In 1868 Duluth, Minnesota was dubbed “The Zenith City on the Unsalted Seas”. Fast forward almost a century and a half and one could call Duluth “The Zenith City of Brewing”.
Duluth and the surrounding area is now home to an exploding number of brewing companies. Just when you think that there is not enough room for more breweries in Duluth, another one pops up. As one of the best ways to support the local economy, keep the spirit of the Zenith alive by sipping throughout the city.
- Breweries in Duluth
- Fitger’s Brewhouse
- Canal Park Brewery
- Bent Paddle Brewery
- Hoops Brewing
- Blacklist Brewing Company
- Ursa Minor Brewing
- Carmody Irish Pub
- Thirsty Pagan Brewing
- Earth Rider Brewery/Cedar Lounge Taproom
- Castle Danger Brewery
- Duluth Cider
- Wild State Cider
- Vikre Distillery
- about the author
- More on Duluth:
Breweries in Duluth
Lake Superior, originally named Gitche Gumee (big waters) by the native Ojibwe, is the lifeblood of Duluth. The city is a year-round tourist destination for hiking, fishing, music, and LOTS of great restaurants. You can check out all the things to do in Duluth here.
Now in recent years Duluth has also become a tourist destination because of the many brewery options. Duluth’s brewery scene has become so popular there are even tours available through this local tour company.
You’ll need at least a week to cover all of these Duluth breweries, without giving yourself alcohol poisoning that is. If you’re planning on spending a long weekend in Duluth, You can have your pick between these on the list.
Fitger’s was the original brewery in Duluth when it began brewing beer in 1857. After turning to making candy and soda pop during prohibition era, the Fitger’s building was converting into a hotel and restaurant facility in the 80s. In 1995 Fitger’s began brewing beer again, and some say began the Duluth brewery craze.
These brews have been winning awards for the past two decades. You can find beers from fruity to sour and everything in between. Styles range from English, German, and Belgian. You can pick up a growler from their Brewhouse Beer Store, and also pick up a cool t-shirt or hat.
Within the Fitger’s building you can try their brew at the Fitger’s Brewhouse Grille, the Barrel Room, or the Rathskeller. Personally, I love the Grille. They are famous for their wild rice burger, so much so you can buy them frozen in the Fitger’s store. They have amazing burgers and sandwiches, as well lighter fare like their smoked fish salad or fish tacos. The grille has an extensive menu and they have gluten free and vegetarian options.
Canal Park Brewery
Nestled on the famous Lake Superior boardwalk in Duluth’s Canal Park sits the location for the Canal Park Brewery. They brew on site amongst a large dining area and bar, outdoor patio complete with a bonfire, and pristine views of Lake Superior. It’s no surprise the brew names include Lake Haze, Superior Swell, Stoned Surf, and many more.
In keeping with the Lake Superior vibe, Canal Park Brewery has excellent tempura Walleye, fish tacos, and fish and chips. Not a fish lover? That’s ok! They have huge burgers, sandwiches, salads, and even vegan options. While it’s usually crowded, the beer and the food are worth the wait.
Bring home a hat or t-shirt in their in-house gift shop. The entire building is complete with solar panels to keep environmentally conscious. Without a doubt, Canal Park Brewery is a must while in Canal Park.
Bent Paddle Brewery
A buzzing atmosphere of millennials, boomers, and families alike, this brewery is one of several new places to check out in Duluth’s Lincoln Park Craft District. Bent Paddle Brewery has half a dozen signature beers ranging from their Kanu Pale Ale to the Cold Press Black Coffee Ale. Here is also where you’ll find the Trampled American Golden Ale, named after the popular bluegrass group from Duluth, Trampled by Turtles.
Equally popular are the wide range of seasonal beers. In the summer you’ll find Paddle Break Blonde and Wilderness Tuexedo on the menu, while the Vienna-style Roof Rack Lager is only available in the fall.
Bent Paddle Brewery does not serve food, but don’t despair, as they do have a food truck or you can order food from other Lincoln Park Craft District businesses, such as OMC Smoke House.
Located in the Suites Hotel building in Canal Park, Hoops Brewery is one of the newer brewing establishments in Duluth. Plan to come to Hoops for the beer and the atmosphere, but not for the food as Hoops focuses its efforts on the beer.
