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Lake Superior Brewing closed — for now

Neighbors and its landlord confirmed the taproom is closed.

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Lake Superior Brewing as seen on Jan. 6, 2020. (Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com)

What many claim as Duluth’s first craft brewery has closed its doors for an undetermined amount of time.

Lake Superior Brewing’s taproom has been locked since December and many claim production has ceased. Owner Lars Kuehnow declined to comment Monday.

A neighbor of the brewery said production stopped sometime in October and the taproom was open until the end of November.

“I just know that the doors are locked … the taproom is closed. There’s no production,” said Jeff Frey, who runs a photography business.

Other building tenants shared that they haven’t seen people go in and out of the taproom over the last month or encountered a smell that they associate with brewing beer.

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The taproom's doors were locked during normal business hours Friday, and its office was dark Monday.

The brewery’s landlord company, King Properties, confirmed that the business is closed.

Christine King said the owners hope to sell the brewery. With its machinery still intact and the business continuing its lease, “it would be very easy for someone to move in and (start it)," King said.

“They’ve been great tenants and had a great business,” King said. “I hope somebody else is interested in starting a brewery.”

In 2017, Kuehnow and Lisa Blade took over running the Lincoln Park brewery, located at 2711 W. Superior St. They became owners after Don and Jo Hoag, John Judd III, Karen Olesen and Dale Kleinschmidt, who founded the Lincoln Park brewery in the early 1990s, stepped aside.

Kuehnow and Blade shared with the News Tribune in 2017 that they aimed to increase its marketing and events .

“We’re going to step up marketing and events and reconnect with distribution markets, get it out more aggressively,” Blade said in a 2017 interview.

Some of the brewery’s state and local licenses have expired, including its Minnesota Micro Brewer’s License, according to the state’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division’s public data access website.

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Lake Superior paved the way for Duluth breweries, as it was one of the first in a wave of many breweries that made the city their home in the following years.

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It was the first in the city to nab a taproom license in 2012, after the state changed its laws to allow production breweries to open taprooms at their sites. But Bent Paddle Brewing Co. arrived and quickly opened a bona fide taproom before Lake Superior.

The News Tribune then reported in 2018 that Lake Superior was looking to expand its reach. It was seeking to place its products on shelves in new markets across the state and also ventured into canned beer for the first time, as they only sold bottled brews before that.

KBJR-TV first reported Friday that the brewery had closed. The brewery reportedly listed for sale on Calhoun Companies’ website was not Lake Superior, nor is it a Duluth brewery, a broker with Calhoun said Friday.

Local musician Teague Alexy had a show scheduled for Friday, Jan. 3, at the brewery. He wrote in an email that the brewery contacted him to cancel the show a few weeks ago.

The last event advertised on the brewery’s Facebook page was Dec. 8. The brewery posted that it was offering $4 pints for “PreMonday counseling.” It has been inactive ever since.

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