Back in 2013, when craft beer was becoming big business in the state, Duluth Mayor Don Ness called dibs for his city on the title “Craft Beer Capital of Minnesota,” beating Minneapolis and St. Paul to the punch.
Now, a group of Superior Street businesses is getting more specific. They are trying to brand a stretch of the Zenith City’s downtown thoroughfare with the hardscrabble title of “Brewer’s Row,” hoping to lure locals and tourists to stroll from one to the next, bringing even more activity to a revitalizing downtown.
While there had been talk of branding the area with a brewery theme, businessman Rod Raymond, principal owner of Just Take Action, which owns The Blind Pig Gastro Pub & Ale House and Fitger’s Brewhouse along that stretch, pushed the idea after a meeting with his marketing staff. They landed on Brewer’s Row and created a pub crawl event.
“Brewer’s Row is one more way of celebrating craft beer done in the old-school way of doing things,” Raymond said. “We’re just trying to keep things active and moving and fresh, and the way we’re doing that is going back in time.”
The stretch, nine blocks long, includes breweries and beer-centric watering holes. It begins on the southwest end with Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub and finishes on the northeast end with Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake. Others in between include 7 West Tap House, Blacklist Artisan Ales, and Carmody Irish Pub & Brewing.
Much of it lies within an area of downtown already christened the “Historic Arts & Theatre District.”
Blacklist is the newcomer, opening its taproom in November in a refurbished historic building once considered a pockmark on the downtown when it held the Last Place on Earth head shop. Now, the space features a sleek storefront, exposed brick and industrial decor.
Dubh Linn’s owner Mike Maxim quickly got on board with the idea of branding Brewer’s Row and said he expects he will use it in marketing this spring. He’d already been marketing a “Brewer’s Corridor,” he said. Restaurants and other businesses along the stretch will benefit from the theme, too, he said.
“I think it’s good for Duluth,” he said. “When I travel I want to go someplace that I can do multiple things. It’s all pretty close, within walking distance.”
The branding isn’t officially endorsed by the city.
“We certainly are wanting to celebrate both the development of the craft breweries in that area and also just the craftsmanship” of other local businesses, said Heather Rand, Duluth’s director of business and workforce development. “I don’t see the city officially getting behind a renaming of that stretch ... only because it wouldn’t be fair to all the other breweries we have in the city.”
The Greater Downtown Council of Duluth is supportive of the concept, as well as celebrating the city’s other breweries, said council President Kristi Stokes.
“It’s driven by the business community and I think this is a great way to show unity. You have a louder voice with a unified voice,” Stokes said. “I think this is just a fun way to highlight so many in close proximity to each other.”
Raymond said the Brewer’s Row moniker not only promotes the idea of walking from one destination to another, but also markets the locally owned businesses to tourists.
“People that come to Duluth from Minneapolis, they don’t want the franchise experience,” Raymond said.