Master Brewer Dave Hoops, formerly of Fitger’s Brewhouse, is opening a brewery and beer hall in Duluth’s Canal Park in spring of 2017.
The project, a culmination of years of experience and planning, will be called Hoops Brewing, and will occupy the former Timber Lodge Steakhouse space in The Suites Hotel building at 325 Lake Avenue South in Duluth, Minnesota. The 9,000-square-foot space will house a state of the art Sprinkman brewhouse and 250-seat beer hall.
“I’ve always wanted to build a boutique brewery and I’m doing this the way I dreamed of doing it,” says Hoops. “I don’t have any aspirations of being real large. I want to be a destination beer hall, really servicing local, very limited distribution.”
Hoops, a decades-long veteran of the brewing industry, left Fitger’s Brewhouse in September of 2015 and started a craft beer consulting firm called Bev-Craft with former Fitger’s Brewhouse partner Tim Nelson, Tim’s brother Brad Nelson (also a former Fitger’s employee), and Paul Christensen. Hoops will stay on as a lead consultant at the firm and noted that, “Bev-Craft was integral in the planning and execution of this brewery.”
Though Hoops himself will be doing some brewing, he is also bringing on fellow Fitger’s Brewhouse veteran, Melissa Rainville, as head brewer. “She’s the boss,” says Hoops. “It’s her show.”
Rainville began her brewing career at St. Paul’s Flat Earth Brewing Company in 2008. She holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. In 2015 she received the St. Paul-Minneapolis District Master Brewers Association of the Americas scholarship and completed the MBAA Brewing and Malting Science Course in Madison, Wisconsin. She also recently completed the MBAA Brewery Engineering and Utilities Course in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Choosing to work with Hoops was an absolute no brainer for me,” Rainville said. “He fostered a working environment at The Brewhouse that I gelled with really well. I worked with him for three years there and it was the best working environment I’ve been a part of to date. He holds high expectations of his people, has impeccable standards for quality, and has low tolerance for bullshit—all of which I appreciate. I have huge respect for his experience in the industry and know that in starting this new brewery he isn’t going to cut corners or half-ass anything. It’s truly a privilege to have had him ask me to be the head brewer of this operation.”
Hoops, who lays claim to the origination of “North Shore Style Ales,” says Hoops Brewing will offer up to 30 different beers at any given time.
“We’re going to have a lot of different beers available, a lot of different styles,” explained Hoops. He noted his fascination with German lagers, his experience brewing sours, and his motto—don’t brew scared. “Don’t brew scared means brew whatever you want, don’t be afraid to push the envelope, really far, on any style. Have fun with it.”
Rainville said she’s looking forward to brewing some of the styles she likes to drink and those she looks for when visiting other breweries.
“I’m most looking forward to the lagers we aim to make. Pilseners, American Lagers—those are the things I like to drink regularly and they’re the beers that really expose you and your abilities as a brewer,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to making more ‘classic Hoops beers’ (as I call them), ‘North Shore Style,’ hop-driven ales. The kids still like hops, don’t they? Doesn’t matter, pale ales are still the style I go to when I’m giving a brewery a first-shake. I think it’s important to keep one in the lineup and it’s important that it be worthy of having a second pint. Bottom line, I’m excited to get my hands back in it and be making beer again.”
Hoops says they plan to offer limited distribution to a curated set of local retailers. “I’m going to work with a handful of accounts that I feel can properly showcase the beer. It will be available in the market on draft and then Crowlers will be my featured method of delivery at liquor stores, and from the [brewery].”
Asked if he will be distributing outside of the Duluth area, Hoops acknowledged that he may have at least a couple Metro-area accounts, thanks to a familial connection. “I might have just a few [Twin] Cities’ accounts, say Town Hall, but it’s going to be really limited.” (Dave’s brother Mike Hoops is the head brewer at Town Hall.)
The new brewery will not serve food, but will welcome and encourage “take-in” from the numerous local restaurants in the neighborhood.
We shall look forward to diving into a pint of Hoops Brewing and a take-out Banh Faux Mi from Northern Waters Smokehaus served with a shimmering view of the S.S. William A. Irvin and the Duluth Harbor next summer (see the map below for the specific location of Hoops Brewing).