Trekking Minnesota's North Shore Beer Trail

By Clint Roberts

Ever since Mayor Don Ness informally proclaimed Duluth the beer capital of Minnesota in 2012, the city has defended its title time and time again. Recent newcomers like Blacklist Brewery, Canal Park Brewing Co. and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. are strengthening Duluth’s brewing economy, while the All Pints North craft beer festival has solidified Canal Park Brewerythe city as a true craft beer destination. Thousands of people descend on Bayfront Festival Park each July to sip artisanal beer from local and national breweries and brewpubs.

So, where do beer-curious travelers begin their North Shore adventure?

First, wake up with breakfast at the Duluth Grill in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The zesty signature huevos rancheros skillet will set the tone for a day of sightseeing and sipping.

Take a two-minute walk from the restaurant for a peek inside Lake Superior Brewing Company. The brewery has been around since the early 1990s, when co-founders Bob Dromeshauser and Dale Kleinshmidt grew their passion for home-brewing into a full-fledged business. Today, Lake Superior Brewing remains one of the Northland’s oldest production microbreweries currently in operation. While you’re there, whet your whistle with a sample of the award-winning Kayak Kolsch.

After you’re done sampling, grab your binoculars and head for Park Point Recreation Area on the spit of land that separates Lake Superior and the Duluth Harbor. This pristine recreation area is a combination of dense pine forest and sand dune beaches, making it a unique bird-watching destination. You can also walk along the lakeshore path or simply lay out on the beach.

When hunger calls, head toward Canal Park’s shopping district for lunch at Canal Park Brewing Company. This brewpub’s Nut Hatchet Brown Ale won a silver medal at the 2014 World Cup Beer Awards. It pairs well with the locally sourced, beer-boiled Brewskie brat.

Use your afternoon to browse local shops up and down Lake Avenue. The 130-year-old Duluth Pack Store features active wear, outdoor gear and its namesake travel packs.

Fitger's signThough shopping ‘til you drop is possible in Duluth, it’s better to take a break at Bent Paddle Brewing Company’s taproom. It’s a relative newcomer to the Duluth beer scene, yet its popularity spans the state. Bent Paddle’s name is a nod to the founders’ affinity for canoeing, as well as the brewmaster’s preferred stirring tool.

Come early evening, check into Fitger’s Inn, a hotel housed in the renovated Fitger’s Brewery Complex. It has 62 unique rooms and suites with views of Lake Superior. (Search for more places to stay in and around Duluth.)

After you’ve settled in, walk a few blocks to another Duluth landmark-turned-beer-bar: Tycoon’s Alehouse. Tycoon’s used to be the Duluth City Hall building, as well as a detainment center for the old police station next door. It’s been rehabilitated and boasts turn-of-the-century charm and, of course, great beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse.

On your way back to the hotel, stop by Carmody Irish Pub for one last pint. This Duluth mainstay now brews five styles of beer to complement its traditional Irish fare.

The next morning, leisurely pack your bags and head up the shore. Enjoy Lake Superior’s expansive views at one of the many overlooks on Scenic Highway 61. Grab a bite to eat at the New Scenic Cafe, an acclaimed eatery with seasonal fare and a selection of Minnesota beers, including the flavorful small batch creations of Borealis Fermentery, one of the most interesting breweries in the state.

At Two Harbors, take a minute to map out your next move. Outdoor enthusiasts can catch up with the Superior Hiking Trail, which runs nearly 300 miles atop the ridgeline overlooking the lake. The trail has various segments ranging from easy to difficult terrain, depending on your hiking preferences. You’ll encounter breathtaking landscapes no matter your route.

Grand MaraisIf you prefer a different type of beauty, continue driving up the shore to Grand Marais (pictured at right), a picturesque community with a thriving arts scene. There are numerous galleries scattered around the town, and Grand Marais hosts multiple art fairs each year.

Before you leave Two Harbors, don’t forget to buy a few growlers of beer from the new Castle Danger Brewery. This popular North Shore brewery started in the small town of Castle Danger. But, after many months of success, the brewery upgraded to a larger facility and taproom in Two Harbors. Don’t miss it!

When your trip north is done and it’s time to head back down the shore, don’t feel too sad. You can do it all over again on your way home.