The waters of Lake Superior give us something to look at, something to swim in, and something for the ships to float on. But more than anything, they give us beer.
For many years Fitger’s Brewhouse was the only commercial establishment taking advantage of this pristine water source to make craft brews. Though this local favorite is still going strong, Duluth now has multiple production breweries, taprooms, and a large number of brewpubs as well.
Production breweries are allowed to sell their product offsite but are not allowed to sell full meals in their taprooms. Brewpubs are allowed to serve full meals and their beer onsite, but cannot sell their beers offsite, unless it is for the same company. This last part allows Fitger’s to sell their beers at, for instance, Burrito Union, since both restaurants are owned by the same company.
Whether it is a production brewery or a brewpub, Duluth has a lot of brewing stuffed into a small package. This fact led former Duluth Mayor to refer to Duluth as the “microbrewery capital of the universe.” It is certainly a regional center of brewing activity.
Check out this guide to local breweries and brewpubs, which are shown on this Pinterest Map. [Delete Dubh Linn, they pretty consistently lie about brewing their own beer.] We’ll see you out for a pint!
Fitger’s Brewhouse Brewery and Grille
Fitger’s Brewhouse is the oldest and perhaps the most well known brewpub in Duluth. It is also just a short walk down the Lakewalk from Beacon Pointe. They are known for their large menu, live music, and of course, the beer.
The Brewhouse has about 100 different recipes of beer, which they produce at different times. Some are produced year-round, and others will be made during different seasons or appear occasionally. These can be found at their main location and at other restaurants, in the Brewhouse family. Burrito Union is a popular and proudly inauthentic Mexican restaurant, Endion Station offers ciders and informal food near the lake, and the Barrel Room is a younger nightclub environment across the hall from the Brewhouse that focuses on live music.
Canal Park Brewing Company
While all the breweries in Duluth owe part of their quality to Lake Superior, Canal Park Brewing Company has the lake right on its doorstep. During the summer and fall, you can have a brew and some food right next to their fire pit by the Lakewalk. During all seasons you can look out their windows, in their large modern-looking inside area.
This brewpub offers a full menu and a wide range of beers made in their large brew house, nicknamed “Gus.” The results of Gus are constantly being tested for quality in their on-site laboratory on the mezzanine.
Carmody Irish Pub
They are, in their own words, “A tiny little brew pub overlooking a great big lake.” They offer an intimate dining and drinking experience, like a small neighborhood bar, where everyone knows each other.
Carmody has a small brewing system which focuses on four main beers and two seasonal beers. Rick Sauer, their brewer, has trained several brewers, who have started their own breweries.
Dave Hoops, the former master brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse, stepped out on his own with a huge and beautiful space in Canal Park. He’s avoided cutesy beer names and logos to focus more intently on the styles and every employee over age 18 is a certified cicerone. You won’t get beer education crammed down your throat but it’s available to anyone who wants it. At Hoops Brewing they stay true to style and beer is available in glass sizes from a 5 ounce taster to a giant German Maß.
Bent Paddle Brewing Company
Bent Paddle Brewing Company took Duluth by storm a few years back. Being a production brewery, their beer can be found at various bars, restaurants, and stores around the region. You can see their facilities and drink practically out of the barrel, in their taproom. They encourage people to order delivery to the taproom to enjoy with a brew. At least in part, the owners of Bent Paddle were drawn by the quality of Lake Superior water, which is similar to the soft water used in the birthplace of Pilsners, in the Czech Republic.
Lake Superior Brewing Company
This is Duluth’s oldest production brewery, selling their products far and wide in the area. It you want to sample their fare the closest to the source, you can visit their taproom.
Since it was founded by scientist Bob Dromeshauser, it is natural that Lake Superior Brewing Company’s brews are the result of careful experimentation. When Bob was starting out, he and a team worked out the ingredients and conducted many sessions with eager subjects tasting their brews and the team making adjustments. The experimentation has never stopped. You might be lucky enough to be among the first to try their next hit when you stop by their taproom.
Blacklist Artisan Ales
Blacklist Artisan Ales is the newest production brewery in town. Like Bent Paddle, they encourage patrons to order food to their taproom. They strive for what they call “Belgian Inspired Beer.” This refers not so much to brews in Belgium, but the Belgian desire to have beers that are unique and varied. They also are happy to be downtown, among Duluth’s art scene.
While not technically a brewery, Vikre captures the “small batch alcohol” theme of this page pretty well. Their small batch gins are infused with regional flavors like cedar, and they’ve attempted to make a more drinkable aquavit than the traditional versions that is aged in oak barrels. They’re working on young whiskeys, along with a rye and a bourbon as well.