For the first time in 50 years, suds are flowing at a production brewery in Superior. The inaugural beer by Earth Rider Brewing — a pale ale — went on tap Oct. 20 at its nearby taproom, the Cedar Lounge. Take-home 32 oz. crowlers are also for sale.
Owner Tim Nelson, who became a father to twins last week, equates releasing the brewery’s first beer to the process of cutting the umbilical cord between a baby and its mother. “Okay, Earth Rider, you’ve gestated long enough — it’s time to go out into the world,” he jokes.
Tim Nelson has helped define the Duluth craft beer scene. He co-founded Fitger’s Brewhouse in 1995 and spent two decades building the brewpub and other beer-related restaurants with its parent company, Just Take Action, before leaving in September 2015.
Earth Rider is the culmination of two years of planning for Nelson and his newly assembled team. “We’re excited to be back brewing in the Twin Ports. It’s been too long and I’ve missed it, he says. “It’s a role I really enjoy, being a part of a brewery in this area.”
Putting Earth Rider’s first beer on draft is “small but also monumental,” according to Tim’s brother Brad Nelson, who handles the brewery’s marketing. “It’s the moment when the brewery becomes official. We’re entering the next phase of growing — but we have arrived.”
Earth Rider has assembled an all-star cast of brewers. Frank Kaszuba heads up brewery operations. The former head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse has a total of 21 years of brewing experience. He also works as a project manager and brewer at Bev-Craft, Tim Nelson’s craft brewery incubator.
Kaszuba says he breathed a sigh of relief when Allyson Rolph, former lead brewer at the Thirsty Pagan Brewing in Superior, and Tim Wilson, former lead cellarman at Bent Paddle Brewing, came on board as co-lead brewers for Earth Rider. Rolph and Wilson will handle day-to-day brewing at Earth Rider. Kaszuba notes that each member of the team has significant experience and something to teach the others.
Tim Nelson refers to the brewing team as “the trifecta” and says their different skill sets complement one another. Rolph has earned a reputation for astute recipe development, particularly of sour and barrel-aged beers, at Thirsty Pagan. Wilson has expertise in the large-scale brewing and packaging that is essential to a production brewery’s success.
“We have so many experts on staff here. We’re really blessed with a lot of knowledge in–house,” says Nelson.
The brewery currently employs four people, while the Cedar employs seven. This number is sure to grow as the brewery ramps up production. Brad Nelson says the culture they’ve developed at Earth Rider is much like an extended family, with a lot of positive energy and support.
The team’s enthusiasm for the new venture is palpable. Kaszuba says working with Tim Nelson again has energized him. “I enjoy his approach as an owner of a business. I’m excited about developing a great new brewery with him.”
Kaszuba also appreciates the how Earth Rider is helping develop the North Tower district of Superior; a portion of town he thinks has great potential.
Likewise, Wilson is thrilled to be brewing in Superior, since it’s a mostly untapped city with only one existing brewpub. “The city is excited, the people are excited, the community really rallied around us. I think it will be cool to be in Superior. For me, that’s the really cool part — to be able to grow with the community,” he says. “Plus, we’re the northernmost brewery in Wisconsin,” he adds.
Rolph is looking forward to the opportunity to learn new things, brew on a larger scale and have beers she makes go out to a wider market. “I’m excited about all of it, not just the beer, but the team,” she says. “These are people I wanted to work with.”
The first beer released is simply referred to as “Pale Ale Version 1.” It’s a 5.5 percent beer with Denali and Citra hops. Kaszuba says the plan is to brew it again, tweak it and gain customer feedback before finalizing the recipe.
Earth Rider will eventually feature a lineup of beers that includes styles such as an IPA, lager and stout as well, but Kaszuba says the brewery won’t be limiting itself to four flagship styles; the intention is to have more variety.
“We’re all still pub brewers at heart. We like the idea of being able to continue to explore and offer different varieties,” says Rolph.
Nelson says having a 20-barrel system and two 20-barrel fermenters will enable Earth Rider to experiment with brews to “keep our catalog evolving and also make sure we’re having a lot of fun. Because that’s ultimately why we do this. To craft new things.”
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