An iconic craft brewery, the first of its kind in Minnesota, has been sold and new owners plan to move operations from Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood to Lakeside.
Duhb Linn Irish Pub head brewer Seth Maxim and his wife Sarah have purchased Lake Superior Brewing Company and plan to relocate the business into a former Superior Street fitness center. The Maxims also plan to create a vacation rental space above the new brew pub and at an adjacent single-family home.
“Yeah, it’s big news,” said Sarah Maxim. “We think the neighborhood is really ready for something like this. We’re going to do food, Lake Superior beer and a full bar. … Everyone so far that we’ve talked to is just like: ‘Yes! Thank God!’”
The new Lake Superior Brewing Company will be located at the former Xcel Xercise and Sun City Tanning building at 5324 E. Superior St. According to St. Louis County records, the Maxims purchased the property in July for $430,000. The couple also purchased a 110-year-old single-family home behind the business at 11 S. 54th Ave. E.
During the purchase process, the Maxims discussed remodeling the brewery at its existing location in a strip mall at 27th Avenue West and Superior Street or moving operations elsewhere. Lakeside had a strong attraction as both Seth and Sarah Maxim grew up in the neighborhood.
“We just kept thinking, ‘Shouldn’t we be in Lakeside?’ But everyone said: ‘There’s no building, you won’t find a building.’ But the stars aligned and violà we found a building,” said Sarah Maxim.
The property was sold by Marty and Karen Anderson, who operated a full-service fitness center at the location for more than three decades. Records show the building was constructed as a retail store in 1928.
The Maxims have applied for an interim use permit to operate vacation dwelling units in an existing apartment on the east end of the fitness center and the adjacent single-family home. The two rental spaces will give visitors easy access to the brewpub, the Lakewalk and nearby attractions like Lester Park. The application will be heard by the Duluth Planning Commission Oct. 13.
Duluth Public Information Officer Kate Van Daele said the Maxims have not started the application process for the brew pub. “None of that is public yet because we don’t have applications for that yet,” said Van Daele. “They haven’t put that in writing nor have they done any permits or plans that we could share,” she said.
Two years ago, the city of Duluth approved an “Imagine 2035” plan which included goals for commercial districts throughout the city, said Van Daele. The Imagine 2035 future land use plan designates the 5400 block of Superior Street as “neighborhood mixed use” and city zoning codes show restaurants as a permitted use.
A liquor license, building permits and other government-regulated activities will all ultimately be decided by the Duluth City Council. If plans move forward, Lake Superior Brewing will be the first full-service bar and restaurant to operate in Lakeside.
Duluth residents voted to repeal a more than 125-year-old Lakeside liquor sales ban in 2015. The vote was supported by the Duluth City Council, acted on by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2016. Since then two liquor stores have opened in Lakeside and Amity Coffee obtained an on-sale beer and wine license.
Sarah Maxim said initial reviews indicate the brewpub will be a good fit with city planning and zoning rules.
“So far all the dots are dotted with the city,” she said. “We’re zoned correctly, we’re the proper distance, so yeah, it’s kind of a matter of getting our financing in order so we can start our build out. It’s a lot of moving pieces.”
Lake Superior Brewing has established a fundraiser website to sell things like unneeded brewing equipment, outdated merchandise and exercise equipment inherited through the fitness center purchase. Six 30-barrel fermenters were recently sold and shipped to a Kansas company.
Sarah Maxim said brewing capacity will be downsized at the new Lakeside location. Beer will not be distributed to retail stores or other bars and restaurants; instead sales will be focused onsite at the brew pub.
Seth Maxim has been stirring small-batch beer for years at the microbrewery inside Duhb Linn Irish Pub, a downtown establishment owned by his father and brother. He will serve full-time as the head brewer at the new Lake Superior Brewing Company.
“Both of us have backgrounds in hospitality and the restaurant/bar business and we’re going to embrace this head-on and share the best of what we have to offer,” said Sarah Maxim. “We feel like there’s a lot of legacy and history here. (Lake Superior Brewing) is one of the oldest craft brewers in Minnesota and definitely Duluth, and it just seemed kind of sad to let that go and we feel like we can do it.”
The Maxims weren’t the first to consider the opportunity. Brian Daugherty, president of Grandma’s Restaurant Company, said he met with Lake Superior Brewery officials in 2019 to discuss collaboration opportunities in Canal Park. The discussion evolved into a possible business transaction.
“I’m glad somebody took it up,” said Daugherty. “I thought that they had a really good brand and a good name. The product had a lot of upside … but they wanted more than I was willing to offer, that’s for sure.”
Lake Superior Brewing is a historic, well-known name in the beer industry, Daugherty said, which can both help and hurt a craft brewer.
“Longevity cuts both ways,” he said. “You can wear it like a badge of honor, but then on the other side you’re like the old, tired thing and everybody is looking for the newest, latest and greatest. Yes, they are a legacy brand, for sure, that to me is attractive, as long as you are reinvigorating the legacy brand.”
Lake Superior Brewing Company was founded in 1994 by three couples — Robert and Laurie Dromeshauser, Don and Jo Hoag, and John Judd and Karen Olesen. Operations moved into the King Building at 2711 W. Superior St. in 1998. Longtime head brewer Dale Kleinschmidt was often the face of the company and also became part owner. After the brewery hit its stride in 2000, production generally hovered in the range of 1,500 to 2,000 barrels per year.
Fitger’s Brewhouse opened in 1995 and helped broaden the appeal of craft beer in Duluth, but Lake Superior remained the only production brewery in the city until 2011, when the short-lived Dubrue was launched. Blacklist Brewing Company followed in 2012.
Bent Paddle Brewing opened eight blocks away from Lake Superior Brewing in 2013. The area later became known as the Lincoln Park Craft District, adding the Ursa Minor Brewing pub in 2018, followed by two cideries.
Lars Kuehnow and Lisa Blade purchased Lake Superior Brewing in 2017 and attempted to expand production and distribution of popular brands like Special Ale, Kayak Kolsch and Sir Duluth Oatmeal Stout. The brewery ceased operations and closed its taproom in December.
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