By Grace Sell
The North Shore beer scene in Minnesota is a rapidly growing community that prompted Mayor Don Ness to proclaim Duluth the “Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota.” On March 23rd, The Duluth Experience will host the first of four live panel discussions, which will explore the rise of the North Shore craft beer scene. The discussions will dive into multiple aspects of the brewing industry and provide a behind-the-scenes perspective that you may not get anywhere else.
The North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable will be held once a month with different themes each time. The March event, “The Drink of Opportunity,” will bring together five predominant Duluth/Superior brewery and brewpub owners—Eddie Gleeson of Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery, Tim Nelson of Fitger’s Brewhouse, Steve Knauss of Thirsty Pagan Brewing, Rockie Kavajecz of Canal Brewing Company, and Bryon Tonnis of Bent Paddle Brewing Company.
“The Drink of Opportunity” panel is a great kick-off event which will bring craft beer lovers and the entrepreneurs behind their favorite breweries together. So who are these predominant Duluth/Superior brewery owners and what makes them significant players in the betterment of Northern Minnesota?
Eddie Gleeson, a former police officer, opened Carmody Irish Pub & Brewery nearly a decade ago, and his Irish hospitality (or “fáilte”) shines the moment you step through the door. Gleeson is a supporter of the GLBT and the theatre communities as well.
Tim Nelson has become a fixture in the Duluth region. He is an entrepreneur who started Just Take Action LLC (the company that owns Fitger’s Brewhouse, Burrito Union, Tycoons Zenith Alehouse, and The Redstar Lounge). Nelson has contributed immensely to the city of Duluth by restoring historic Duluth buildings, cleaning Lake Superior during the Adopt-A-Beach event, and supplying a local farm 30–40 buckets of spent grains from the brewery per week to to feed Scottish Highland Cattle.
Steven Knauss and his wife opened Thirsty Pagan eight years ago with the intention of being a brewpub. By making their beer available only at their brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, Knauss helps increase tourism in Northwest Wisconsin. The Knauss’ also show local support by being a CSA pickup location for Lake Superior CSA
Rockie Kavajecz has received numerous awards, including a Minnesota Brownsfield ReScape Award and the Redevelopment Award from the Economic Development Association of Minnesota, for cleaning up the lakefront space where Canal Park Brewery now stands. The site was a contaminated industrial dump that costed $600,000 to clean up.
Byron Tonnis and his wife Karen, along with their business parters Colin and Laura Mullen, have strong Duluth ties. Not only did Laura grow up in Duluth, but Byron and Karen met while studying at the University of Minnesota Duluth. They came back to their roots, and to the beautiful Lake Superior to start their own 10,600 square foot production brewery.
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Paul Helstrom of The Duluth Experience will moderate the discussion, inviting the panel to give insight on what it takes to create a successful brand, and the legal challenges that come with operating brewpubs and production breweries in Minnesota. The panel will conclude by discussing the uniqueness of the North Shore craft beer scene and it’s past, present, and future.
The following three installments of the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable will look into the brewers that have crafted the distinct flavor of the North Shore craft beer scene—”Crafting the North Shore Beer Scene” on April 13th—and the emergence of beer-related businesses—”Riding the Wave of Beer” on May 18th. The final event, “Women of the North Shore Craft Beer Scene” on June 22nd, will host a panel of women who are pushing the region’s craft beer industry in creative and empowering directions.
All four roundtable events will be held from 1–2pm at Duluth’s Teatro Zuccone in the Zeitgeist Arts Building at 222 East Superior Street. Tickets are only $5 and all the proceeds from the event will be donated to a local charity. For more information about the North Shore Craft Beer Roundtable visit the Duluth Experience website.
The Duluth Experience is a company that focuses on Duluth’s entertainment, education, esthetics, and escapism to the North Shore. They have full service tours and sightseeing opportunities for local breweries, outdoor adventures, and historical monuments. Their personalized interactions capture the culture of Duluth while providing a one-of-a-kind Duluth Experience.