Beer is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea, in the entire world, although I disagree with that particular order.

There's seemingly as many brands of beer in existence as there are pheasants in South Dakota, and picking one out of the flock can be just as challenging. But the next time you're in the mood for a cold one, you may consider tipping back a Rooster Lager.

Meet Jason Markkula, owner of Bank Beer Company in Hendricks, Minnesota. The short story goes something like this: Man falls in love with small, prairie town. Man buys abandoned historic bank building in said town. Man turns bank into hunting lodge and inn. Man begins brewing beer.

Back in 2006, Markkula purchased the dilapidated bank building in downtown Hendricks, a town in western Minnesota where he had previously traveled for business and hunting trips. After two years of extensive renovation, the building that had sat vacant for 30 years was now a hunting lodge. Project one complete.  Markkula, long a home brewer, then began his next venture of brewing beer.

Bank Beer Company was the venture's name, and the initial product was Rooster Lager. Teamed with his second concoction, Walleye Chop, Markkula created two seasonal beers under the umbrella of "Beer for Wildlife." Yes, people enjoy swilling his product, but his generosity goes down even easier.

A portion of proceeds from every pack of Rooster Lager and Walleye Chop sold goes to Pheasants Forever's Build a Wildlife Area campaign, which works to acquire lands and then open them as public hunting and recreation areas. The Build a Wildlife program is set up to utilize matching state and federal grants to maximize donations, so when you purchase a 12-pack of Rooster Lager, the proceeds donated to Pheasants Forever end up being tripled. Who can't drink to that?

Rooster Lager is available September through March and Walleye Chop is on shelves April through August. Last year, Rooster Lager was available in four states and 40 locations, but Markkula is on the move adding more distributors. I ran into him at the Minnesota Build a Wildlife Area land dedication ceremony the other night – he attends many Pheasants Forever events – and he was looking at an early morning rise and drive up to Jamestown, North Dakota, to find more places for Rooster Lager to roost.  

Markkula also helped start a Pheasants Forever chapter last year, and serves as its president. Conveniently, the Hendricks Pheasants Forever chapter meets at the Bank Inn Hunting Lodge in Hendricks. Presumably, the group talks habitat and hunting over coffee, tea and perhaps even a Rooster Lager.

ü      Contact Jason Markkula, Hendricks Pheasants Forever chapter president, at (612) 309-2513 or via email a t jasonmarkkula@yahoo.com

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