The North: Home to Artists & Artisans/ Craft Breweries & Distilling

What makes an area become a magnet for creative people?  Our part of the North encompassing Duluth/Superior and the North and South Shores of Lake Superior has a relatively low population density, yet it is teeming with artists and artisans of all types.  Why?  What keeps them here? What brings them here? 

I think one of the reasons is the cluster of higher education here. All those professors and students bring a mix of interest and participation in the arts and in artisan crafts.  Add to this the physical beauty of the area and the ability to be “in nature” within minutes instead of hours and you have a good start on the “why” and the “what”.  Those who travel, or have lived in other urban areas, treasure the special mix of amenities, beauty and ease of living here.  And for the craft brewers and distillers, Lake Superior is a valuable water source and has natural beauty.

When we owned Nokomis Restaurant, I had the opportunity to attend wine school for sommelier credentials.  Now I learn that there is a parallel path of education for brewers.  Institutions like the Siebel Institute in Chicago offer certificates in brewing as well as a certification for Cicerone, the beer equivalent of sommelier.  Several of our local brewers can claim these credentials.  I look forward to talking with them about the rigors of their training.

The United States has become increasingly interested in the craft brewers and distillers since 1980.  Minnesota has fully embraced this trend.  According to the Brewers Association, our state ranks 16th in the nation for the number of craft breweries, and the Northland is home to an impressive amount of them.  In 2012, Mayor Don Ness informally proclaimed Duluth the beer capital of Minnesota. Our All Pints North craft beer festival does a swell job defending this title when thousands of thirsty visitors descend on Bayfront Park in Duluth each July to sip artisanal beers from local and national breweries and brewpubs. At my last count we had 11 breweries in Duluth/Superior and up the North Shore to Grand Marais.

Local destinations include:

On the distilling side of life, Duluth is home to Vikre Distillery.  They draw on their Scandinavian and local heritage, and as they say:  “We forage the Northwoods for wild botanicals; whenever possible we use local grains, handcrafted Minnesota oak barrels, and the clean, cold water of Lake Superior.”

If you are a fan of hard cider, Sapsucker Farms is an organic farm a little outside our area in Mora, Minnesota, and we enjoy their products immensely.  Their Yellow Belly Hard Cider is stocked at Mount Royale Bottle Shop near UMD.

Another neat new highlight not to be overlooked is Duluth Experience’s guided Brewery Tours which help you make a personal connection with the local craft brewery and distillery scene in Duluth and Superior. There is a lot to keep a focused beer and spirit taster busy.  Let’s raise a glass and toast these entrepreneurs.  And let’s all marvel at what a rich and varied area this is to live in!

Will you join us at Kiviranta?

Photo credit: Bent Paddle Brewing

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