Superior, Duluth share spotlight in brewery book
A presentation steeped in local lager lore takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22, at The Cedar Lounge, 1715 N. Third St., Superior.
Tony Dierckins, lead author of "Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth & Superior," will give a brief history of beer brewing in Superior from 1859 to today. Special appearances by the grandson of longtime brewmaster Dick Hartel and Bob Byrne, who worked at Northern Brewing Company in its final 10 years, are expected. Dierckins and coauthor Pete Clure will be on hand to sign copies of the book's softcover and hardcover editions.
The Cedar Lounge was built by Northern Brewing in 1912 as a tied-house saloon, dedicated to serving strictly Northern brews. Now the taproom for Earth Rider Brewing, it's part of Superior's brewing present as well as its past.
"Get your history where it's made," Dierckins said.
The author, historian and publisher of Zenith City Press has tackled local history before. This title, he said, was unique because the brewing industry is so active today. The last changes made before the book hit the press was the addition of information on Thirsty Pagan's new head brewer, Kathleen Culhane, and Duluth's Ursa Minor Brewing Company, which was just about to open.
"We're adding to history that started in 1859," Dierckins said. "It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10 years for the 11 breweries in the Twin Ports."
Another thing that sets this book apart is the large draught of Superior history that's been poured in. Both Duluth and Superior trace their first breweries back to 1859, with J.G. Busch & Co. on one side of the bay, Klein & Kiichli on the other.
At one time, Superior was the second largest city in Wisconsin. For a time, its population exceeded that of Duluth. Northern Brewing, with all its saloons and tied houses, paid more in property taxes than any other Superior company in 1910. There's even a section on how what was once the Head of the Lakes became known as the Twin Ports.
As the prohibition movement gained steam, Duluth and Superior took turns going dry. A sidebar dedicated to the "Bridges Between Wet & Dry" describes how booze figuratively sloshed back and forth between the two cities, and the prominent role the village of Oliver played for beer lovers.
Through sidebars, Dierckins and Clure were able to give an overview of other brewing operations in the area, including the Iron Range and South Shore.
The book is brimming with art, from beer labels and old photos to pictures of kegs, bottles, trays, clocks, taps, even an apron. Much of it came from Clure, a sales representative for Michaud Distributing who's been collecting beer memorabilia since he was a kid.
"I worked on this book for two years," Dierckins said. "Pete's been working on it for 40."
There are two fabled Superior sights he wasn't able to find photos of—a picture of a Northern Brewing billboard by the Nemadji River that featured a clock and a picture of the second Klinkert brewery, which once stood along Scranton Ave. Anyone with pictures of them is encouraged to bring them to the presentation.
The deep roots of Twin Ports brewing, and the return of brewing to the area, may have something to do with the area.
"Lake Superior water makes a huge difference," Dierckins said. "It's very soft and it's so pure. It's like a painter working with a blank canvas."
This book's been tapping on the Duluth man's shoulder for some time. His father worked for Hamm's, his first job in Duluth was serving up brews at Chichis restaurant in the former Fitger's Brewery complex. And he worked on Clarence "Cooper" Johnson's book, "Fitgers: The Brewery and its People."
"By the time I got around to this book, it was about time," Dierckins said.
The new book presents beer lovers with a historic lens through which to view their brew. It also offers a mix of area history for teetotalers.
"The stories flow with the development of Duluth and Superior," Dierckins said.
And the final chapter has yet to be written.
"Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth & Superior" is available at Globe News, Thirsty Pagan and at the event. Visit zenithcity.com/beer for more information.