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New ideas brewing for Cloquet revitalization

Vats are ready for hops to begin the brewing process at the Moose Lake Brewing Company last fall. Pine Journal File Photo1 / 2
Custom carved handles decorate the taps at Moose Lake Brewing Company. Pine Journal File Photo2 / 2

The Cloquet Economic Development Authority (EDA) has been looking for ideas to help the city of Cloquet grow by attracting new businesses and would like to see some type of brewery, brew pub or similar business come to town.

"It's a draw, they create a destination," Cloquet Community Development Director Holly Hansen explained. "They bring a unique flavor to the city."

As part of those efforts, the Cloquet City Council created a variance earlier this year to allow new brewery related businesses in town while making an amendment to the current city code for alcoholic beverages. As a result, now the zoning commision is doing a little administrative cleanup and discussed at the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night where to allow the brewing businesses. They wanted to be proactive and specific where the facilities will be allowed as well as decide on zoning ordinances before it becomes an issue.

"The commission discussed the brewing business (at Tuesday night's meeting) and felt that they should be allowed in the commercial, light industrial and office/manufacturing districts," said Zoning Administrator Al Cottingham.

"The west end of Cloquet is a great opportunity with good locations," Hansen said, bubbling with enthusiasm.

While Duluth and Superior have a number of different breweries, brew pubs, taprooms and other related businesses, Carlton County has only one: the Moose Lake Brewing Company opened in the fall and celebrated its grand opening last month.

The language of brewing may be unfamiliar to some, so a primer follows:

A brewer is a person who manufactures malt liquor for sale and who holds a brewer's license issued by the state of Minnesota.

A brewery taproom, also known as a microbrewery, is a facility on the premises of, or adjacent to, the premises owned by a brewer and licensed under Minn. Statute 340A.301, intended for the on-sale consumption and limited off-sale of beer produced on site by the brewer.

A brew pub means a brewer also holds one or more retail on-sale license(s) and manufactures fewer than 3,500 barrels of malt liquor in a year, at any one licensed premises, the entire production of which is solely for consumption on tap on any licensed premises owned by the brewer or for off-sale from those licensed premises as permitted in Minn. Statute 340A.24.

A micro-distillery is a distillery operated within the state producing premium distilled spirits in total quantity not to exceed 40,000 proof gallons in a calendar year and licensed under Minn. Statute 340A.22. Duluth, for example, has the Vikre micro-distillery in Canal Park.

A cocktail room is a facility on or adjacent to the premises of a micro distillery licensed under Minn. Statute 340A.22, which has been issued a cocktail room license for the on-sale of distilled liquor produced by the distiller for consumption on the premises of or adjacent to one distillery location owned by the distiller.

Growlers are sold at breweries and brew pubs for carryout purposes. A growler is a 64-ounce container of malt liquor brewed and sold to an individual on the site of a licensed brewery taproom for consumption off the licensed premises as prescribed for in Minn. Statute 340A.301.

While Hansen said no one has yet expressed an interest in starting a brewery-related business in Cloquet, the zoning ordinances will be in place when they're ready.

There will be a public hearing at the April 11 Planning Commission meeting for an ordinance amendment for the brew businesses.

If anyone is interested in opening a brewery related business in Cloquet, they can call the EDA at Cloquet City Hall at 218-879-3347.

In other Planning Commission news:

• Taco Bell variances were approved and the site plan was recommended for approval and will go to the city council March 21.

• Commissioners also discussed if a crematory should be allowed in Cloquet. The commissioners were inclined to allow them in commercial and industrial districts but wanted more information before scheduling a public hearing for an ordinance amendment, according to Cottingham.