Gitchee Gumee Brewfest
The Gitchee Gumee Brewfest, which is in its 17th year, is held in the Wessman arena of the Univerisity of Wisconsin Superior campus. It is sponsored by the Jaycees and the Univerisity.
It has historically been extremely well-attended but the crowd is not the typical beer geeks. There is a definite college representation and many of those I spoke with were at their first beer festival. It made for a different vibe.
Over 100 different beers were available from over 30 breweries representing Minnesota and Wisconsin along with a few other states.
I was especially looking forward to meeting the Bent Paddle folks, tasting Thirsty Pagan, catching up with Castle Danger, and introducing my friends to Canal Park.
The line was serious – I heard a rumor that people were primarily arriving early for Surly and for various special releases by other breweries.
We didn’t really have a game plan but we just kept walking in circles and it all worked out.
Bent Paddle has been a highly successful brewery, producing classic styles since May 2013 which they now distribute in cans. The brewery was founded by two couples, Bryon and Karen Tonnis and Colin and Laura Mullen. Bryon, formerly of Rock Bottom, and Colin, who previously brewed at Barley John’s, shared a vision for opening a brewery.
I approached Laura who was pouring for the considerable crowd at their booth and enjoyed chatting with her over a Cold Press Black Ale. When Colin arrived, I asked him a really dumb question : “How are things going?” Of course he gave me a hard time, and said that things are better than they ever could have imagined. They described an immense success and fulfillment of a dream. In speaking with the couple, their passion is very evident.
Colin used a phrase that I will never forget. He said that the mission of Bent Paddle is to export Duluth. To bring quality beer from the shores of Lake Superior to drinkers everywhere. And where are they currently exporting Duluth? To 8 restaurants and 8 off-sale locations in the Twin Cities along with multiple accounts closer to home. Bent Paddle enjoys hand-picking where their beer will be available and personally delivering it.
“It is the gateway to the north,” she says to me. And Bent Paddle offers all of their employees a park pass so that they may spend more time enjoying the north.
Notably, Laura points out, Lake Superior water is known to be chemically similar to the water used in the original Czech Pilsners – extremely soft with less than 50ppm of dissolved solids. This is just one of the many important elements along with brewing expertise that make the Bent Paddle Venture Pils a huge hit.
Along with their quality line-up, look for their upcoming Trail Series of beers this year with the first one to be released in weeks.
I meandered over to Castle Danger and chatted with Clint about their new 10,000 square foot space. Things are currently coming along nicely in Two Harbors and they are hoping to open in June at the latest. The new building will also feature a canning line – exciting stuff!
Their flagship Danger Ale is always a winner, but I was also a fan of their brand-new Camp Depression Lager, an offering I hadn’t previously tried. It has some sweet notes for sure but the finish is still quite crisp. It is named after an old logging camp near Gooseberry Falls.
All in all, I was happy with the organization of the festival and would attend again in the future.
Next up I will share some enlightening work going on at Thirsty Pagan, but don’t come hungry to my next post — there will be pizza!