A Superior brewery will dramatically increase beer production and expand its public event facilities amidst the city’s working waterfront.
Earth Rider Brewery founder Tim Nelson said last week the business will almost double brewing capacity with the installation of new cellaring tanks in July. The company also plans a Cedar Lounge tap room addition and a bigger outdoor entertainment area uniting its campus across a vacated street.
“It’s just to keep up with demand,” said Nelson. “It’s all according to plan. We’re growing as the brand grows so the facility is keeping track. The facility was designed to keep plugging in cellaring tanks as demand grew. It’s part of the growth plan we’ve looked to from the beginning.”
Earth Rider started brewing beer in the old Leamon Mercantile building at 1617 N. Third St. in 2017. It added capacity in 2018 and brewed 2,180 barrels that year, the third-largest output of the region’s breweries behind Castle Danger Brewery and Bent Paddle Brewing Company. Two new fermentation tanks and a bright tank will increase the potential annual output to 6,500 barrels.
Nelson said Earth Rider is seeing more than expected demand from western Wisconsin, central Minnesota and the Twin Cities. The company added a new wholesaler in Menomonie and Hudson, and a St. Cloud-based distributor will pick up the brand in August.
“We really expect to go deeper, not so much wider,” he said. “We’ll have professionals now that can get the beer everywhere. Right now we’re one guy in a van — a one-ton van and minivan — that someone runs over to the Brainerd Lakes Area once a week.”
Nelson said the brand has connected with both Wisconsin and Minnesota beer drinkers.
“We’re recognized as a Wisconsin brewer,” he said. “People in Wisconsin like that. Our reputation as brewers on the Minnesota side, I think that carries some water as well.”
Nelson has been part of the Twin Ports brewing scene for almost 25 years. In 1995, he established Fitger’s Brewhouse in the historic Fitger’s Brewery Complex in Duluth with partner Rod Raymond. At the time, Fitger’s Brewhouse was one of a few craft brew pubs in Minnesota. The two entrepreneurs went on to develop a number of eating and drinking establishments throughout Duluth.
Raymond bought out Nelson in 2015 and a year later Nelson along with his wife, Naomi, purchased and restored the Cedar Lounge at 1715 N. Third St.
Nelson said plans are in the early stages to add a four-season porch and improved bathrooms to the Cedar Lounge this fall. The porch would replace a patio on the east side of the building.
The brewery has also established the “Earth Rider Fest Field,” an outdoor concert and entertainment venue between the Cedar Lounge and Earth Rider Brewery. The city of Superior recently vacated Ogden Avenue to facilitate the project.
Nelson said the recent improvements are designed to establish a solid presence in the Twin Ports, western Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota.
“We want to keep the business sustainable and profitable and be the best brewery we can for our area without going too far afield,” he said.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine said he was excited to see new developments at the brewery. The city supported an Earth Rider start-up grant in 2017 and agreed to vacate Ogden Avenue earlier this year.
Paine said a brewery can provide the city with more than just manufacturing jobs.
“One of my commitments is to have experiences in the community that draw people in,” he said. “A brewery is just great for that.”
The Earth Rider Fest Field offers a large, easily accessible location for Twin Ports events, Paine said.
“I don’t think there is any place as unique or interesting or as definitive of the Twin Ports as that space in the working waterfront of the North End,” he said. “You’re going to see the business of the Twin Ports as you drink the beer of the Twin Ports.”
The Superior Planning Commission and City Council studied the street vacation and determined it would have little affect on area business traffic, said Paine. The massive CHS grain elevator at Hughitt Slip, trucking firms and a railroad line all work in the industrial neighborhood.
Paine said the Earth Rider expansion should be celebrated by area beer lovers.
“I hope it will make Allouez Amber into a flagship instead of a seasonal beer,” he said. “I hope we get more varieties of beer. More of their beers as flagship and year-round production status and new, experimental beers and seasonal beers. Just new experiences in the North End. That’s what Earth Rider does for us.”
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