Castle Danger Brewery fires upDown at Castle Haven last summer, the guests were starting to ask questions about the new construction.
Down at Castle Haven last summer, the guests were starting to ask questions about the new construction.
Jamie MacFarlane said some wondered if the owners were adding to the resort’s laundry facility. “No, that would only be more work,” she would shoot back.
What she ended up telling them proved to be worth all the unbridled curiosity. Clint and Jamie MacFarlane were building a brewery. As in beer.
“Their faces just lit up,” Jamie said.
A year after deciding to up the ante on a home brewing hobby – the couple has been running Castle Haven in Castle Danger near Gooseberry Falls State Park for six years – the MacFarlane’s are now the proud proprietors of Castle Danger Brewery. Clint went out this week to deliver the first kegs in Lake County and Duluth.
“Every brewer’s dream,” Clint said back at the new brewery shed on the resort property. “I like beer, so it seemed like a natural progression.”
The brewery is the only one known along the North Shore and might be the only resort-brewery you’ll find anywhere. Along with providing tap beer for bars in the region, the MacFarlanes plan to sell growlers, small jugs of beer, from the resort by the end of April.
Clint is doing the brewing and Jamie is doing the books. Despite thick reams of paperwork to file with federal, state , and local agencies, they said the year-long licensing process has been worth the trouble. They could probably write a book for the next person who might want to increase their beer making capacity.
It takes a lot of phone calls and figuring who to talk to, Jamie said. While they sailed through federal regulations, state rules were a bit more difficult to decipher. It didn’t seem like the state “deals with a lot of breweries,” Jamie said.
It will likely in the future. Regional microbrewing has been a national trend for the past decade or so but only recently have its effects been felt in northern Minnesota, mostly in Duluth.
There’s places like Fitger’s and other Duluth bars that make beer for their own use. There’s also the retailer Lake Superior Brewing Company. Clint took tours and received advice from many of them.
He researched on the internet for used equipment and then decided to buy new. He also started with the thought of a one-barrel system but figured a three-barrel would take up as much time and produce more. One batch on the system makes nearly six barrels of beer.
In all, the brewing system cost about $50,000, Clint said. That doesn’t include the new shed or ancillary items like kegs.
Getting it out there
He delivered kegs Monday to Dixie up Highway 2, across Highway 61 to the Rustic Inn, and down toward Two Harbors and Superior Shores and Dunnigan’s downtown. He’s got a tap at Sir Ben’s in Duluth and people calling all the time to get the new local beer in.
Clint said that will be the draw. “Local and fresh,” he said. And the unique name, a “no-brainer” he said, will help as well.
There are five varieties of Castle Danger beer to look for: Danger Ale (pale ale), Gale Force Wheat, Camp Depression Lager, Nestor Grade Amber Ale, and George Hunter Stout.
Growlers will be on sale Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Clint said.
Clint says all of his varieties will have a name marking a local connection. George Hunter was a great-grandfather who once brewed in Tower. Clint plans to add a wild rice to the stout mash. “I want to represent the area when we toss around ideas” for names and ingredients, he said.
The brewery has made at least one step into the big time: It has an intern. Zach Paddleford, a Duluth college student who is looking to get into the brewing business, will be working on a cream ale for Castle Danger.
Clint says friends and family have always liked what he’s brewed, often telling him “this is good enough for sale,” he said. They were drinking so much of it he had to either “stop or brew more.”
He will use basic recipes for the flavors and add his own touches, like local maple syrup in a planned doppelbock, a German style beer.
Clint said he’s gaining confidence in working the brewery system getting kinks out. He reminded tappers of the kegs that his beer is unfiltered and needs time to settle inside the kegs once it is delivered. He said all beer is unique by virtue of its water source. He uses well water from the resort.
The couple had to weigh duties with the main business, the resort, and the added brewing and accounting. They were judging last summer during construction just how they could juggle all the work. Clint said cutting the grass alone take 10 hours each go-around. Then there’s wood to gather for stoves in the 12 cabins and all the maintenance work.
“People say we have it made to work in this kind of setting,” Clint says with a laugh. He said it’s tough to enjoy the front door of the resort – Lake Superior – when you’re inside working on plumbing.
Jamie was an accountant in St. Paul before moving home to eventually take over the Lind family resort. “Jamie says she would have gotten bored” climbing the accounting firm ladder, Clint said. The two knew each other at Two Harbors High School but didn’t start dating until seven years ago. They were married just before taking over the resort.
Jamie’s parents, Dwight and Debbie, were getting ready to retire. They remain near the resort, ready to help if needed. Debbie said she has confidence that the two will succeed in the now double-venture. “They’re ambitious,” she said. They can’t go wrong with such a “great idea” and, besides, she said, “the beer is good.”
It’s a commitment, the couple said. They realized that when they first started gathering the paperwork needed. They had thought they could start brewing in nine months, but the process, while a bit longer, has been smooth. They said they were helped by the experience of already running their own business.
There are realities too, Clint said. As much as he would like to call himself a brewer, there are new regulations to this former hobby, like keeping the brewery spotless. “I feel more like a janitor than a brewer sometimes.”
They plan on getting a license to sell the growlers this month from the county. The last step in a year of paperwork that is eased with every gallon of beer coming out of the brewery.
“We knew it was going to be a process,” Clint said. “It seem like all of a sudden, here we are.”
He smiles bemusedly when thinking about the whole brewery-resort concept and two children compared to when the couple first took over the resort.
“Life’s definitely busy.”
Peddling the new pale ale
Clint and Jamie MacFarlane will show off their new Castle Danger Brewery beer Saturday at the 14th annual Gitchee Gumee Brewfest in Superior. There are about 40 beermakers coming to the fund-raising event that runs 4-8 p.m. at the Univerity of Wisconsin Superior’s Wess-man Arena. For more on the event, visit www.ggbrewfest. com. It usually sells out.