Every North Shore adventure begins in Duluth. For craft beer lovers, that means two chances to visit the city's growing number of breweries—once on the way up, and again at the end of your trip.
Breweries like Blacklist Artisan Ales, Canal Park Brewing Co. and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. put Duluth’s craft brewing scene on the map, while the All Pints North craft beer festival has solidified the city as a true craft beer destination. And we can't forget Fitger's, which started brewing beer in Duluth in 1857.
So, where should beer-curious travelers begin their North Shore adventure? Follow this itinerary for the ultimate brewcation, from Duluth to Grand Marais and back again.
Day 1: Duluth
Wake up with breakfast at the Duluth Grill in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, as seen on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." The zesty signature huevos rancheros skillet will set the tone for a day of sightseeing and sipping.
Take a short walk from the restaurant for a peek inside Lake Superior Brewing Co. 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 relax and sunbathe on the beach.
When hunger calls, head toward Canal Park’s shopping district for lunch at Canal Park Brewing Co. This brewpub’s award-winning Nut Hatchet Brown Ale 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.
Though shopping ‘til you drop is possible in Duluth, it’s better to take a break at Bent Paddle Brewing Co.’s taproom. Its beers have become a staple statewide, and its 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.
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.
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Day 2: Up the Shore
The next morning, leisurely pack your bags and follow the big lake north. Take in 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.
When you reach 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.
If you prefer a different type of beauty, continue driving up the shore to Grand Marais, a picturesque community with a thriving arts scene. There are numerous galleries scattered around the town, plus multiple art fairs each year. The town recently welcomed a new brewery, Voyageur Brewing Co., with tours available on Saturdays.
Day 3: Back to Duluth
On your way back down the shore, don’t forget to buy a few growlers of beer from Castle Danger Brewery. This popular North Shore brewery started in the small town of Castle Danger, and after a very successful beginning, upgraded to a larger facility and taproom in Two Harbors. Don’t miss it!
There are plenty of places to stop along the way, from scenic state parks, to hiking and biking trails, to the many beautiful waterfalls. Grab a slice of pie at Betty's, pick up some handmade chocolate at Great Lakes Candy Kitchen, and take in the view one last time.