DULUTH – Lake Superior Brewing, the city’s oldest microbrewery, has closed its doors.
Lake Superior Brewing was founded in 1994, and new owners took over in 2017. They brought a new label, new cans and new energy to the taproom in a local beer market that was suddenly saturated.
The owners, Lars Kuehnow and Lisa Blade, have not returned requests for comment. The closure was confirmed by a landlord, King Properties Vice President Jesse King, who said parts of the business were for sale.
Tucked away in a Lincoln Park office complex on W. Superior Street, Lake Superior Brewing predated the rise of craft brewing in the region. The Fitger’s brewpub opened in 1995, but the rest of the local taprooms have only opened in the past decade, thanks in part to a change in state law.
Many opened just down the street — two cideries and another brewery, Ursa Minor, are a few blocks away, while Bent Paddle is several more blocks east.
Bent Paddle co-founder Laura Mullen recounted pushing Lake Superior’s now-famous Kayak Kolsch onto customers when she was a server many years ago, and she recalled that longtime Lake Superior head brewer Dale Kleinschmidt brought his new competitor some beverages to celebrate Bent Paddle’s opening.
“We’ll miss them terribly,” Mullen said. “The market is still so heavily macro (Budweiser, etc.) that there’s room for all of us depending on the business model and where people want to go. There’s a lot of people who can be converted to craft, and Lake Superior Brewing converted a lot of people to craft.”
Duluth brewing veteran Dave Hoops, of Hoops Brewing in Canal Park, agreed that Lake Superior Brewing leaves a lasting local impact.
“They were very consistent they were great beer educators,” he said. “In the early days the Special Ale, the Kayak Kolsch, those were really groundbreaking beers. Lake Superior was responsible for a huge amount of beer knowledge and beer faith in the community.”