Lake County breweries impress at festivalsTwo Lake County breweries and upwards of 10 Duluth brewpubs and breweries have made the area a destination for beer lovers.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
When Minnesota became a state in 1858, its first brewery had already been open for 10 years.
The tradition of craft breweries has deep roots in Minnesota. In his book “Land of Amber Waters, the History of Brewing in Minnesota,” author Doug Hoverson notes that the state has been home to almost 300 breweries in the past century and a half.
While the total number has dwindled considerably — it’s closer to 40 now — two Lake County breweries and upwards of 10 Duluth brewpubs and breweries have made the area a destination for beer lovers.
“(It’s) the regional center for beer tourism,” said Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Minnesota Public Radio’s food and dining critic, in February.
Grumdahl mentioned two Lake County breweries: Castle Danger Brewery and Borealis Fermentery, based out of Knife River. With their beers available in a number of local establishments and demand increasing, the breweries have certainly found their niche.
Borealis Fermentery, a tiny, Belgian-style brewery that opened this year, almost has more business than it can handle, said owner Ken Thiemann.
Thiemann and his wife purchased the land in Knife River in 2006 and spent the next few years building their brewery and house from scratch. The building has a timber frame and is insulated and structurally supported by bales of straw — an eco-friendly, natural type of construction called straw bale building.
Borealis is not yet open to the public, but their beer is available for purchase at a few local restaurants and retail shops, and Thiemann said he hopes to expand.
He may have plenty of opportunities for growth after Borealis Fermentery’s performance at last weekend’s All Pints North Summer Brew Fest in Duluth. Thiemann took home two of three awards from the festival. His wooden booth was voted the crowd’s favorite and he shared the Most Voted Brewery title with Minneapolis’ Town Hall Brewery.
“It’s funky but very refreshing,” John Craig of Duluth, a friend of Thiemann’s, said of Borealis beer.
Craig, who helped him serve samples at the brew fest, said that Thiemann brews mostly farmhouse-style Belgian ales. While farmhouse ales are hard to define, they’re historically hand-brewed in rural areas of Belgium in small batches.
Whatever Thiemann’s secret, it’s seems to be working.
“We are humbled and spooked out of our minds. What the heck did we create here?” Thiemann wrote after the festival.
Castle Danger Brewery, which opened in 2011, also had a booth at the brew fest. In addition to the brewery, owner Clint MacFarlane runs Castle Haven Cabins in Castle Danger with his wife, Jamie.
They offer tours of their brewery and customers can purchase growlers of their beer. They also sell their beer at bars and restaurants from Knife River to Beaver Bay and currently have a waiting list for new places wanting to serve their beer.
“We’re brewing as fast as we possibly can to keep up,” MacFarlane said, saying he’s had to hire someone to help him out at the brewery. Between the accounts they hold now and running the resort, time is tight, MacFarlane said.
“I was a bit naïve (when we first opened). I just expected to have a few accounts and brew when I felt like it, but that’s obviously not the case. It’s gone a lot better than I thought it would,” MacFarlane said.
Castle Danger Brewery participated in the Hopped Up Caribou Brew Festival in Lutsen the weekend before appearing at Bayfront. Their Castle Cream Ale took second place for people’s choice.
Castle Danger Brewery, Castle Danger
Open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 4-7 p.m.
Current Beers: Danger Ale, Castle Cream Ale, Gale Force Wheat, London Crossing IPA
Beer available at: The Pub, Dixie Bar & Grill, Rustic Inn Café, Lighthouse at Emily’s, Kamloops at Superior Shores, Splashing Rock Restaurant at Grand Superior Lodge, Earthwood Inn, and Crossings at Cove Point Lodge.
Borealis Fermentery, Knife River
Not yet open to the public
Current beers: La Lune Special Ale, Speckled Ghost Abbey Ale, Mon Cherries Cherry Dubbel
Beer available at: Beaner’s Central Concert Coffeehouse, The Ratskeller below Tycoon’s Alehouse, Warehouse Liquors, and soon at New Scenic Café.