“Our first taproom was not part of our original plan,” Bent Paddle co-founder Laura Mullen explains. “But then the Surly Bill happened, and we put one in.”
Ah, yes. Remember the dark ages? Before breweries were allowed to sell pints out of their production properties?
Well Bent Paddle was around before that, so for obvious reasons, they didn’t craft their space with customers in mind. And that oh-whoops-we-need-a-taproom-now shift may not surprise you if you’ve visited the Duluth brewery on weekends, when it’s often standing room only (and always packed enough that Bent Paddle has to shut down production).
“It’s definitely been undersized,” Mullen chuckles.
So for the last year, they’ve been working on a new taproom. It opened on Thursday—and the cool thing is, it’s just a block from the original brewery.
It’s also beautiful:
Bent Paddle’s team worked with a ton of local artists and designers to create the space; those paddles you see in the photo above were all crafted by Wisconsin and Minnesota artisans. And their taproom 2.0 has lots of different nooks and crannies and places to hang—it’s a veritable choose-your-own adventure kind of space.
There’s bubble hockey and pinball and darts…
There's a super-luxe seating area with a fireplace...
And, crucially, there are way more taps—60 total!—with which the team (now featuring three brand-new beertenders to boot) will serve thirsty visitors.
As for the beer: The updated facility has a seven-barrel pilot system, a “playground” in addition to their 30-barrel production space that will let Bent Paddle showcase more inventive taproom and draft-only beers.
“And we’re not ripping down the old taproom, it’s still in place,” Mullen adds. Saturday and Sunday tours will continue to launch from there, where you’ll get a chance to see the full production experience.
It seems to be a hit—this weekend, even with a snowstorm dropping more than a foot of snow, Bent Paddle went through a whopping 35 kegs.
“I’m a Duluthian, born and raised, and I’m just really happy to have a neat place for people to go," says Mullen. As one of Bent Paddle's four co-founders (two husband-wife duos), she's just happy to be part of the city's blooming culture. “Our taproom has been such a community and gathering place. Duluth is really growing right now, there’s a really neat resurgence of young professionals moving here, and to be part of that culture, making cool places for people to go, has been a really awesome gig.”
1812 W. Michigan St., Duluth