Just off 32nd Avenue South in Fargo, west of I-29, lies a cluster of office buildings. There is a property management company, an insurance agency, and an alcohol screening and drug testing facility. Tucked in the corner is Prairie Rose Meadery, the first and only meadery in the city.
The interior of Prairie Rose Meadery is less business park, more grandmother’s living room. There are plush couches, decks of cards on coffee tables, an old wooden hutch– and a fully stocked bar. Prairie Rose’s founder, Susan Rudd, said she wanted it to be a comfortable space for customers to gather.
From basement to business
Home and craft are the center of everything at Prairie Rose, which is owned and operated by Ruud and her husband, Bob. Ruud was introduced to mead, a beverage made of fermented honey, more than twenty years ago by a friend who brewed out of her home. One sip later, the Ruuds were hooked. They began brewing themselves, their house lined with equipment and bottles (which they accumulated by drinking beer), and found success at regional competitions.
“We shared with friends– it’s not like we were guzzling mead,” Ruud said. “It was a fun social thing that we were doing.”
But back then knowledge about fermenting honey was limited, and one batch could take up to six months. Ruud, who has a degree in microbiology and continues to work as a plant pathologist at NDSU, found herself thinking, “Oh, I like this so much, I can’t wait six months.”
“Well, let’s just make fifty gallons at once!”
And thus, in 2015, Prairie Rose Meadery was born. Today, Ruud uses her knowledge of science to produce sixteen different varieties of mead, with each batch only taking a month or two to ferment. The meadery’s most popular product is their traditional honey mead, although they also offer seasonal varieties– orange spice, raspberry spice, and vanilla cinnamon for the winter, ginger and mint for warmer North Dakota days. Prairie Rose also creates mixed drinks like the Mead Mary and a refreshing ginger sour.
Every product that Prairie Rose sells is produced on-site, and almost all of their ingredients are sourced locally– a choice which, according to Ruud, only makes sense.
“North Dakota is the #1 honey-producing state in the nation, so it just seems to be a good fit here,” she said. “To me, its a no-brainer. We’ve got all this honey– let’s use it locally.”
Competitions, locations, and… Targaryens?
Ruud’s emphasis on local ingredients and careful craftsmanship has served Prairie Rose well; the meadery has won medals at competitions across the country, including a gold for their ginger mead at the Mazer Cup, the largest competition for meaderies in the world.
The shop, where customers can purchase and enjoy samples, glasses, and bottles of mead, is a popular destination for bridal and baby showers. Off-site, products can be purchased at Happy Harry’s and Bernie’s in Fargo.
While Ruud would love for Fargoans to go to Prairie Rose for all of their mead-related needs, she anticipates a growth in the industry as more people learn what the drink is–with some help from pop culture.
“You see it in a few different TV shows,” she said. “On Game of Thrones, you see people drinking mead, so people will be thinking, ‘what is mead?’”
Ruud hopes that Prairie Rose will be able to grow as well. Her goals for the business include getting their product onto the shelves of all local liquor stores and on tap at local bars. She also hopes that Prairie Rose will be able to move into a building of their own– although, their current location does offer one perk: parking.
“It’s a great location in the sense that any hours we’re open, all of the other businesses here are closed.”
Learn more about Ruud and Prairie Rose at 1 Million Cups’ Beverage Day on June 15, with a special, on-the-road location: 409 Broadway.