Fitger’s scraps plans for North Loop brewpub

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November 5, 2012 // UPDATED 6:02 pm - January 1, 2013
By: Ben Johnson & Jeremy Zoss
Ben Johnson & Jeremy Zoss

Minneapolis residents will have to wait at least a few more years for a taste of Duluth’s Brewhouse beer.

Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson, co-owners of Fitgers Brewhouse and several other restaurants in Duluth, have shelved plans to open a brewpub in the former location of Trocaderos restaurant in the North Loop neighborhood at 107 3rd Ave. N. 

The partners signed a purchase agreement to buy the historic North Loop building in June. They had  hoped to open a brewpub in the late fall or early winter this year featuring their popular Brewhouse beers alongside a few Twin Cities-brewed favorites. They never closed on the deal, however, choosing instead to pursue other opportunities in Duluth.

“We are first and foremost a Duluth company,” said Brad Nelson, a spokesman for Just Take Action, the parent company of Raymond and Nelson’s restaurants. “After looking at the scope of the Minneapolis project along with our new opportunities in Duluth, we decided to circle back and keep the focus local.”

It’s been a busy year for Raymond and Nelson. On New Year’s Eve last year they opened Tycoon’s Alehouse and Eatery in the newly renovated Old City Hall building in downtown Duluth. Tycoon’s was their fourth restaurant in Duluth featuring Brewhouse beer, pushing their small brewery close to maximum capacity.

Raymond and Nelson are now constructing a much larger brewery in an 18,000-square-foot, three-story building just down the street from Tycoon’s. In addition, on Oct. 5 they spent $300,000 to purchase Endion Station, a historic train depot in Canal Park. Plans for developing Endion Station are still in the early stages, but it is certain more of their famous craft beer will be sold there.

Originally all of the Brewhouse beer on tap at the planned Minneapolis brewpub was going to be imported from Duluth until an on-site brewery was built. With their small brewery straining to keep up and more projects on tap in Duluth, the much-anticipated entry into the burgeoning Minneapolis microbrewery scene became unfeasible.

“Everything seemed like a great fit at first,” said Brad Nelson. “But ultimately we decided that going to Minneapolis would take a lot of time and energy, and put a lot of strain on our managers.”

In the mean time Minneapolis residents will have plenty of other places to grab a pint of local brew. Since the passing of the “Surly Law” in late May last year — which allowed Minnesota breweries producing less than 250,000 barrels a year to serve their beer on site — taprooms have been sprouting up everywhere.

Recently Northbound Smokehouse, Indeed, and Fulton breweries have all opened taprooms or brewpubs in Minneapolis, with 612 Brew, Dangerous Man, and Northgate set to open soon.

Although it didn’t work out this time, the owners of Fitger’s Brewhouse are optimistic about bringing their craft beer to Minneapolis in the future.

“Minneapolis is such a cool town with a great beer culture…eventually we would like to circle back and be a part of it,” said Nelson.