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Fitger's Brewhouse commits to 20-year lease at Fitger’s

Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth is a popular restaurant and pub with visitors as well as locals. (Clint Austin / 1 / 3
Brewer Andrew Spilde seals the door on one of the fermenters at Fitger’s Brewhouse on Friday morning. The brewery in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex produces craft beers for the Brewhouse and its sister pubs and soon will undergo an upgrade and expansion. (Bob King / / 3
Shad Baggenstoss, a brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse, kegs off a batch of Starfire pale ale Friday morning in the brewpub’s cellar. (Bob King / / 3

Talk about your long-range planning.

The folks at Fitger’s Brewhouse know where they’ll be in 20 years. Exactly where they are now.

The business has signed on to keep the popular restaurant and pub at the Fitger’s Brewery Complex for two more decades.

The Brewhouse — which opened in the historic complex in 1995 and started brewing its own pre-Prohibition-style craft beer on site in 1996 — has signed on for an unprecedented 20-year lease.

“It’s the longest lease the retail-hotel-entertainment complex has had,” said Scott Vesterstein, a co-owner of the complex. He described their relationship with the popular brewpub as a partnership that has worked out extremely well for both sides.

“We know this relationship is working,” Vesterstein said.

With new lease in hand and its future location secure, the Brewhouse is expanding its on-site brewing operation by upgrading its keg system and adding bigger tanks, along with technology to increase efficiency, said Brad Nelson, a Brewhouse spokesman.

In a tricky maneuver, tanks soon will be drained and hoisted to the ceiling, while the old floor is replaced. During that time, some of their most popular craft beers may not be available.

 The total investment is substantial, more than $50,000, but the upgrades will boost production from 2,850 barrels last year to 3,100 this year, he said.

The Brewhouse is owned by Rod Raymond and Nelson’s brother, Tim Nelson. Their hospitality business, Just Take Action, also owns Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery, Burrito Union and the Redstar Lounge in Duluth.

“This is a big leap for all of us,” said Brad Nelson who serves as marketing director. “We’ve been in this so long, both parties realize this is mutually beneficial. They’ve done a phenomenal job restoring the building.”

But there’s more reasons for the Brewhouse to stay at Fitger’s Brewery Complex.

Fitger’s is on the shore of Lake Superior. The former production brewery offers a historic setting and good dining and shopping. All are reasons why visitors come to Duluth, Nelson said.

While Just Take Action has hopes of someday setting up a production brewery elsewhere to expand distribution of its beers, it would continue to have a brewing operation at Fitger’s, Nelson said.