I hope you all had a nice Memorial Day weekend last week. The weather was mostly cold, but it did get a little warmer. Folks were out and about, the trees are greening up, lawns need mowing, and the lake never looked better.

I’m glad to be feeling the first slow and careful movements toward leaving the pandemic behind us. At Hoops Brewing, we opened our beer hall to 75% capacity and set up a Biergarten in the parking lot. It seems like the first baby steps to a new and better normal, hopefully.

I personally — like many of you — have had a roller-coaster day-to-day life over the last year and a half. I’ve learned many things during this time, seen many things and feel fortunate to be looking at the coming summer as a return to semi-normalcy. From my own personal experience, friendships, family and business relationships have strengthened and expanded in ways that have opened my eyes a bit. I’m sure you all can identify. Hopefully, you are all healthy and excited to move forward.

As I look toward summer, with Grandma’s Marathon back on, Fourth of July and the many more local events, barbeques, family gatherings at the lake, and more, I really feel the strong ties and a deep sense of pride of the whole region sticking together through the pandemic. Finally, we get to let the good times roll — together.

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As we go into this summer, I truly look forward to my fellow brewers and myself putting forth our best foot to welcome you all back to our awesome beer community here in Duluth. We’re so lucky to live here near the greatest lake; we are neighbors; and we are close to getting back to day-to-day fun.

I am so happy we brewers have supported each other, and we are still here making great beers in the Northland. Considering that we have the best brewing water (maybe, well almost certainly) on earth, the sky is the limit. There is a lot of room for optimism. Almost everyone I run into feels similar and has their own COVID-19 stories, ranging from sadness and loneliness to life-changing and transformative and everything in between.

For myself, the natural beauty of the Northland was a huge part of coping with the stress and restrictions. Reconnecting with and meeting new neighbors outside was also a welcome comfort. I have spent quite a bit of time walking my dog. I was really touched with the engagement and the outright kindness I saw over and over in my neighborhood.

So pandemic or not, get out there and walk, bike, run, even take a drive up the shore and visit some of the recently opened classic locations that have suffered the past year-plus, and say “hi” to your neighbor.

Since we are talking summer, let’s look ahead at some favorite activities that we may have missed last year and hopefully can jump back into (with beer pairings of course).

Lakewalk picnic: Sandwiches and light lager.

Hawk Ridge hike: Water and a nice raspberry or fruit wheat.

Slow canoe paddle: Toss a line in and crack a session ale.

First family get-together: Whatever the family likes! Mine: stout, light ale, pale ale and maybe a fruit beer.

Beach day: Since beer is not allowed on Park Point, I would say a nice nonalcoholic option that many local breweries are offering.

So, here’s to Duluth, summer 2021 and trying to stay positive and hopeful for the future. I’m proud to live in Duluth and am happy, frankly, that my family, friends and neighbors were here during this tough time in human history.

Cheers and thanks, Dave.

Dave Hoops lives and works in Duluth and is a veteran brewer and beer judge. Write to him at dave@hoopsbrewing.com.