Hoops is a communal style beer hall with no muss no fuss, but a great place to gather with friend and try the many brews on tap while playing one of the many board games they have on hand. Hoops has many of the usual types of beers, but then mixes it up with beers such as Chili Pepper Ale and Guava Wheat.
If you are bothered by the lack of food, don’t worry Hoops is BYOF: bring your own food. Many of the neighboring restaurants will deliver food to you at Hoops, or on your way pick up a pizza or wings at The Green Mill or Old Chicago. You can also catch live music at Hoops from time to time.
Blacklist Brewing Company
If you’re looking for a refreshing craft beer, crack open a can from the award-winning Blacklist Brewing Co. Part of their secret? All of their brews are blended with the purest fresh water of Lake Superior. Popular picks include the Or De Belgique and the Classic Wit. Even if you’re not in Duluth, you’ll find Blacklist canned brews sold throughout several locations in the Midwest.
Equally popular are Blacklist’s thirst-quenching Hard Seltzers. The Guava is a tropical flavor, essentially sunshine in a bottle. Black Cherry, my personal favorite, is the perfect mix of tart and bubbly that fits with any season.
If that’s not enough to bring you in, Blacklist is the first to offer axe throwing in Duluth! Blacklist has an axe manager and staff that will help coach you through the process. But you can only throw down if you’ve had a maximum of 2 drinks. It’s a popular activity for special occasions like bachelorette, birthday, and work parties.
Ursa Minor Brewing
The idea for Ursa Minor Brewing was founded by two brothers who were joking around drinking beer by the fire. It is now one of the newest brew pubs in Duluth, located in the up-and-coming craft district of the West End of Duluth. Located on Superior Street in Lincoln Park, Ursa Minor has a warehouse feel that spills into its outdoor beer garden through open garage doors.
Ursa Minor’s beers are known for their unique names, such as Beer-Ista, Ditch Monster, and Helmet Hair. Other interesting brews are the Cherry Cream Float, a lactose sour; Constellation Cream, a cream ale; and S’more than Bear, a pastry stout.
Ursa Minor has a fire pizza oven and serves piping hot pizzas along with their many brews. All of their food is locally sourced from other small business. They have regular live music and other events like the Wednesday night bike ride and brewery tours.
Carmody Irish Pub
Carmody Irish Pub is the little sibling of all the other breweries in Duluth, with only a 3-barrel system, but has a longstanding reputation with the locals. It has been described more of a dive bar, than a brewery, but nevertheless many locals swear by their brews.
Perhaps they are misunderstood and one needs to spend some time there to really get to know and understand their neighborhood vibe, or maybe they want to stay a local place where everyone knows your name and not become a tourist trap. Carmody Irish Pub is also known for its live music, both Celtic and modern. 20 minutes north of Duluth Carmody Irish Pub also has a location in Two Harbors, Carmody 61, where they serve great burgers as well as their brews.
But wait there’s more! Across the bridge that is…
If you decide to venture outside of Duluth, the surrounding areas are deep with breweries as well. Just over the bridge in Superior, WI, the twin port to Duluth you have a couple options.
Thirsty Pagan Brewing
Thirsty Pagan began brewing beer in 1996. Recently, the Thirsty Pagan has just moved to a new location in the old depot station in Superior. Thirsty Pagan has all manner of locally crafted brews, with catchy names, such as Hot to Trotsky Rye Ale and UFFDA Pale Ale. Their beer range in type and alcohol content, so there is something for everyone.
Don’t forget their gourmet deep-dish pizza, which is amazing and definitely worth crossing one of two bridges from Duluth to Superior, WI. Thirsty Pagan is now serving gluten-free pizza on a cauliflower crust. Also check out their homemade soup and other menu items, like salads or Sclavi’s meatball sub.
Smack dab in the middle of the Thirsty Pagan is a stage where one can come and listen to music several times per week.
Earth Rider Brewery/Cedar Lounge Taproom
Earth Rider Brewery is a few blocks away from the Thirsty Pagan Brewing. It is the first brewery to brew beer since the late 1960’s, and is located in a former 1880 bakery building. They supply beer to the Twin Ports, the north and south shores of Lake Superior. Earth Rider produces over a dozen different kinds of beer, yet doing so in a sustainable fashion.
