Last year about this time I discovered that Castle Danger Brewery was set to open a new taproom in Two Harbors, Minnesota. I had been to the brewery during a trip out there in 2013 and HERE is my review of their old site from that trip. The old location was in a small red shed well off the beaten path in the town of Castle Danger. Their brew system at the time was one of the smallest in the state, brewing only 3 barrels of beer per batch. I enjoyed my brief trip out there, but was excited that they were ramping up production and able to invest in a larger system and taproom. We just missed the opening of the new site last summer, but were able to get out there this year prior to the All Pints North Beer Festival in Duluth.
Located about 30 minutes north of Duluth, Two Harbors is a cute little town with a rich history and a respectable summer tourist trade. Old fashioned trading posts, nick-knack shops, eateries, and more abound--along with some awesomely tacky statues of chickens and fur-traders. The new brewery is a bit further into town about a block from the train depot and train museum.
The brewery itself hosts a large red/maroon building out back that looks like an enormously scaled up version of their old red shed. Entering the main taproom doors your first sight is the huge block of wood hanging over the bar with the brewery logo scrawled upon it. Lots of seating and a wide open taproom space with tons of ambient lighting makes this one of the most comfortable and up-beat taprooms I've been in. None of that somber dark wood and metal Northeast Minneapolis stuff here! This is Up North Style light pine wood, maroon paint, and open expanses. Another large room is off to the right as you enter--with an accessory bar and a large close able door--to host special events. Even more seating was available outside on a wrap-around patio area, but it was way too hot to sit out there on that 90 degree day! With the Duluth beer festival soon to begin, there were a fair amount of visitors from the Twin Cities, as well as several locals coming by for growler fills. The staff manning the bar were quick and efficient at getting everyone settled in and happily sipping beers.
I really liked the pine taster trays that firmly snuggled my 4 taster glasses within its wooden grasp. For each beer the server placed a small sticker with the name, type, and ABV near the glass. I've actually never seen this technique before and thought it was pretty slick!
Castle Danger beers in the past for me have been a little hit and miss, perhaps due to the small batch size and difficulty dialing in consistency with their old tiny system. Recently, the buzz among beer people is that the beers are much better, (even available in cans now) prompting me to make sure I got out to the brewery this visit. This time I was not disappointed: the beers I tried were all quite solid. The high point for me was probably the George Hunter Stout, named for the brewer's great-great grandfather. That beer was a strong 8% ABV stout that fairly burst with roastiness but had enough malt sweetness to balance it out. I'd be happy to drink that one again! Next up was the hoppy and biscuity pale ale 17-7, also quite drinkable and balanced. I followed this with a version of the stout aged in red wine barrels that was very different from it's basic form--much more tannic and almost astringent from the barrel and wine effect. Not bad, but I liked the regular George Hunter more. And last but not least was the Double Crossing, a double IPA that was good, but seemed a tad unbalanced to the bitter and boozy side. Still a good beer though--I'm splitting hairs here!
I enjoyed the bright, happy, bustling taproom quite a bit. The beers I tried were all good and I would recommend any of them to you. Any quibbles I have about them were purely based on personal taste preferences and not any fermentation or process issues. Frankly I was impressed with the massive changes since my previous visit to the old brewery. If you get into Two Harbors (or even just drive past it to get to the North Shore) I suggest you stop in here for a taster or a pint!
|Check out the historic depot a block away to get your train fix after having a pint!|