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Wet & Dry: Alcohol in Clay County 1871-1937

The Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County presents a new exhibit at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead; Wet & Dry: Alcohol in Clay County 1871-1937.  This exhibit opened on February 16th and will shown for 2 years.

Keep checking back here for more information and a schedule of events associated with this exhibit.

Exhibit website and upcoming events

WetDry300This exhibit explores the spirited debates around the morality of alcohol, from our Wild West birth through the end of Prohibition, encompassing three major periods: Settlement (1871-1890), the Saloon Era (1890-1915) and Prohibition (1915-1937).

People have enjoyed alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. It’s an important part of our culture – and a multi-billion dollar industry – but alcohol is also a dangerous, addictive drug that can lead to irresponsible and violent behavior, destroying lives and families. Efforts by Clay County residents to resolve this disconnect – to give the people what they want but still maintain social order – are marked by extremes.


When settlers founded new communities, they debated whether or not alcohol would be part of it. Once the Northern Pacific Railway arrived in 1871, thousands of settlers streamed into Clay County, claiming land for new farms and creating new villages. As each new community formed, a debate began between those who would ban alcohol (the Drys), those who welcomed alcohol (the Wets) and everybody in between.

The Saloon Era

When Fargo went dry in 1890, Moorhead became infamous for its many – and rowdy – saloons – 45 of them in a town of about 3,700. Moorhead’s Prohibition was more wet than dry, with criminal networks keeping Clay County drinking. City officials and voters could have responsibly regulated and limited the influx of saloons, enforced the law and used the liquor license fees paid by the saloons wisely. But they didn’t. Corruption, law breaking and bad financial decisions plagued Moorhead throughout the 1890s.


In 1915 reformers succeeded in outlawing liquor completely. But Prohibition also did not work out. Although legally dry, Clay County had a very wet Prohibition. Residents did not stop drinking. “Rum-runners” smuggled in large shipments of alcohol from Canada or other parts of the USA. “Moonshiners” secretly made hard liquor in home distilleries. “Bootleggers” sold alcohol on the streets or in cafés. Scores of local businesses and private homes were “Blind Pigs” or “Speak Easies,” illegally selling alcohol under the table or even operating as not-so-secret illegal saloons.


As soon as the Drys succeeded in making alcohol illegal in America, Wets went to work trying to repeal (or overturn) Prohibition. The Repeal movement gained support as the American public saw that Prohibition was not working. The Repeal Movement gained steam during the Great Depression. With unemployment soaring, many saw that reviving the alcohol industry would put people back to work and bring needed revenue to the government through alcohol taxes. On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution completely repealed National Prohibition. Although many Clay County communities allowed 3.2 beer in April of 1933, the county did not legalize hard liquor and strong beer until 1937.

Beer School is Back!

With craft beer showing up all over and more people deciding they like beer with flavor, it is time for Beer School to go back in session.  This expanded world of good beer can be overwhelming so FMBeer has partnered up to put on Beer School classes to help the people new to good beer and expand the knowledge of those who have beer here a while.


Get your tickets to these events at W Event Planning

All Beer School events will be held at Square One Kitchen & Event Center – 1407 1st Ave N, Fargo

Beer School is sponsored by Fargo Underground


Blind IPA Tasting

Wednesday March 4th, 6:30PM
Calling all Hop Heads!  Take away the labels and the hype and determine which IPA tastes the best.  The most popular style of craft beer is the IPA so we will try 10 different IPAs to determine which is best, but the tasting will be blind so you don’t know what brand you are drinking so you can focus just on the flavor.  Plus we will start off with some palate calibration where you can expand your taste vocabulary in order to better describe the IPAs you will be tasting.

Beer 101

Tuesday April 7th, 6:30PM
There is so much more to beer than the pale yellow lagers advertised during football and NASCAR.  This class will give someone new to good beer a broad understanding of beer while someone more experienced is sure to learn a lot too.  It will cover the history of beer, the brewing process, the ingredients in beer, beer myths and marketing speak, beer styles, pairing beer with food, and serving good beer.  Attendees will also take home a Samuel Adams Perfect Pint glass.

