What many believe is Duluth's oldest craft brewery is getting new owners and a new location.
Duluth couple Sarah and Seth Maxim recently purchased Lake Superior Brewing Co., which closed its taproom and stopped production in late 2019, from Lars Kuehnow.
The Maxims have plans to relocate it to the Lakeside neighborhood in the former Sun City Tanning and Xcel Xercise building, 5324 E. Superior St. Pending renovation costs, the brewery could tentatively open next year. They bought the building from Marty and Karen Anderson.
The couple has been in the restaurant and brewery industry for the past 15 years, with Seth Maxim serving as head brewer at Dubh Linn Irish Brew Pub in downtown Duluth. Dubh Linn is a family business, and his brother and father will continue running the pub.
The Maxims have considered pursuing their own business venture, whether a brewery or bed-and-breakfast, for several years.
"We really like hosting. We're all about hospitality. We love good food and good beverages. We're big wine and beer snobs," Sarah Maxim said. "We've kind of always dreamed and brainstormed, but we've never pursued anything seriously."
In 1994, the business paved the way for Duluth breweries, being one of the first in a wave of many craft breweries that made the city their home in the following years.
When Lake Superior Brewing was listed for sale, the Maxims decided it was the right opportunity, she said.
Dubh Linn already had a long-standing business relationship with Lake Superior Brewing, and Maxim said they admired the brewery's "old-world, authentic" brews.
"It's just really sad to have Lake Superior Brewing go away," she said. "When we were presented with the opportunity we just said … 'It seems like a no-brainer.'"
They considered staying at and improving its former location at 2711 W. Superior St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
But they had their heart set on moving to Lakeside — the neighborhood where they both grew up.
"If you want to go out to eat and have a few drinks, you don't necessarily want to drive home or have to take an Uber there and back. (Lakeside is) pretty far removed from everything," she said.
She then toured and considered every commercial property on the market in Lakeside, and settled on the former Sun City Tanning building. It needs some renovations, which they plan to do a majority of themselves, Maxim said.
"The building … definitely needs a major refresh," she said.
The Maxims also plan to put their own twist on the business. They plan to rebrand packaging and logos, and decided to end distribution.
Maxim called distribution "a little bit of an uphill battle" because of competition among other craft breweries.
"When we looked at the numbers, it just didn't make sense," she said.
Lake Superior Brewing will also be styled more closely to a brew pub, allowing it to serve as a community gathering space. They will eventually branch into events, but first want to keep the sole focus on running the brewery.
"It could be a community place in a community that doesn't have anything yet," she said.
They will continue making some of Lake Superior Brewing's core recipes, like its Kayak Kolsch brew, and will branch into creative new brews, Maxim said.
"As a brew pub style, we're able to have more variety and rotating things," she said. "And that's what Seth loves to do. He likes to be creative, he likes to try new things."
The Maxims are crowdfunding to help with renovations and have a $50,000 goal.
With their strong background in the brewery business and work ethic, Maxim said she's positive they can carry on Lake Superior Brewing's legacy.
"We understand that it's going to require a lot of work. And we understand that we're going to be married to this probably for the rest of our lives. But we're up for the challenge," she said.