Voyageur Brewing Company
The Newest Addition to the North Shore Craft Beer Scene
By Lucas Scharrer
That’s what Mike Prom and his wife, Sue, along with the Sporn and Walters families where thinking when they turned their passion for Grand Marais and craft beer into the Voyageur Brewing Company.
The three families are longtime friends who chose to settle Cook County because of their love for the vast outdoor playground that we call the Northwoods. Starting out as craft beer drinkers, the Voyageur Brewing Team combined their various business experiences to bring locally brewed craft beer to their friends, neighbors, and the thousands of visitors that travel along the North Shore of Lake Superior every summer.
This spring, they’ve opened their brand new brewery… and the beer is flowing!
The Origins of the Voyageur Style
Here’s the scoop: Voyageur Brewing Company is a production facility with a beautiful taproom. The decision to open a production brewery (rather than a brewpub) was based on their desire to share craft beer with their visitors (65% of who come up from the Twin Cities) as well as their neighbors in Cook County. They wanted to make beer that people could drink at local bars and restaurants or take with them in a growler when visiting the taproom.
Regarding their style when it comes to brewing beer, Mike told me that they wanted to use the water from Lake Superior because of its amazing quality and natural properties it brings to the brewing process. They also wanted to brew different styles of beer that capture the essence of the Northwoods way of life. Sounds like a winning combination, right?
When it came to distribution, Mike said that the debate between cans and bottles was one of their toughest decisions. Logistically, bottles are slightly less expensive and take up much less space in the brewery. Aesthetically, they preferred drinking beer out of bottles so that was the route they took. Of course, neither bottles nor cans are allowed in the Boundary Waters Wilderness only a few short miles away… but fear not! Voyageur Brewing has four different refillable growler options that are BWCA-friendly to make sure your supply list is complete!
According to Mike, Grand Marais is the ideal location for Voyageur Brewing Company because of the possibilities for adventure. Only 10% of the land in Cook County is privately owned, while the rest is state or federal land. The Prom, Sporn, and Walters families enjoy their outdoor playground by snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking and paddling the North Shore and BWCA. They wanted to brew craft beer for like-minded folks celebrating their own outdoor adventures and experiences in Northern Minnesota.
After deciding to move forward with the brewery, it took 18 months of careful coordination and a fair amount of waiting (for permits) before Voyageur could begin brewing. Each member of the team brings different experience to the table – and their team atmosphere goes beyond the brewery staff. They built the taproom from scratch and utilized an existing pole building to install four fermenters with room for expansion. Voyageur Brewing Company used local businesses throughout the building process, focusing on Cook County and then outwards into Minnesota.
Here are a few stats to whet your appetite:
- Brewhouse Size: 2-vessel, 20-barrel system
- Production Goals: 1,000 – 1,200 barrels in 2015
- Taproom Hours: Thursdays & Fridays (4pm – 11pm), Saturdays (12pm – 11pm)
- Head Brewer: Jason Baumgarth
- Assistant Brewer: Bruce Walters
- Music: Fridays and Saturday nights
- Tours: yes!
- Flagship Beers: Devil’s Kettle IPA (West Coast Style IPA), Tailbreaker Belgian Wheat, Palisade Porter, Boundary Waters Brunette (brewed with Minnesota Red Lake wild rice)
Get your Voyageur Beer!
Voyageur Brewing Company works with a distribution company out of Duluth to utilize the space on empty trucks that have delivered products to Grand Marais to send their beer south for others to enjoy at home. Voyageur beer can be found on tap at The Red Herring, Carmody Irish Pub, Zeitgeist Theatre, and Grizzlies this summer!