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Lake Superior Brewing plans for spring opening, introduces 'brewtel' rental units

Seth and Sarah Maxim, who purchased Lake Superior Brewing Co. in 2020 and relocated it to Duluth's Lakeside-Lester Park neighborhood, are creating a brew pub with adjacent rental properties.

Sarah Maxim stands in a work site
Lake Superior Brewing Co. co-owner Sarah Maxim talks about the plans for the company’s new Lakeside-Lester Park location while standing in what will be the business’s eating/drinking area Wednesday. The Maxims bought the company after it closed its Lincoln Park taproom in 2019.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Construction of Lake Superior Brewing Co., under new ownership in the Lakeside-Lester Park neighborhood, continues to progress, a year and a half after owners Seth and Sarah Maxim purchased the company and its new space at 5324 E. Superior St.

While they aren’t quite ready to open the brew pub, they have started accepting guests at their “brewtel” rental properties attached to and adjacent to the brewery.

The brewtel’s apartments, one studio and one two-bedroom, take up about 2,000 of the building’s 7,000 square feet. The space was the residence of the building’s previous owner when it was Xcel Xercise and Sun City Tanning. Sarah Maxim said the renovation to the apartments was a complete gut job, as was the interior of the brewery side of the building.

Sarah Maxim
Sarah Maxim

“We have a new roof, new windows — we have everything,” Sarah Maxim said of the building. “With that said, it’s been my husband and I pretty much doing this. We don’t have investors and it’s a labor-of-love project. It’s probably a $3 million project that we’re trying to do for about half.”

While Lake Superior Brewing is still at least four months away from a potential opening date, the Maxims are hoping the apartments and a two-bedroom vacation rental home behind the brewery can supplement their income for construction in the meantime. The Maxims purchased the house at 11 S. 54th Ave. E, and the former gym building on Superior Street in July 2020 and flipped the home to begin renting out in January 2021. All three brewtel rental properties are listed on Airbnb.

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The Maxims have been considering the brew pub and brewtel business model for years, and they’re excited to bring it to Lakeside-Lester Park.

View of apartment.
One of two apartments in the Lake Superior Brewing Brewtel. The business also offers the nearby Lakewalk House for rent.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Neighbors and its landlord confirmed the taproom is closed.
The brewery closed its doors in 2019.

The couple has over two decades of restaurant and bar experience. Sarah helped her foster sisters open the China Star restaurant in Hermantown in 2000. Seth’s father and brother own Dubh Linn Pub in downtown Duluth. Seth was the head brewer there, brewing in small batches before Superior Street construction removed the pub’s steam pipes.

When Lake Superior Brewing suddenly shuttered its doors at the end of 2019, the Maxims saw the opportunity for Seth to start brewing again. They purchased the Lincoln Park brewery, brand and business. Lake Superior Brewing was distribution only, but they’re changing the business model to become a brew pub instead.

“Our goal is to kind of revitalize Lake Superior Brewing as one of the oldest breweries in Minnesota, but also kind of reinvent it in a new way,” Sarah Maxim said. “We love food, we love delicious beverages, we love hosting. We wanted to bring those parts that we love into the brewery.”

Lake Superior Brewing will now have a 15-barrel system instead of 30. It will continue to offer old favorites from Lake Superior Brewing, like Kayak Kolsch and Sir Duluth Oatmeal Stout, but will also bring some new brews to the tap list. In addition, Sarah said they plan to serve non-alcoholic beer, kombucha and root beer.

Two men stand in a walk-in cooler.
Lake Superior Brewing Co. co-owner Seth Maxim, left, and Greg Levine talk about what remains to be done in the company’s walk-in beer cooler Wednesday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The brew pub is located just off the Lakewalk. The Maxims expect to see a lot of foot traffic and walk-ins from tourists driving up and down the North Shore. There will be a grab-and-go deli section in addition to the sit-down restaurant so customers can get a growler and lunch for the road.

A welcome note.
The Maxims left a welcoming note in the front of a journal left in a Lake Superior Brewing Brewtel room.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

The outdoor seating section, which includes a newly poured cement patio and a porch created by the retro glass atrium windows on the building, will have room for up to 70 guests. Sarah Maxim said the pandemic inspired them to prioritize and get creative with outdoor options. There will also be indoor bar and table seating.

But they can’t start serving yet. They’re in the final stages of construction at the new location after selling the gym equipment and tanning beds, then renovating the interior. Delays including supply chain shortages, contractor scheduling and COVID-19 infections have set them back a full year from their original summer 2021 opening date. Because of a two-year wait for a walk-in beer cooler, they are building their own instead.

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“At this point, a year and a half into the game, we need to be open,” Sarah Maxim said. “We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying loans with no money. We have to be open.”

View of a studio apartment.
Part of the studio apartment at the Lake Superior Brewing Brewtel.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Sarah said they’ve seen an outpouring of support and interest from the community, with friends, family and even people in the neighborhood stopping by to help them with the renovation.

There’s also been support from the founders of the brewery, including Dale Kleinschmidt, who has worked closely with the Maxims at Dubh Linn Pub since it opened. His dollar was the first spent there, and the pub loyally poured Lake Superior Brewing Co. beer from its taps. When Seth Maxim started brewing his own beer, Lake Superior Brewing helped him clean his kegs at their brewery in Lincoln Park.

“It’s kind of funny how it’s all circled back, and the original group of partners that owned Lake Superior Brewing seem to be really pleased and happy that we’re the ones that are taking this on and not letting Lake Superior Brewing just go away,” Sarah Maxim said.

Kleinschmidt, John Judd III, Karen Olesen and Don and Jo Hoag founded Lake Superior Brewing in the early 1990s. In 2017, Lars Kuehnow and Lisa Blade took the helm until the brewery at 2711 W. Superior St. closed at the end of 2019. Warrior Brewing Company is now located there.

Socks sit on a shelf
A diffuser and warm socks sit ready for the use of people renting a room at the Lake Superior Brewing Brewtel.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Laura Butterbrodt covers health and business for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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