Monday, July 22, 2013

Duluth Beer Scene: Canal Park Brewing Company Review

On our recent trip to Duluth we were pleased to discover a bunch of new local breweries since the last trip up there in 2011.  One such brewery is Canal Park Brewing Company.  Located smack-dab in the center of Canal Park, this place has automatic name recognition and one of the finest spots for foot traffic I've seen. 

From our hotel (Fitgers) we strolled down the Lakewalk to Canal Park, getting an excellent view of Lake Superior, incoming barges, and the lift bridge.  We arrived at the brewery just after 11 AM for an early lunch and the place was already fairly busy.  By the time we were done eating it was packed in there, probably due in part to the All Pints North beer festival that afternoon had bringing a lot of beer geeks in from the Cities.  I'm guessing the place is always pretty crowded though. 

Outside the entrance we were greeted by old kegs bursting with live flowers and plants.  This is a large building featuring lots of stainless steel, glass, exposed ventilation pipes and concrete.  The brewery still has the new-car-smell, with everything still being shiny and clean.  A nice bar fronted with deep blue tiles is located against the back wall with the serving tanks visible through large glass windows.  Overhanging the bar are unusual light fixtures made of Canal Park growlers with the bottoms cut off.  Several large chalk boards show off the variety of available beers in colorful chalk scrawlings.  They have a large and very impressive outdoor seating area for the few warm months in Duluth.  There is also a small shop near the entrance where you can buy shirts, hats, jewelry and other swag.  I can only imagine how expensive it must have been to build such a big place right in the main touristy area of Duluth, and they have obviously put a lot of money into the décor as well.

I had a burger and Sj had fish tacos for lunch.  Both dishes were decent, but nothing I would write home about.  (But will Blog about...)  Our server was very pleasant, but was so busy that we didn't get the best of service.  I did not have great luck with burgers on this particular trip to Duluth, with every place overcooking them.  Oh well, can't all be as good as Town Hall burgers. 

This isn't blurry, it's just how I was feeling that morning...

They had 10 beers on tap, available in a flight of 4 or a "round trip" of 8.  We shared the round trip so we could taste most of them.  Always hard to decide which beers to include in a sampler--that is why you get the sampler in the first place!  We had tried the Maibock the previous day with my cousin, so I could let that one go, and since I'm not a huge pilsner fan I let that one go as well.  Sj and I agreed that the best beer they had was Kessel Run ESB, and yes I drank it in under 12 parsecs.  The Dawn Treader Tripel and the Saison were pretty good too.  Overall the beers were respectable, but not nearly as good as Bent Paddle's.  They had a gluten free pale ale that was pretty hideous, but I appreciate them trying to do something like this.  I like the idea of a hoppy gluten free beer to cover up the usual weird taste, but this one had such an astringent aftertaste that I couldn't get more than a sip or so down.  Checking my phone just after trying this beer, I spotted a text from Shawn warning me not to get that one.  Too late!

Overall, I liked this brewpub, but with some reservations.  We did not get the best food or service, but this might have been at least partly due to the massive influx of beer folks that day.  The beers were average to slightly above in quality.  Certainly if you are walking around Canal Park, I would recommend stopping in and trying some of the beer to make up your own mind. 

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