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Sara's Tipsy Pies: Not Going to Miss My Shot…at the Fair

Sara Hayden with a Pie Pop, one of her products that she shared at a recent Women Who Really Cook event at Foodservice News' headquarters.

Within six weeks of applying to get her Tipsy Pies into the Minnesota State Fair in 2012, Sara Hayden was scrambling. She had heard rumors in the food community that it took years to get into the fair, so when she got the call, she wasn’t mentally—or piewise—prepared.

She and her crew quickly prepared 3,000 of the miniature, booze-laced pies, which they ran out of on Day 2 of the Great Minnesota Get Together. “You don’t run out at the fair,” she said, with an all-knowing look. So what happens when you do? “You work 24-7 to replenish,” she replied. As a side note, Hayden isn’t just a baker, she’s a mother of five, the youngest of whom are triplets. 

Conventional wisdom has it that you can do anything for 12 days (even with five young children at home waiting for you), and while she performed the Herculean feat of baking an additional 10,000 pies (with her crew), it took awhile to bounce back once the fair was over, she admitted.

She also had heard that vendors rarely do as well in subsequent years as they do their first year. “Our third year was our best,” she said, with more than 17,000 Tipsy Pies in the hands of fairgoers. “The worst day at the fair is the best day anywhere else,” she pointed out. 

Hayden came up with the idea to add a shot of local alcohol to her bakery line after a speaker at a chamber of commerce meeting told attendees that in order to succeed, they needed to differentiate their product from the competition. She remembered her mother’s popular grasshopper pie with the lovely color and flavor of crème de menthe and her mission statement became: “I’m a pie with alcohol,” she said. Her trademarked tagline is “The Proof is in the Pie.”

The packaged, frozen pies can be found in select Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry’s Foods and Hy-vee, as well as online. In early summer, Hayden anticipates moving into a storefront location in Stillwater, with space for the bakery and shop selling pies and coffee. 

While they're already “handpies,” Hayden developed Pie Pops, a slightly smaller version of the original on a paper straw stick.

For the fair she also developed a line of savory pies using beer. Pies have less than 2 percent alcohol per volume, so it won’t replace a good stiff drink. 

The fair is August 22 to Labor Day. 

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