Hoppy ending: News of brews, pubs in the works

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Here's some news about fresh options coming for Minnesota's seemingly unquenchable thirst for craft beer and a brewery-side seat in which to sip it.

New pubs are in the works in both the metro area and in Duluth for prime beer-drinking season: summer.

The Pioneer Press reported that Washington County's first brewpub is in the process of being readied in a renovated bar and bowling alley in Newport. Autumn and Derrick Lehrke, described by the paper as "Washington County's busy political power couple," purchased the Red Rock Saloon last month. (Autumn Lehrke is a county commissioner, while husband Derrick is a Cottage Grove City Council member). This will be the couple's first foray into large-batch brewing, but they've been home-brewing for about four years.

The couple hopes that the brewpub, to be renamed Opinion Brewing Co., will be operational and pouring beer brewed onsite some time this summer. The spot will offer other local brews on tap, with more than 20 beers likely available. In the meantime, the old building is getting an update and a facelift, from the bowling lanes to the bathrooms.

Meanwhile, the Duluth News Tribune assures devoted beer fans that they will be able to order up a cold one at the famed Fitger’s Brewhouse for the next two decades. The business, which opened in the historic lakeside complex in 1995, has signed a new, 20-year lease on the popular restaurant and pub at the Fitger’s Brewery Complex. The Northland's News Center notes the success of the Brewhouse represents a turnaround for the building, which saw failed or struggling ventures in the past.

With new lease, the Brewhouse is expanding its on-site brewing operation by upgrading its keg system and adding bigger tanks. The upgrades will increase production from 2,850 barrels last year to 3,100 this year.

Another brew-related story in the Duluth newspaper noted that Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson, the entrepreneurs who own Fitger’s Brewhouse and several other Duluth eateries, are expanding their holdings. They plan to open a restaurant in the historic Endion Station on the city's famed Lakewalk in Canal Park in July. The renamed Endion Station Public House, located in a renovated 115-year old building, will offer craft beer on tap, sit-down eating, take out and grab-and-go picnics.

Endion Station is on the National Register of Historic Places. The old railroad terminal previously housed Duluth’s tourism bureau.

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