HENDRICKS - Jason Markkula started coming to Hendricks years ago for business trips and hunting excursions, but the small town stuck with him. Now, years later, he bought a historic building in town and turned it into a hunting lodge and has started a company in Hendricks, Beer for Wildlife, that brews beer and donates profits to wildlife projects.
Markkula bought the historic bank building in downtown Hendricks in 2006 and began renovations to turn it into a hunting lodge. Originally the building was one of three banks in Hendricks during the early 1900s, but the bank folded during the Great Depression and was converted into a cafe years later. In the 70s the cafe changed locations as the bank building fell further into disrepair.
"It sat empty for 30 years," Markkula said.
Photo by Phillip Bock
Jason Markkula started out brewing beer in his kitchen. His beer, Rooster Lager, is now in 40 locations in four states
Markkula, who conducted business in Hendricks prior to buying the building, was convinced by locals to buy the property so that the historic building would not go to waste.
"Basically I bought four walls," Markkula said. "The roof had caved in and there was a lot of water damage."
The renovation of the building took two years to complete. The roof and floor had to be replaced and most of the woodwork inside had to be redone because of the water damage, Markkula said.
"There is a lot of work in this place," he said while looking over his building. "I'm really psyched to have it done."
The renovated space resembles a loft apartment. The main room has wood paneled walls and hardwood floors. In the middle of the room Markkula crafted a bar and an antique-styled kitchenette. The bedroom and bathroom are in the back of the building, with the bathroom being built into the old bank vault - complete with a metal vault door.
"The original vault door was gone," Markkula said. "I found this one at an antique shop."
Markkula said he intended the building to be a rental property for hunters, adding that he enjoys hunting in the area himself.
"The biggest reason I come here is for hunting," he said. "There are lots of wild turkey, pheasants and a lot of deer."
Markkula said he has rented the building in the past for other events such as bridal showers and meetings.
Following the completion of the Bank Inn, Markkula turned his attention to a new business endeavor: brewing beer.
Proceeds from Markkula's beer, branded under the name Beer for Wildlife, is donated to the Pheasants Forever Build a Wildlife Area (BWA) program. According to Markkula's Web site, beerforwildlife.com, the program raises money to purchase wildlife management areas. The funds raised by Pheasants Forever are matched by grants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
"When you buy a 12-pack of Rooster Lager, the profits are donated to BWA and that money is matched by state and federal agencies," Markkula said. "Dollars from Bank Beer are tripled and used for the purchase of wildlife areas that you can use and enjoy."
Markkula started out as a home brewer, experimenting with different recipes in his kitchen.
"It's like cooking," he said. "It's not difficult if you have a recipe."
He started perfecting his first beer, the Rooster Lager, in the summer of 2009 and contracted with the Cold Spring Brewing Company to begin production on the beer.
Rooster Lager is now distributed in four states and can be purchased at over 40 locations.
Markkula said his newest creation, called Walleye Chop, is due out in May. The beer is lighter in color with a much different taste and aroma than the Rooster lager, he said.
Both beers are planned to be seasonal with the Rooster Lager being available September through March and Walleye Chop being available April through August.
Markkula said his friends have been very supportive and have helped him get his company off the ground.
"It's amazing what people will help you with for a case of beer," he said.
In the future Markkula said he hopes to create more types of beer to add to his portfolio. He said his company still has a long ways to go, but his commitment to helping wildlife remains strong.
"I wanted to come up with a product that would devote profit to wildlife conservation," Markkula said. "That's why I created the beer for wildlife company."