Long days at Lake Superior Brewery pay off

By Gram Krause-Lyons Today is an easy day for Dale Kleinschmidt since it’s only going to be a 10-hour day.  His more difficult days start as early as 4:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Although many jobs require long days, the job that requires Kleinschmidt to be in at such an hour may be surprising.

Kleinschmidt is the head brewer at Lake Superior Brewing Company, a local Duluth brewery that is still relatively unknown in the area.  Despite this, Kleinschmidt and the rest of his team at the brewery work hard to make a quality product and it shows.  Every non-seasonal beer they’ve brewed has won an award at the World Beer Championship, an international beer competition. This year, their seasonal Oktoberfest beer won gold.

“The awards feel good,” Kleinschmidt said. “It just helps to validate the work I put into it.”

This day is easier because Kleinschmidt is making only one batch of beer, the early days come when he has to make a double batch. Today he is working on one of their lighter beers called Kayak Kolsch. The beer was the highest-ranked Kolsch at the 2002 World Beer Championship, according to the brewery’s Web site.

Kleinschmidt puts his heart and soul into the beer he makes. In fact, he hasn’t had a day off since March 1 of this year.

Kleinschmidt loves his job. He made his first batch of home brewed beer in 1971, and discovered a passion for brewing beer.

More than twenty years after brewing his first draft, Kleinschmidt heard through his homebrew club of a company that was going to start brewing beer in the Duluth area--the Lake Superior Brewing Company. In 1995 he began as a volunteer at the start-up company. By his third week he was offered an apprenticeship at the brewery, working 20 to 30 hours a week.

Three years later, when the brewery moved from a small room in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex to its current location in West Duluth, Dale was offered the company’s first paid position as an assistant brewer.

Kleinschmidt’s years of hard work were recognized in 2000 when he was made the head brewer. He’s created many of Lake Superior’s award-winning beers, but the awards aren’t what motivate him.  “I would still make a quality product even if no one bought it.” he said.

It isn’t so far from the truth.  Despite the many awards, few have heard of the small brewery in Duluth.  In fact, they sold exactly zero kegs of their gold-medal winning Oktoberfest beer in the Duluth area, said Kleinschmidt.

Kleinschmidt said he doesn’t let being unknown get him down.  “We are the only real brewery in Duluth, not a brew pub,” he said.

Kleinschmidt is looking to increase awareness of the company.  Many days he starts a batch and hands the reins to his assistant brewer, then he hits the streets conducting beer tastings and other events

In the mean time, loyal Lake Superior Brewing fans will continue to enjoy the beer that Kleinschmidt and his team produce. As for the future, Kleinschmidt said he hopes that the word will spread.  That might mean more early mornings, filling orders and perfecting recipes, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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