History is being made in Superior this week.
For the first time in more than half a century, a production brewery is rolling filled cans of beer at a rate of a case per minute. Earth Rider beer, in cans, is hitting the shelves at Keyport Liquor, Belknap Liquor, the Hammond, Super One, the Shack and President's Liquor, according to Frank Kaszuba, director of brewing for Earth Rider.
It's the first time since Northern Brewing closed in 1967 that a local brew has been available to buy in Superior.
Founder Tim Nelson said in talking to people who worked for the former brewery, the loss of the local brewery was felt, but there is a renewed energy and a sense of validation in launching the brewery.
"It's bringing back an industry," said Brad Nelson, director of brands. "And it's craft beer that is noteworthy. We want people to know they're supporting their local economy."
Canning operations at Earth Rider got underway Wednesday and the first six-packs of 12-ounce cans started to hit the shelves at local bottle shops Thursday.
Until now, Earth Rider beer has been exclusively available in 32-ounce cans (crowlers) at the Cedar Lounge taproom, and on draft at local restaurants and taverns.
"For me, it's a really exciting opportunity," said Tim Wilson who co-leads brewing operations at Earth Rider with Allyson Rolph. "I've been brewing for about six years, and to get an opportunity like this in this industry, in an area you already live in is kind of big. I was able to hop on board with this from the beginning."
Wilson said it's been very satisfying because the city has embraced Earth Rider Brewery.
Four Earth Rider flagship styles - Superior Pale Ale, North Tower Stout, Precious Material Halles and Caribou Lake IPA - will be canned initially.
This week, the pale ale was the focus as brewery staff trained on the canning equipment made by Wild Goose Canning in Boulder, Colorado. In the coming weeks, the other styles will be ramped up and begin rolling off the line.
"We are excited to reach this milestone," Tim Nelson said. "Fans of local craft will be able to find Earth Rider beer in more restaurants and taverns, and take it home from their favorite bottle shop."
While the canned beer will initially be available in the Twin Ports, the brewery plans to expand this summer to include shipments to the South Shore to Ashland in Wisconsin and the North Shore to Two Harbors, Minnesota, and other points in the Lake Superior watershed such as Hayward, Wisconsin, Brad Nelson said.
"Beer is like bread; it's better when it's fresh," Brad Nelson said. "Keeping our distribution tight lets us get our beer from the kettles to people's homes or kitchens that much faster."