Minnesota’s Craft Beer Capital – Duluth, MN

Our intern Rosie, is a senior at the U of M Duluth; we asked her to do a blog on local craft breweries, and the importance to the Duluth economy. 

Decklan Group has worked with a handful of start-up breweries, and is currently working with several within the state of Minnesota to help them find the perfect site, and obtain tax incentives – for more information, check out their website at www.decklangroup.com 

Being a 21-year old in a Northern Minnesotan college town definitely has its perks. There are plenty of restaurants and diners that have outdoor seating, and even more outdoor activities for you to enjoy. I can easily name five different restaurants where I can go, order a beer, and sit out on a patio (hopefully overlooking Lake Superior). I was never really much of a beer drinker, but after stealing sips from friends, and visiting local breweries recently, I have become what you might call a “beer connoisseur.” I never really knew just how much local breweries impact Duluth until I started working in economic development.

Brewing has grown exponentially in the last several years; in fact, employment in breweries grew 30% between 2013 and 2014. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MNDEED), there are now 48 brewery establishments in the state.

In Duluth, there are a variety of craft breweries, and even a vodka distillery. Not only are Duluth breweries known around the state, but also surrounding states and countries. Because of Duluth’s proximity to Wisconsin and Canada, there is a great deal of crossover between the regions. In 2013, Duluth had ten microbreweries open, or nearly open. In a city with a population of 86,277 people, that’s about one brewery for every 8,627 people. This means that Duluth has more craft breweries and brewpubs per capita than any other major city in the state of Minnesota.
While craft breweries are popular between college kids and adults, they are also essential to the region. Duluth breweries employ many people, but also put Duluth on a statewide platform; gaining notoriety for their breweries and attracting other companies and tourists to check them out as well. In a letter to the Growler Magazine in 2013, Mayor Don Ness declared Duluth to be “Minnesota’s Craft Beer Capital”.

Currently, Duluth has at least seven active breweries in Duluth alone, with more in Two Harbors, Superior, and other surrounding cities. Duluth even has their “Duluth Beer Trail” which highlights the different breweries in the area and lists the different types of beers they carry. Included on this beer trail are Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Blacklist Brewery, Canal Park Brewery, Carmody Irish Pub Brewery, Dubh Linn Brewery, Fitger's Brewhouse and others. After realizing just how vital the breweries were to Duluth’s economic development and city, I decided to do some research to figure out how specifically they impacted this city.
I started to do some digging to figure out just how many people were employed by Duluth breweries. Unfortunately, a lot of the data is not available, however I was able to find some information from APEX (the Area Partnership for Economic Expansion) regarding Duluth’s oldest craft brewery; Fitger’s Brewhouse.

Founded in 1995, not only is Fitger’s one of the bigger breweries in the Duluth region; employing roughly 220 employees, but they are one of the top employers in the region. Food Preparation workers are one of the top ten occupations in Northeast Minnesota, and Fitger’s contributes to this statistic by operating satellite restaurants like Tycoon’s Alehouse and Burrito Union, which also supply Fitger’s beer.

Another brewery that I wanted to investigate was a newer brewery, Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Not only had I heard good things about this brewery from friends who enjoyed IPA’s, but I have heard several local Duluthians often brag about this beer. Bent Paddle was launched publicly in 2013, and has gained huge popularity within the community. The founders of Bent Paddle saw the demand for another craft brewery in this region, and chose Duluth for the beer culture, water access, and amount of eager, young professionals looking to work in the craft beer industry.

Craft breweries are definitely a way of life for residents of Duluth; through employment, tourism, additional tax base and enjoyment. Mayor Ness wasn’t wrong when he named Duluth “Minnesota’s Craft Beer Capital.” Not only has Duluth capitalized on the craft beer craze, but the notoriety has spread throughout the state. If you're 1) looking for a local vacation and/or 2) enjoy an ice cold glass of craft beer, start planning your trip to Duluth today.