Northland Craft Beer

Highway 61 Revisited

Lee Witte - Thursday, February 12, 2015


As life long travellers of the Scenic North Shore of Lake Superior, we’ve known about the Green Door, a rustic looking municipal liquor store in Beaver Bay for a long time. Nestled on the edge of the small community of about 200 people, 50 miles up the shore from Duluth. We’ve frequented this place couple dozens times over the years, but admittedly only when we’ve failed to plan appropriately and pack enough good beer for the trip. As recently as the Summer of 2013, you might have considered yourself lucky to find a 6-pack of Summit Pale Ale or luckier yet to score a Seasonal from Lake Superior Brewing. That was the extent of the craft beer selection in Beaver Bay, back then. These days the Green Door not only has two cooler doors dedicated to Minnesota craft beer, they have two more with regional options. They’re typical in that they are on and off sale, but not so, in that all their tap beers are craft beers. That’s right, NO BIG BEER ON TAP!


It was just about three years ago now, at the inception of our personal craft beer map, that eventually evolved into, that we couldn’t have imagined the landscape would have changed this much. Back then all we had in Duluth for local craft options was Lake Superior and Fitgers and outside of Duluth you couldn’t find a craft beer to save your life. Now we enjoy Castle Danger, Bent Paddle, Borealis, Blacklist and coming on line soon is Voyager in Grand Marais. As recently as two years ago, if a place had six taps, three of which were craft and two of those were local, we’d feel compelled to give the place a pin, as it likely had the best craft selection for miles. It was just about a year ago when we sat down at the at Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais, with an associate who tried to order a Budweiser. To my delight he was informed they didn’t carry any big beer. I don’t know about you, but we couldn’t have imagined the day that pubs would banish the big three and go all craft. What a great change!

The Green Door is not an isolated occurrence. The same week we discovered Doc’s in Sturgeon Lake. Doc’s appears to be the typical small Northern MN country sports bar, but once again, it’s not typical of what we have come to expect. Doc’s has about 20 crafts on tap with a couple of the big commercial brews tucked off to the side just to keep the old timers happy.

This is not just happening in Duluth or up the North Shore. As most of you know, there is the craft explosion currently happening in the Twin Cities, but also in the rest of the country, although we’re not sure about Mississippi, but even Utah gets it. Craft beer is gaining traction in Canada, Japan and the UK is having a craft boom that rivals ours. Change is good. 

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