After a few treks across Wisconsin, we decided to head west and invaded Minnesota in 2012.
We stopped in Duluth at Fitger's Brewhouse and had a great meal & sampled a few of their brews. The El Nino IPA (casked) was outstanding. For the Belgian fans, St. Stephen's Abby was a good follow-up. Fitger's beers are distinct, clean, and on-target.
After our meal, we unintentionally elbowed our way into the office of Vlasie Solon, owner of the Brewhouse building and hotel. Mr. Solon is also an owner of the Fitger's label, which is bottled by Lake Superior Brewing. He was a gracious host and a pleasure to meet!
After our stop-over, we headed north and did stop in at Castle Danger Brewing. However, the guys had just packed up to head to Lutsen, so we postponed meeting them until Saturday.
On to Grand Marais! Without a brewery or brew pub, we settled in at the Gun Flint Tavern. With a roof-top deck and good tap selection, we were good to go!
Saturday brought the Hopped Up Brew Festival in Lutsen. They featured a great selection of breweries, heavily from the Eastern Minnesota area, though including other favorites, such as Bell's.
As could be expected at a festival as this, we had everything from great to moderate, to face-wrenching misses. While Fitger's Apricot Wit was the overall crowd favorite, our choices were:
Joe - Bell's Two-Hearted Ale
Dan, Jan, and Steve- Fitger's Superior Trail IPA
Lori - St Croix Brewery's Cream Stout with Black Cherry (Jan gave it a close second as well)
Jim - Castle Danger's Castle Cream Ale
At the festival, we met a lot of new people. Brewers just breaking in, newlyweds just starting out, and great beer fans all around!
We spent our off-time enjoying Minnesota's North Shore, which was awesome. Strolling along the lakeshore, a few attempts at paddleboarding, and some good old R&R. This trip was a little less aggressive on the beer exploration, but a great balance for everyone.
On the way home Sunday, we took in the alpine slides in Lutsen, just up the hill from where the festival was held. Then, we hoped to hit Carmody's Irish Pub, but their schedule didn't mesh with ours and we returned to Fitgers. More great food and fine beer. We passed around an award-winning apricot wit. Not to everybody's taste, but a pretty clean fruit beer.
This was a nice change in direction for us. It also got us thinking about hosting a festival. Hmmm.....
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