Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fitgers Brew House, and Fitgers Hotel

On our recent trip to Duluth we stayed at the historic Fitgers Hotel, right on the shore of Lake Superior and walking distance to Canal Park.  The location can't be beat, especially with a lakeside room that overlooks this ocean-like body of water.  Plus, its a hotel inside the old Fitgers brewery building!  What better place for a beer geek to stay!  Much like a Gideon Bible, each room comes equipped with a copy of a book on the history of the building and of Fitgers Brewery.  I read it cover to cover and enjoyed my stay all the more for it. 

The building itself is a monolithic red stone structure with large double doors (manned by uniformed doormen/valets) opening into a lobby with a high ceiling.  The staff are situated behind an ornate iron lattice-work cashier's cage left over from the original building.  Parking can be a bear, so I recommend the free valet service.  They also have a complimentary shuttle that will take you into and back from the city before 11 PM.  We made much use of this during our stay in Duluth!  Down the hall from the hotel side is a small liquor store, Fitger's Brew House and the Red Star Lounge.  Downstairs is the Fitgers Brew Shop and some other boutique shops.

So the coolest part of staying here is being able to walk down the hall to one of the best brewpubs around.  Fitgers Brew House is small, crowded, and often loud, but serves up some of the best beers in the state.  One can see the fermenters and serving tanks from the outside (glass windows) and from parts of the restaurant inside.  I have been on the tour which takes you back into the cramped brew space and another room where they were working on barrel aging: free and worth a try!  They have live music most Friday and Saturdays (one night's was entertaining, the other bordered on ear-bursting.) 

Fitgers Brewhouse--crowded and loud but great!

The food is a little hit and miss.  They serve burgers made with special Scottish long horned cattle that are fed the spent grains from the brewery, but served mine well done instead of the medium I asked for--a terrible waste of great beef.  Our waitress was not incredibly helpful or present.  In the past I've had better dining experiences here.

The beers are very good and served in great variety.  I got the sampler of 8 beers and still couldn't try all of them (including 2 cask versions.)  Overall I feel like the quality of their standard beers has dropped a bit since I was last here, but still better than 90% of the commercial beers we can get in Minnesota.  I wonder if they are pushing the timing of the beers in order to supply Burrito Union, Red Star, the Brew House and now Tycoon's with enough beer.  It is worth checking out all those places since different beers will be on tap at each... The porter was wonderful and the Red White and Blue was a great raspberry and blueberry wheat beer.

Downstairs is the Brew Shop where one can buy pre-filled growlers, shirts, metal growlers, and other swag.  The growlers from down there will last longer than the ones filled off the taps upstairs...and growler sales end at 10 PM, so plan ahead!  They have Jess Durfee blown glass tap handles for sale too (found upstairs on all the Fitgers taps) I actually have one of them on my kegerator at home! 

Overall the brewpub is a very solid place to visit and try a bunch of beers.  The hotel and complex as a whole is well worth the trip if you are in Duluth.  Getting carted around town by the shuttle was nearly worth the price of admission!  There is something elegant and old-worldly about a stay at this converted old brewery.  The ironwork grates, the door-sized iron safe, the aromas of age and history with a hint of mashing grain, all lead to a nostalgia for what once was. 

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