Fitger’s Brewhouse – It All Started Here
Duluth’s First Brewery Also Serves up some Pretty Tasty Grub
Any beer brewer worth their salt would agree: quality water makes all the difference. And no water on Earth brews up a tastier batch of suds than fresh, pure Lake Superior water.
The fine folks at Fitger’s Brewhouse know this to be true. As Minnesota’s oldest brewpub – and Duluth's first brewery – Fitger’s was founded by Sidney Luce in 1857. It has been owned by local businessman Rod Raymond (who also owns Duluth hotspots Burrito Union, the Rathskeller, The Barrel Room, and The Oliver Inn), since 1995.
In addition to brewing up some tasty craft beers, the Brewhouse also offers a wide variety of delicious food. Appetizers, wraps, burgers, soups, salads, chili, and even desserts offer something for everyone. Patrons can sip a cold one while enjoying a good meal (and some epic people-watching) in the historic Fitger’s complex.
Please join us for this edition of Eat & Drink Duluth, where we sip some suds and munch on some delicious pub grub!
Fitger’s Brewhouse combines the relaxed ambiance of a mountain brewery (it was inspired by the beer brewing scene out west) with an uncompromising dedication to quality. The Brewhouse has established a tradition of offering Duluth craft beer, fantastic local pub food, and excellent live music on Lake Superior's North Shore.
Every year, Fitger's Brewhouse brewery produces over 1,500 barrels of beer in over 50 varieties. Fitger's Brewhouse carries a rotating combination of 20 unique brews, including cask-conditioned ale and award-winning Duluth beers such as Witchtree E.S.B. and Big Boat Oatmeal Stout.
The extensive menu includes many delicious pub fare, and its stage hosts live music from local and touring entertainers. If you like craft beer, local food, and live music, this is one Duluth restaurant you won't want to miss.
The vibe at the Brewhouse is an interesting mix of old (think bluestone walls, dark trim, and vintage signs) and new (stickers everywhere, chalkboards, trendy exposed ductwork). During our visit – which was happy hour on a Friday – the Brewhouse was definitely hoppin’. Pun intended.
Amongst the other patrons, we encountered a large wedding party, couples, parents with kids, and plenty of iterations in between. The Brewhouse is a popular, high-energy place that will likely be pretty busy anytime you go.
Seating ranges from high-top tables, low-top tables, booths, and an upstairs loft area – you can even belly up to the bar. And if you’re into live music, this is the place to be.
The Brewhouse serves up plenty of flagship beers, along with several rotating seasonals. On the day of our visit, there was even a pumpkin varietal – Devil’s Track Pumpkin – on tap.
After some consideration, I opted for the Apricot Wheat. From the menu:
A marriage of American wheat ale with apricot. The spicy wheat balances the fruit flavors perfectly with a light body and a dry, crisp finish.
Mike chose the Lighthouse Golden. From the menu:
Our lightest ale that is the perfect introduction to craft beer. With more flavor than an American lager, this beer is golden in color with subtle maltiness, light flavors, and light body.
Both beers were exactly as advertised. I love a fruity beer, and the Apricot really hit the spot. The beer was just mildly sweet; however, the sweetness was enhanced by my meal choice, which I’ll get to in just a bit.
And the Lighthouse Golden is of the crisp, easy-drinking variety. As advertised, it is a great way to dip your toe into the delicious waters of craft beer.
I opted for one of the Brewhouse’s three wild rice burgers, the Classic, hold the mayo. From the menu:
Our classic vegetarian wild rice burger patty topped with cheddar cheese, Roma tomatoes, sprouts, red onion, and garlic mayo.
Brewhouse burgers are served with your choice of beer-battered French fries, blue corn chips with salsa, coleslaw, carrots & celery, or steamed broccoli. Or, you can select salad, soup, chili, or onion rings for an extra charge. I decided to live dangerously, and upgraded to their onion rings.
For those who don’t know, Minnesota wild rice is a local delicacy. Locals use it in everything from casseroles (or “hot dish,” as we say) and soups, to breads and entrees, including meatless burgers.
This burger was surprisingly thick and hearty, and I would add - almost “meaty.” It was flavored with the perfect blend of herbs and spices. Fresh, crunchy sprouts were an interesting but delicious addition, adding to the flavor profile. The tomato slice was firm and the red onion was crisp. A generous piece of cheddar covered the entire burger, and it was all served on a toasted, buttered bun.
And the onion rings were deliciously beer battered and crisp. I was glad for the upgrade. I dipped everything in ketchup, but now I’m thinking a side of creamy ranch might be a good choice for next time.
The sweet apricot flavor from my beer was enhanced by the salty, rich flavor of the burger. A delicious pairing that I would highly recommend.
Mike ordered the Brewhouse beer-battered fish. From the menu:
Three cod fillets fried until golden brown, and served with tartar sauce.
And, Mike opted for the classic beer-battered fries as his side.
The beer batter on the cod was crisp and flavorful, and the fish was tender and mild. The crunchy beer-battered fries were on the thinner side, with a slightly chewy, soft inside. The tartar sauce featured large chunks of sweet pickles – a tasty complement to the fish.
The Lighthouse Golden provided a great accompaniment to this classic pub meal.
Both of our menu choices were indicated with a star, which means they are Brewhouse best-sellers.
Our server, Teresa Kunes, has worked at the Brewhouse for 18 years, and spoke highly of the establishment. She shared that she loves the atmosphere, her co-workers, and her boss. In fact, her husband, two sons, and daughter all work here, too!
Teresa gladly answered all of our Brewhouse questions with the breezy casualness that comes with 18 years of practice. She was polite, professional, and personable – an alliterate trifecta of perfect hospitality.
Fitger’s Brewhouse is a wonderful place to grab an artisanal brew, eat some delicious pub food, and people watch. The vibe is fun and energetic, and the service is even better. It’ll be a point of pride to tell all your friends that you kicked it with a beer at Minnesota’s oldest brewpub – and Duluth's first brewery.
And if you don’t live here – yet – but are visiting Duluth, make sure to explore the entire complex of establishments within the Fitger’s complex. There are lots of unique niche shops, and plenty to see and do.
To learn more, please visit fitgersbrewhouse.com.
Andrea Busche is a Duluth and regional freelance writer credited with over 1,000 bylines in local print and digital publications. Her food column, Local Pairings, was first featured in Duluth.com magazine, and later published in the Duluth News Tribune from 2016-2018.