Earth Rider Brewery also has a taproom located in the Cedar Lounge adjacent to the brewery, where you can sample all the beer that they have to offer, as well as other regular events such as trivia and music. Nosh on pub pizza, pretzels, meat sticks made with their beer, or have food delivered.
Castle Danger Brewery
Just twenty minutes north of Duluth is another great brewery, Castle Danger Brewery, in Castle Danger, MN. They have been brewing beer since 2011. Three years later they opened a new location in Two Harbors, complete with a tap room. Castle Danger and Two Harbors make an excellent day trip if you want to get out of the city.
They have year-round brews, seasonal varieties, and their taproom series. The Castle Cream Ale is definitely a standout, along with their many IPAs. On the taproom series, try the Maple Marzen, a lager brewed with maple syrup. The taproom serves all their great brews and provides tours of the brewery.
Hungry? Castle Danger focuses its attention on the brews, but serves chips and salsa or pretzels providing some salt to keep you thirsty for more brews. You are also welcome to bring your own food, or check out their food truck schedule and there are many terrific local restaurants to get something to go. On Tuesday nights, they have Mafia Trivia and live music on the weekends.
Beyond the Beer
Not a fan of beer or in need of a change, Duluth is also home to alternative craft libations.
Back in the Lincoln Park Craft District, you have two cideries within two blocks of each other.
Duluthians Valerie and husband Jake opened the first Cidery in Duluth, after touring Europe and learning the tricks of the trade. They opened their cidery and taproom in a historic 100-year-old building in Lincoln Park neighborhood of Duluth. This building originally was the stables for the horses for the post office.
Duluth Cider has sweet ciders like the aptly named, Eve, and Trailside, a strawberry basil cider. Or go dry with Fleur de Blanc, a Chardonnay oak-aged cider. Don’t forget to try one of their more interesting blends such as Las Lajas, a coffee cider, or No. 24 a cherry chili cider. There are several other varieties, so come taste them all.
The picture above-right are the ciders I tried in a flight. I liked the Fleur de Blanc the best, but frankly they were all good. The Chai was a perfect fall seasonal flavor, the Las Lajas was an interesting blend of cider with a coffee taste, and the No. 24 was a nice dry cider with a bite from the chili.
Enjoy the cider during events such as Trivia night, bingo, and live music. On Wednesdays, they have a good truck onsite for your culinary needs. Duluth Cider does not serve food but welcomes and encourages outside food from other local small businesses.
Wild State Cider
Two short blocks west of Duluth Cider is the newest Duluth Cidery. Owners Adam and Andrew met at summer camp, and partnered to share their love of cider. Ciders range from semi-dry, semi-sweet, a dry rose’, and the Alpiner is a dry cider that aged in a whisky barrel from Vikre Distillery.
Wild State Cider has weekly events such as bingo, trivia, food trucks, and live music. Enjoy your cider inside the taproom or in their outdoor garden area, weather permitting.
Want something stronger than beer or cider? Located in the trendy Canal Park area of Duluth, Vikre Distillery is just the ticket. Award-winning Vikre was the first and currently the only distillery in Duluth, but if the breweries or cideries in Duluth are any indication, we will be seeing more distilleries.
Emily and Joel Vikre left their desk jobs on the East Coast to come home to Duluth to embark on this distilling adventure. Vikre distils three different varieties of gin, juniper, cedar and spruce; as well as vodka and two kids of aquavit.
They now have branched out into whiskey, rye, and single malt scotch. Coming soon is a second type of rye, and a bourbon. Paying homage to the drink French 75, Vikre now produces Frenchie Cocktail in a can. It blends gin, rose’ and bulbs into a tasty and refreshing portable drink.
Vikre is sold in many stores in Minnesota and throughout the United States. You will see their bottles lining many of the local bars, but the best place to try one of Vikre’s spirits in in their very own cocktail room where you can try one of many creative cocktails featuring Vikre’s libations.
While you are at it, you can also tour the distillery that is located onsite, or buy a bottle or two to take home. Vikre’s cocktail room is the perfect spot to begin or end your evening, but make sure you have a designated driver because Vikre’s cocktails are not for lightweights.
about the author
Carolyn Bruno calls Duluth home, and just so happens to call Alex (aka The Mindful Mermaid) her daughter. A criminal defense lawyer by day, she loves exploring the best bites and drinks around Duluth by night. She’s an avid reader, traveler, and momager.