Lake Superior Brewing expands reach, adds cans
Not a lot has changed for the Lake Superior Brewing Company in its 23 years of operation. The beer is still brewed in Duluth. It still uses Lake Superior water. Dale Kleinschmidt, who joined six months after the brewery opened, still sits at the ...
Not a lot has changed for the Lake Superior Brewing Company in its 23 years of operation.
The beer is still brewed in Duluth. It still uses Lake Superior water. Dale Kleinschmidt, who joined six months after the brewery opened, still sits at the helm of the brewing process. And even though the brewery's beer production has grown from six barrels a week to up to 30 barrels a day, it still pumps out the same ales it has for years.
However, now under new ownership, Minnesota's oldest microbrewery is getting a tuneup.
"It's a refresh on the brand," co-owner Lisa Blade said. "We're getting out there, working with all the distributors, working with all the people that bring us on tap."
To keep pace with the booming craft beer industry, Lake Superior Brewing Company is looking to tap into markets around the state.
"There's a lot of great competition," sales director Walt Aplin said. "Castle Danger does a great job; Bent Paddle does a great job; so we just gotta get out there."
Aplin is reaching out to markets that the brewery hasn't reached before, like central Minnesota and the Twin Cities.
"It's pretty much being rolled out as a brand new beer in some places because they have never served our beer before," Aplin said. "In reality, it's kind of like a brand new company, which is odd because it's Minnesota's oldest brewery."
Long sold only in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Aplin anticipates the beer will reach the Fargo market within the year, and potentially Iowa soon after. Accompanying the new markets is the launch of canned beer, a first for the brewery that has traditionally only bottled its product.
"We'll still be using the bottles," Blade said, "but the demographic calls for cans. If we don't have cans, we could be missing out (on) three-quarters of our sales basis."
The canning process is being overseen by the brewery's new head of operations, Ryan Woodfill, who was hired three weeks ago.
"It's an exciting time to join the group," Woodfill said. "We're canning now, which is pretty cool. There's new marketing. The branding is getting revamped a bit, but the beer is the same."
The beer being offered is the same for the most part, with the exception of one flavor. For this summer, the brewery is wedding together old and new with the reintroduction of a classic not seen in five years: Mesabi Red Ale.
As Blade's favorite beer, she had the idea to bring it back after buying the company in October 2017. The decision was guaranteed only after hearing from others a wish to see the return of the malty, balanced red ale.
"I had people asking almost every day when we were going to bring it back," she said.
The can that houses the amber-tinted beverage has a red shield with a white border on the front, part of the brewery's overall rebranding that was designed by Blade.
Yet, for all the artistic changes and marketing shifts the brand is going through, there's one thing Blade won't change: the beer.
"We're not messing with the liquid. That stays in the hands of the professionals," she said.
Head brewer Kleinschmidt said he has heard beer described as the "everyday luxury." But he prefers making the beer to drinking it.
"I have a softness for the common person," he said. "This is something that not just people in the upper-income echelons can enjoy. You can have literally some of the best beer in the world in Duluth. I'm not just referring to our brand, even though it is some of the best in the world."