Pairing Beer with Food

Wednesday May 6th, 6:30PM
This is not a Beer Dinner where you get a full meal along with beer to go with each course.  This event is more of a tapas experience with smaller bites of food with a beer pairing and each will highlight a different principle in pairing beer and food.  With more pairings to try, you will leave with a better understanding on how beer can pair with nearly any food and how you can choose the right beers yourself to fit any meal.

Beer School Survey

FMBeer.com is working with Hot Dish Fargo to bring you some fun beer events but we need to know which ones people would like to attend.  So please take a few minutes to take a quick survey on the ideas we have come up with and that will help us out.

The survey is now closed.
Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey.

The top rated events were:|
– Beer and Food
– Big Flavors, Big Beers
– FM Beer Tour
– Beer and Cheese
– Beer Sensory Evaluation

Beer and Cheese will be the first class of Beer School on March 5th so sign up here

We hope to have an ongoing series of ‘Beer School’ events where people can be exposed to craft beer if they are new to beer with flavor, explore different aspects to beer like pairing beer with food when they are more comfortable with craft beer, or touch on more advanced topics like blind tastings and sensory evaluations of beer.

We will take your suggestions too so if you don’t see a class or event you would be interested in, please let us know.

Beer Tasting and Beer 101 from FMBeer

Do you have a club, an organization or a group of friends that would like to know more about beer?

FMBeer can help you with a Beer Tasting or a Beer 101 class that fits your needs.  Focus on basic information, paring beer with food, a tour or Belgian beers or something in between.  Contact FMBeer at dean@fmbeer.com for more info.

Welcome to FMBeer.com

The beer scene in the Fargo/Moorhead area and all of North Dakota is changing as people realize that there is more to beer than the pale yellow lager that dominates the market.  For generations beer was a local product that tapped into local tastes but we lost that in the 20th century but it is coming back.  FMBeer.com was created as a place for everyone in the Fargo/Moorhead and surrounding areas to learn and keep up to date with the latest local news and events featuring good beer.

If you are just learning about craft beer, then welcome, there is a whole world now open to you where beer has many more flavors and experiences than you would expect.  Check out the Beer Education section of this website where you can learn more about what beer is, how it is made, and some myths that should should be debunked.

If you are a veteran of the craft beer world, then watch the news and events to see what is happening with your favorite beverage locally along with where and when you can taste the latest and greatest thing plus hang out with people who have a similar interest.  You too might be able to learn something from the Beer Education section too, like how to better pair beer with food or information on a local homebrewing club so you can start making your own beer.

Fargo/Moorhead and the rest of North Dakota have long had ties to the brewing industry, mainly due to the local barley growers.  It is hard to miss the Busch Agricultural Resources Malting plant as you drive into Moorhead on I-94 while NDSU has the Institute of Barley and Malt Sciences.  There were 3 brewpubs in the FM area in the 1990’s as part of the initial craft beer boom but they did not survive the resulting bust for a variety of reasons.  The current craft beer boom is much different from the one in the 1990’s with more people in it for the love of beer and fewer in it just for the money.  As a result the quality seems to be up and growth has been slower but at a much more sustainable level.

Beer is a social beverage.  Sure you can pop one open after a long day at work, but I feel it is best enjoyed as a shared experience with family and friends.   Once you start showing up at beer events, you often see the same people showing up.   Thus people often refer to the craft beer community as there is a sense of group and connection between people who enjoy good beer.  There are local groups focused on beer who have been around for a while.  The Prairie Homebrewing Companions homebrewing club have been around since 1990 and are still going strong.  There is also the Fargo Moorhead Beer Advocates who have been around for a few years and enjoy getting together and sharing commercial beers they have gotten through travels or trading.  Hopefully FMBeer.com can bring all of the local craft beer drinking community together and help it expand so we all have more and better beer choices available where ever we go.

So take a look around and let me know if you like what you see or if you think something about the site could be improved.  Send your thoughts to me, dean (at) fmbeer dot com so we can make this site the best resource for local beer news and information that it can be.

Also please like us on Facebook (link) and follow us on Twitter (link) so you can get all the local beer news in the most convenient ways.