,” Desta says, “and through it we honor and celebrate the history of restaurants, which developed over time in urban centers as a place of respite for travelers. The food that Russell creates, the ambience, and the service standards we uphold are all informed by that history. We want people to see Meritage as a place of rest where they can enjoy a meal and be taken care of.”
The couple opened Meritage — the name is a blend of “merit” and “heritage” and comes from a Napa Valley wine in the style of Bordeaux — in November 2007, just six months after their wedding reception was held in the same space, previously a restaurant called À Rebours. They’d also had their second date there (after meeting when Desta was a server and Russell was the chef at W.A. Frost, another top Saint Paul restaurant), and felt a connection to it because it reminded them of Balthazar, a favorite eatery in New York City.
Matthew Hauck ’06 (along with Carleton alums Evan Sallee ’06 and Niko Tonks ’06)
Matt Hauck ’06 admits to being a little scared. The brewery he cofounded with Evan Sallee and Niko Tonks — Fair State Brewing Cooperative — has been winning awards, paying the founders actual (if not lavish) salaries, and garnering fans across Minnesota and beyond. Now they are taking a big step: expanding beyond their popular Northeast Minneapolis location to develop a 25,000-square-foot brewing site in St. Paul’s Midway district, opening this spring.
Although “the Northeast neighborhood has been great for us,” says Hauck, director of operations, the larger production facility will allow the co-op to increase its capacity by five times and establish its own canning line—a money-saver. Fair State will keep its taproom at the Central Avenue location and also use that facility for developing new brews. Although by law, a brewery can have just one taproom, the Fair State owners hope to host occasional tastings and tours at the St. Paul site.
It all began with three guys who met playing rugby — Hauck for Mac and Sallee and Tonks for Carleton. A year after they graduated, the three were brewing beer in the backyard of their Minneapolis four-plex. By 2009 they had moved on to graduate schools, but reconnected at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas. There they visited Black Star Co-op Pub & Brewery, the first cooperative brewery in the U.S. Before long — over a few beers, naturally — they were hatching plans to launch Minnesota’s first co-op brewery.
Noah Miwa '08
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Belly Up, a new club for grown-ups created by Noah Miwa '08 and Dave Ostlund, is the ultimate way for cocktail- and beer-lovers to explore the best drinks around the Twin Cities.
When did the idea of Belly Up start?
Dave: We started the idea of Belly Up in September 2016. It took a couple of months to get everything put together. We had to pivot a couple of times because your initial idea will almost never be the final product. We did a lot of refining.
What was the vision behind the project?
Noah: Dave and I go way back in the food scene. We started a group called the Minnesota Food Dudes, which soon became a club, and it had just three requirements: love food, be in Minnesota, and identify as a dude. It’s a restaurant crawl with about eight to twelve people that show up every time we go out. We’d make reservations for three or so places and go in and order about fifteen or twenty things off the menu and just share with everyone. Throughout the night, we’d probably taste about fifty different dishes, which is where the idea of Belly Up came from.
Belly Up is a drink club in the twin cities. Members of the club get different benefits. One of the benefits is free drinks, and depending on what level of membership you're at you can either get free beer, free cocktails, or both. Another part of the membership is that you get limited-edition, local-artist-designed glasses. With the Beer Belly membership you get four pint glasses, and with the Booze Belly (cocktail membership) you get four highball glasses. All of the glasses are designed by local artists, and a lot of them are MCAD alumni.
Zachary Cizek ’11
Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
Zachary Cizek’s dream of selling delectable sandwiches and sauces started with a study abroad trip to Florence, Italy in the summer of 2009. The marketing major and self-proclaimed “foodie” had a great study-abroad experience, but what stuck out most in his mind was a special sandwich he’d tasted there, made from a tender brisket, slowly simmered with wine and vegetables, which added a memorable flavor.
His senior year of college, when Cizek needed to come up with a small-business plan for a business entrepreneurial class, he chose to investigate selling this unforgettable sandwich. “I knew I had a strong passion for food and this sandwich,” he said. “I called it a Taste of Tuscany. I still have (my final report and research).”
Following graduation, Cizek worked diligently to perfect his sandwich while working full-time as a medical sales representative. It was while listening to a pep talk from life coach Tony Robbins that he decided to “go for it” and enter the sandwich-selling business; Robbins advised him that if there was something he was really passionate about and couldn’t stop thinking about, he should do it.
Cizek obtained his food manager license, took classes on safe food management, and begin selling sandwiches at a booth during a Twin Cities festival. He attended four food fairs and events in Minnesota and then relocated to Chicago (with his full-time job) and continued spreading delectable dishes at festivals further south.
Amy Doeun ’03
St. Catherine University
When Amy Doeun ’03 graduated from St. Kate’s with an English degree, she never guessed she would become a farmer. She lived the typical “city girl” life, complete with her pick of Twin Cities’ restaurants, vibrant nightlife and skyscrapers. She edited the newsletter in St. Kate’s English department, and wanted to become a writer.
However, in her junior year, Doeun’s life took a sharp turn when she met her husband, Proeun, a Cambodian immigrant in Minneapolis.
“We had a kind of whirlwind romance,” recalls Doeun. “We were engaged in 10 days, married 9 months later and had our first baby 11 months after that.” It was that child, a happy little boy with a love for garden plants and sunshine, who inspired their Crazy Boy Farm in Rush City, Minnesota.
Neither Doeun nor her husband had ever owned a farm. However, farming was in their DNA: her Minnesotan grandparents and Proeun’s parents were farmers. The couple attended the Minnesota Farm Association’s New Immigrant Farmer Training Program in 2009, and in three years learned how to turn backyard gardening into full-scale community-supported agriculture, or CSA, which connects urban dwellers to fresh produce and gives farmers a steady source of income.
Today, their 40-acre farm is alive and growing. It produces 50 types of fruits and vegetables. It’s home to goats, chickens, cows and sheep. “The sky is so blue here,” notes Doeun. “It’s total peace and quiet.”
Dennis Devine ’61 and Carolyn (Hanson) Devine ’60
St. Olaf College
Late one Sunday summer afternoon nearly 40 years ago, Dennis ’61 and Carolyn Devine ’60 took a fateful drive north from San Francisco. Dennis worked for a pharmaceutical company and had to fly out to Saskatoon, Canada, the next day to monitor a clinical study of a veterinary antibiotic. Driving Highway128 through the Alexander Valley north of Santa Rosa, they passed a little vineyard called Johnson’s.
“Carolyn saw some pretty cars in there,” Dennis says. So they spun around and drove in. The vineyard was having an open house and car show. The car that caught Carolyn’s eye was a forest green 1939 Jaguar, with a rakish hood and chrome head lights. The car may have drawn them in, but the vineyard itself made the real impression. The Devines can still recall joining other visitors as they spread a blanket on the ground, ate tasty cheeses, drank wine, and listened to a tiny orchestra. In the midst of it all, a cat ran through the scene, chased by three dogs and a passel of shouting kids.
“I said to Carolyn, this is so Rockwellian I can’t stand it,” Dennis remembers. “Someday, we’re going to do this.”
And so they did. In 1994, the Devines bought Witness Tree Vineyard, not only fulfilling their dream, but creating an outpost of St. Olaf alumni in Oregon’s Willamette River Valley near Salem. Their winemaker and vineyard manager, Steven Westby, is another St. Olaf grad. He and his wife Sonja, raised three children — Nelson, Maren, and Swan — on the vineyard property and two, Nelson ’09 and Maren ’12, have graduated from St. Olaf.