Not many breweries can boast having a 25-mile-long driveway, but that’s not the case for Lake Superior Brewing Company.
Opened in 1994, the brewery sits just off the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Marais at the northern end of M-77. The most difficult aspect of starting a brewery years before the craft beer renaissance was locating affordable equipment.
“It was nonexistent, really, used equipment, and we didn’t have the money to go brand new, so I told you the story of the guy with the motorcycle came in,” LSBC general manager Dave Beckwith said. “Talking to him he said, ‘yeah, I’ve got some friends down in Slidell, Louisiana’, of all places, and we gave a phone call right there and ended up going down and picking up this old equipment; the old bulk milk tanks instead of fermenters.”
Beckwith and the owners flew the men from Louisiana up and were walked through their first brew, which they videotaped for reference.
“I kept telling them, ‘we gotta videotape this’,” Beckwith said. “They said, ‘nah, nah, nah; not necessary’. We did, and then the next time we went to it, we had to go to the videotape because it was, like, we were doing something wrong.”
And now there are consistently six beers on tap, ranging from the light-bodied wheat beers to the dark and hearty Hematite Stout. Beckwith said his secret ingredient is actually one of the four main ingredients needed to brew beer.
“Our secret here in Grand Marais is our water,” Beckwith said. “I can go anywhere and brew this beer, but if I don’t take the water, it won’t be as good. The water is so good here.”
In addition to beer, the brewery’s owners purchased land in Eugene, Oregon and opened a vineyard.
“It was wild,” Beckwith said. “He bought it and the bottom fell out of the grape market. It forced him to make wine, because he was just gonna grow grapes, be a farmer basically and sell them off to the wineries. Well, nobody wanted to buy his grapes, which is a good thing because he makes really good wine.”
And what pairs better with wine than beer?
“He serves beer in his tasting room,” Beckwith said. “He’s the first one to ever do that. Now, all of them have a keg of beer.”
Many people think there’s a great deal to be wanted in a place like Grand Marais, but for Beckwith it’s not about the prestige.
“People say ‘what do you do up there?’ and ‘how are you getting by?’,” he said. “I said, ‘I got the world by the tail. I live in Grand Marais and I make beer for a living.'”
At the end of the day, Lake Superior Brewing Company has one goal: make good beer. They’re not trying to win any awards; they’re just trying to serve the guy sitting at their bar.