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Eyewitness News Special: The Buzz on Microbrews

Posted at: 02/21/2013 11:06 PM
Updated at: 02/22/2013 12:06 AM
By: Dayna Landgrebe
dlandgrebe@wdio.com

More on Craft Brewing in Minnesota

In recent years, the Northland has seen a boom in the business of beer, and the people who are churning out this homemade, craft beverage say business is very good.

And that buzz seems to be grabbing ahold of people. Just one example of that lays behind the doors of an unlikely building in Duluth's East Hillside.

On any given day, you can find brewer Bob Blair tinkering around his modest microbrewery known as Dubrue. About four years ago, he and business partner Nick Cameron decided to put their money where their mouths are.

"We both got the point in our lives where we got married, and were having kids and our wives you need to go do something, so we got together and started doing Dubrue," Blair said.

As for their beers they make, Blair said they simply chose beers they liked to drink and took the process from there.

"I really made a beer to try and get my mom to drink beer," Blair joked.

But Dubrue is hardly the first to try their hand at hops. Duluth hosts eight different craft beer makers alone. Mainstay breweries and brewpubs also hold their place in Northwestern Wisconsin with Superior's Thirsty Pagan Brewing and Ashland's South Shore Brewery.

Back in Minnesota, places like the Borealis Fermentery in Knife River and Castle Danger Brewing in Castle Danger are making their mark as well. And any of these folks in industry say there's always someone new on the cusp.

But of course, Duluth is home to some heavy hitters in the business of beer. Places like the Lake Superior Brewing Company and Fitger's Brewhouse have dominated the microbrewery and brew pub scene.

They've been pumping put that liquid libation in hundreds of barrels, bottles, growlers and glasses for nearly two decades.

"There's more and more it seems almost every week, but Lake Superior Brewing was the first. That's our place!," said Lake Superior Brewing Company's Head Brewer, Dale Kleinschmidt.

But Kleinschmidt said, despite the boom, there is still room for those entering the ring. "You get a lot of help from people who have been there before," he said. "It's the same regardless of what brewery you're in. No matter how sophisticated the equipment or what kind of beers you're making, the process is the same."

That's certainly incentive enough for the newest contenders-- a pair of husband and wife teams at the Bent Paddle Brewing Company in Duluth's Lincoln Park.

For brewers Colin Mullen and Bryon Tonnis, their simple bond over beer is turning into a big thing this spring.

"This is homebrewing gone wild," said Mullen. "You start investing in the equipment and you keep on building it and building it and building it, and pretty soon you're left with this... I don't know where we go from here!"

And a love of canoeing and years of brewing made Bent Paddle a no-brainer.

"How can you not come here and enjoy a couple of beers, and then go off or go camping or whatever else you want to do up the shore or whatever," said co-brewer Bryon Tonnis. "I think it's a great place for beer tourism."

And that's exactly what the editors of the popular Twin Cities magazine, "The Growler," thinks, too. The publication is dedicated to everyone from the beer aficionados to the beer curious. It's now making its debut in Duluth at places like the Brewhouse. It's inaugural issue in the North is all about Duluth brewing, the techniques and the lifestyle surrounding it.

Brad Nelson, Minister of Culture and Propaganda for Fitger's Brewhouse, said he understands why.

"It really is telling people from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to come up and check out our beer scene. It's phenomenal right now, and by this summer it will really be off the charts," Nelson said. "I think we're just destined to be a craft brew vacation mecca."

And Tonnis at Bent Paddle agrees.

"The more people that come here to drink beer, the better is for everybody. The demand is definitely there. I think for us, the more breweries in the area in the better."

Of course, that also means more competition. However, at the end of the day, for any of these brewers, it's the desire to make that perfect, foamy, flavorful, buzz-worthy beer that's behind it all.

"Passion is why you get into this business," Blair, of Dubrue, said. "It's dirty and hard work and you've really got to love drinking, and when you do it, you want to have each little flavor come through. But that's really the fun part... is crafting the beer and, well, drinking the beer."

And malt mecca or not, these crafters of the cold one know the one thing that will never change--their search for the next glass of perfection in a pint.