Next time you're winding East towards that Great Lake on Highway 61, keep an eye out for a lighthouse jutting into Agate Bay. Technically, that 19th Century brick beauty guides ships, but if you ask a local, you’ll find it’s also pretty good at directing weary travelers to their next pint.
After a few years of peddling home brewed kegs and growlers out of a garage near their family’s resort, Castle Haven Cabins, husband and wife team, Clint and Jamie MacFarlane opened Castle Danger Brewery in 2014. With the help of Jamie’s cousin Mandy, and her husband Lon, the brewery is on its way to joining Fitger’s and Bent Paddle as a Northern Minnesota mainstay.
The bar lies just a quick walk away from what is now the Historic Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast. Minnesota Native? Fond of the nostalgic feeling that accompanies the phrase, “Up North?” You get it. Sweeping views of the harbor coupled with small batch, craft beer really seem to tug Minnesotans out and up—tourists and locals alike.
Currently featuring 8 original brews, from the Wimpy Lager to the Mosaic Fresh Hop IPA, the MacFarlanes serve up big time flavor with warm, small town heart. “Our brewery has become a little bit of an attraction… we’re 12 miles from Gooseberry falls, twenty miles from Split Rock…we make really great beer, and there’re tourists all year long,” Jamie says as she reflects on the taproom’s success.
Take a quick weekend trip to the North Shore, and it’s easy to understand the excitement that surrounds this homespun watering hole. Once a booming logging town in the early 1900s, today, Two Harbors’ main street feels a little tired, a little wind-worn. After a long afternoon of hiking, or canoeing, Castle Danger reestablishes the town as a perfectly situated rest-stop— get out, wind down, warm up with a brew.
Revitalizing the city’s downtown area and giving back to their neighbors is one of the MacFarlane’s biggest priorities. “Clint and I are both from Two Harbors … our parents are from Two Harbors, our grandparents grew up in Two Harbors … we built this brewery because we wanted to reinvest in the city that is home to us and our families,” Jamie says of her ties to the area. In keeping with this spirit of community, the MacFarlanes encourage patrons to order in food from nearby restaurants, and invite local musicians to showcase their talents.
Food, music, beer— Castle Danger pulls in patrons from all walks of life with this classic trifecta. Saturday afternoons find the bar crowded by as many older couples and flannel-clad townies as youthful day-trippers. Jamie seems a little puzzled, but pleased by the brewery’s broad appeal. “We really just wanted it to be a nice place to hang out,” Jamie says, “You’re here, you’re playing games, you’re talking to each other … beer is casual … it’s a hangin’ out kind of beverage.”
While everything about Castle Danger’s wood floors and warm space feels small-town friendly, the operation itself continues to reach beyond its roots. The MacFarlanes currently work with a 30 barrel brewing system, and distribute to over 200 different restaurants and liquor stores across Minnesota. “We have room to add more fermentation and finishing tanks in our current space, and we’re looking forward to rolling out our first 16 ounce cans this Spring,” Jamie reflects on the work that lies ahead. “There’s definitely more growth in store for us.”
When the MacFarlanes aren’t busy building up their brand, they find time to relax with their two young sons, Cale and Brody. “We love taking the boys out hiking, exploring Gooseberry or Split Rock… We’re so happy to live in this area… to live on the same property my grandparents homesteaded back in 1902. Two Harbors is home.”
Photos and words by Diana Crane // Find this article inside the second issue of Make it Minnesota