Brewing Up A Legacy In Duluth’s HART District
A Brief History of Craft Beer in the HART of Duluth
By Kyle Chisholm – City Tour Program Coordinator
In my previous article I described some of the exciting things currently happening in Downtown Duluth’s Historic Arts & Theater District (HART District). In this article we’ll take a look back at the historic significance of “Old Downtown” and discover the early pioneers in Duluth’s craft beer scene… the people whose footsteps contemporary HART District breweries are following today.
Related: Exploring Duluth’s Brewers Row
Duluth’s HART District – located on Superior Street from Lake Avenue to 9th avenue east – seems to always have had something exciting (and artistic) brewing. Back in 1857 – about a year after Duluth was founded – a stock market crash led to a national economic panic and most early investments in Duluth vaporized. People began to leave town. Duluth pioneer (and 3rd mayor) Sydney Luce set up a brewery along Brewery Creek and Washington Avenue. Today, that would be the area behind the Adams Apartment Building, between 7th and 8th avenues east on 1st street. The Luce Brewery changed ownership a few times being purchased by Nicholas Decker in 1865, and then Mike Fink in 1877. It was Fink who would relocate the brewery to a new facility on Superior Street in 1881.
Known then as the Lake Superior Brewing Company, the brewery was sold to August Fitger (an employee of Fink’s) and his partner Percy Anneke. The handshake deal was struck in 1883. That was when the Fitger’s brand was born, absorbing Fink’s facility and continuing its expansion through the 1890’s. Despite the rise of Prohibition in the 1920’s, Fitger’s survived by providing a boxing venue, distributing cigars, and producing candy, sodas, non-alcoholic mixers (one called the Pickwick), and near beers (low alcohol content and not very popular). Once Prohibition was repealed, Fitger’s was once again a fully operational brewery.
Fitger’s ultimately closed in 1972 due to a myriad of threats that included a proposed I-35 expansion, required facility upgrades for environmental regulations, and the fact larger breweries were dominating the market. A little over 20 years later craft brewing would return to Duluth with Lake Superior Brewing Company beginning operations in the old Fitger’s Complex in 1994 and the Fitger’s Brewhouse opening up in 1995. Lake Superior Brewing Company would later relocate to a larger facility in Duluth’s Lincoln Park but “The Brewhouse” continues to brew craft beer in the historic brewing facility (albeit on a smaller scale).
Now the HART District is home to three craft breweries including The Brewhouse, Carmody Irish Pub, and Blacklist Artisan Ales. Theses breweries, along with the other amazing breweries in Duluth, Superior, and the North Shore, comprise what we call the North Shore Craft Beer Scene. Made with Lake Superior water we can confidently say that our beer is Superior. We hope you’ll check it out!
Local Tip: Hit a variety of breweries in Duluth with The Duluth Experience Brewery Tour – these craft beer adventures run Thursday through Saturday and include transportation on a comfortable tour bus, behind-the-scenes access to local breweries, beer sampling, a souvenir sample glass, and dinner. Check it out.