Canal Park Brewing Company ready — almost — to show off creations“When the beer’s done, we’ll open,” co-owner Rockie Kavajecz said Thursday as he stood in the gleaming new state-of-the-art brewery that includes 10 large tanks, a chemical lab and an outdoor silo full of malted barley.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
The Canal Park Brewing Company, the Twin Ports’ newest brewpub, could have opened last week.
But the beer wasn’t ready.
“When the beer’s done, we’ll open,” co-owner Rockie Kavajecz said Thursday as he stood in the gleaming new state-of-the-art brewery that includes 10 large tanks, a chemical lab and an outdoor silo full of malted barley.
“The brewery will dictate our opening,” said Kavajecz, who’s aiming for a late November opening. “This is truly a brewpub. It’s going to be a fun place.”
Indeed, at the Canal Park Brewing Company, it’s all about the beer.
The brewery itself dominates one end of the narrow, 8,000-square-foot building along the Lakewalk. Its two-story-tall brewery windows allow passersby to glimpse the large operation that can have seven beers fermenting at a time.
“We built this more like a production facility than a brewpub,” said brewmaster Badger Colish. “It’s pretty high-tech.”
The focus on beer is everywhere, from notations on a big blackboard to the lineup of kegs above the entry door. Behind the bar, a row of eight tall, chilled beer tanks, ready to feed the taps, are visible behind a glass wall. Pendant lights above the bar sport growler bottles as shades. Beer glasses, which can be quickly chilled, come in various shapes tailored for the different styles of beers.
“We’re trying not to just serve beer in a glass but to make each beer an experience, to enjoy it to its fullest,” Colish said.
A changing rotation of eight house brews will be offered for $5 per pint-size glass, with sampler packages available so patrons can taste each one. Among the first offerings will be an India pale ale, Belgian Tripel and an oatmeal stout, with special holiday brews coming. Growlers of the craft beers will be sold in the pub’s gift shop for about $14.
“Variety — that’s what makes people come back,” Colish said.
The pub will seat up to 200 people and will start out with a simple brewpub menu of sandwiches, burgers and salads, but eventually will feature fresh fish. About 100 employees have been hired, Kavajecz said.
Craft beer hub
At 300 Canal Park Drive, the new brewpub sports an industrial look as a salute to the site’s industrial heritage. For decades, the site housed the Duluth Spring Co., which manufactured steel leaf springs.
The new building’s red brick blends in with other buildings in Canal Park like it’s been there for decades. Its tall exposed corrugated steel ceilings, brick walls, polished concrete floors and metal chandeliers fashioned around beer kegs contribute to the industrial theme. Large windows provide a front-seat view of Lake Superior, and the light maple-topped bar is sided with deep blue tile that matches the blue of the lake on sunny days.
Its opening about Nov. 29, with initially limited hours, will further the vision of Duluth becoming a destination for beer enthusiasts, similar to Boulder, Colo., and Seattle. It joins the Twin Ports lineup of brewpubs — Fitger’s Brewhouse, Carmody Irish Pub and Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub in Duluth, and the Thirsty Pagan in Superior — which make their own craft beer on site. In addition, several areamicrobreweries produce craft beer that’s served in local bars.
Brad Nelson, spokesman for Just Take Action, which owns the Brewhouse, welcomed the new pub’s entry to the local craft beer scene.
“We’re looking at it as a positive thing,” Nelson said. “They’re doing a real good job with it. To have more good brewpub options around here by the lake will draw more people for the craft beer and bring more beer tourism to Duluth.”
He said more craft beer options will encourage visitors to come to Duluth on beer vacations, making it a centerpiece of their trips.
“It becomes yet another attraction to Duluth,” he said.
That’s already happening, according to Kavajecz.
Plans are in the works for a busload of beer afficionados to come from Thunder Bay and from Red Wing to stay at the Canal Park Lodge next door and enjoy Duluth’s pub culture, he said.
Doing it right
The project started before Kavajecz’s family bought the former Duluth Spring Co. property two years ago. Vacant for several years, it had become an eyesore next to the new Canal Park Lodge with its North Shore look. The Kavajecz family owns about 50 percent of the hotel and several other hotels in the region.
They considered fixing up the old building and turning it into a brewpub or shops. But razing and building new became the only option after the site was found to be contaminated with lead from car batteries, stemming from the early 1900s when the site was an industrial dump.
The more than $600,000 cost to clean up the site was partly covered by a $418,000 state grant.
“The environmental cleanup was very expensive,” Kavajecz said. “We even named a beer after it: Clean Dirt Eco Ale,” he said. “We have to remember that we did all that.”
With the cleanup phase spanning a year, construction led by RJS Construction Group began in the fall of 2011.
Kavajecz declined to say how much the project cost, but said it “went way over” its $5 million budget.
Part of the reason is the care that went into project, including the industrial brewpub design by Wagner Zaun Architecture, sophisticated brewery equipment, one-of-a-kind chandeliers and energy-efficient features that will save money in the long run.
“We tried to be conscious of all that, because you only get one chance when you’re building,” Kavajecz said.
The Canal Park Brewing Company will be open Mondays through Saturdays beginning at 11 a.m. and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m. A public pay lot next door provides parking.