a very bright day in canal park
This weekend I traveled to Duluth and Superior to revisit the source of some of my favorite beers and to attend the Gitchee Gumee Brewfest with members of my brewing club. The festival, which in now in its 17th year, is known for being a very fun and well-attended event as well as one of the, well, drunkest festivals around. All in all, it promised to be interesting.
But beyond the arena full of beer from the northwoods, one of the highlights of my trip was a second look at Canal Park Brewing and a stroll through Duluth.
Canal Park Brewing Company was no exception. The place was very full, including the bar, and about half a dozen people had begun to line up for a tour.
I peeked in the brewhouse and found Badger, who you may remember from my first trip to Canal Park Brewing not long after they had opened. He was hard at work preparing for the festival with brewer King plus assistant and tour guide extraordinaire, Tinga.
Badger indicated that Canal Park, now in its second year of business, sold an impressive and reassuring 1200 barrels in the first year. The breadth of the beer continues to be impressive with a mix of expected styles and unexpected twists that appeal to the craft beer lover and unsure tourist alike.
We spoke about the trajectory of the brewpub. “Lately I have been focusing on staff education,” explains Badger. He went on to say that he believes there is a beer for everyone and that guests should be encouraged to try beers that they may not otherwise consider.
The tour program has also been in development over the past year. Tinga currently leads several weekend tours, with higher frequency possible this summer.
At the bar Badger poured me a Mindblock Honey Double Maibock and an Old Avalanche Barleywine. Handing them to me at the same time, he said “you look good double-fisting” (which just may have been the quote of the weekend).
The Mindblock is somewhat of a style anomaly. I asked whether a double Maibock is still a Maibock considering the fact that they are light in color and medium bodied by definition. I was told that, yes, it still fits the guideline for the style but in a more alcoholic sense. The beer contains local honey from a wine and mead producer. It has a clean bock character and clocks in at 7.5% ABV. There is a light caramel character and general sweetness, but the finish is pleasantly crisp.
Next I enjoyed the Old Avalanche, a classic barleywine. There is a component to the aroma that is hard to describe but the maltiness comes through immediately with some slight fruit. The only slight bitterness is at the very end and a pleasant stonefruit character sings through- something of a plum note. The ABV is a robust 9.5%.
Some of the beers I had a year ago were still on tap, but a few of the recipes have changed over the months of experience and experimentation. I asked Tinga if the changes were more due to crowd preference or brewer perfectionism. His response was “both”. For example, the British Bitter, popular among staff, was not a hit with customers. On the other hand the Stoned Surf IPA, a brew I absolutely love, now contains a different ratio of hops because brewing staff wanted more citrus and less resin.
Canal Park Brewing had several beers on tap at the Gitchee Gumee Brewfest including one special firkin of Feck It, their Scottish Ale. Their booth was well-attended and my fellow homebrewers got to enjoy their beer and meet the guys behind the Duluth gem.
I took some time to enjoy the sun and melting snow before crossing the bridge to Superior for the festival. Stay tuned for a visit with Bent Paddle and some mind-blowing brewing techniques being employed at Thirsty Pagan!