One of life’s great but simple pleasures, widely recognised, is the aroma, taste, and satisfaction offered by truly fresh bread. Another, less well acknowledged, is the same sequence of sensuous experiences brought forth by really fresh beer. — Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter, in Best Drunk When Fresh
Article by Meagan Wilson
Photos courtesy of Two Harbors Chamber of Commerce, and Castle Danger Brewing
What two things go together better than craft beer and travel? Some wise guy will probably say, “Peas and carrots.” Fine, I’ll grant you that point. But beer and travel are a much more interesting combination, with far better
opportunities for good photos.
Vacations built around craft beer, or at least prominently featuring beer in the itinerary, are now common. At least, common among people who like beer. Since you’re here, we’ll continue under the assumption that means you.
If asked to name the top U.S. destinations for craft beer, what cities/areas would make the list?
Portland, OR seems a good choice. Seattle, also likely. Fort Collins, CO, indubitably. San Francisco? Miami? San Diego? Austin, TX?
Strangely enough, in “The Top Ten Places in the U.S. for Craft Beer” a new consumer report published by RewardExpert, not one of those cities makes the list. How is this possible?
RewardExpert gives a somewhat brief explanation of their methods below their report (at the bottom of the page), so I won’t recount that whole paragraph here. However, it appears they’ve applied a great deal of quantitative data analysis to millions of reviews posted to popular beer review sites such as RateBeer, and using a data set from POI Factory have calculated the averages ratings for beers, breweries and geographic areas, to come up with a Top 10 list unlike any other you’re likely to see in the craft beer world. In short, they’ve attempted to quantify something that is inherently qualitative.
Thanks to this method, Two Harbors, MN and the Arrowhead Region ranks number one for U.S. craft beer destinations. Well-known beer meccas such as Seattle, Portland, San Fran and San Diego don’t appear at all, though Boulder, CO takes second place, Ashville, NC comes in fifth, Portland, NE is eight, and Bend, OR straggles in at number ten.
What about Two Harbors, then?
These results made me curious about Two Harbors, MN. At the 2016 census, this little town on the north shore of Lake Superior boasted a population of 3,562. Not exactly a booming metropolis, eh? But that’s not really the point of visiting a tiny lakeside town. Lake Superior may be fairly windy and cold, but it’s also very beautiful. According to the Chamber of Commerce website, eight state parks lie somewhere between Two Harbors and Canada. Naturally, there’s boating and fishing to be done on the lake, and the lighthouse does appear quite scenic.
And the beer?
While there may be several breweries somewhat near Two Harbors, a Google Maps search is likely to pinpoint Castle Danger Brewery as the place to go. The RewardExpert study attributed a 4/5 score to this North Shore brewery and taproom, and they have a 3.92/5 BeerAdvocate score. Of course, that’s only a very small part of their story. Since I’ve not visited yet, I can’t give you my own review of their beer. But, one of the most important attributes of beer folk, is that they love their craft, and they love to share it.
When I contacted the Chamber of Commerce to ask if they had any local photos available to share, not only did the City Clerk respond, but someone from Castle Danger Brewery offered to help me out with photos, too.
Is Two Harbors, MN a top destination for craft beer? Possibly not if you’re looking to visit several breweries within the same city. Is it a lovely burg on a huge lake, with helpful people and a great deal of natural scenery? Looks like it, but there are probably 17 ways to find out. If you decide to fly in, the Duluth airport is about 31 miles from Two Harbors.
RewardExpert – Top Ten Places in the U.S. for Craft Beer
Castle Danger Brewery