It’s no secret that many Minnesotans love Duluth. The city is a gateway to state parks and outdoor adventures, it’s filled with locally owned restaurants, and it sits on the shores of the Greatest Lake. Duluth has also become a small haven of craft beer; it’s home to Bent Paddle and neighbor to Castle Danger, two of Minnesota’s most recognizable breweries right now.
Ursa Minor is the newest addition to Duluth’s craft beer scene and, oh, is it a gem. When I visited on a Saturday night, the modestly sized taproom was filled with people enjoying beer, pizza, and live music by The Moonlight Community; a few brave folks even sat around fires on the expansive patio, braving the chilly fog that was beginning to roll in.
A pergola hangs over the warmly lit bar, serving as a hanging rack for the mug club and supporting a canoe as well as a moose head woven from branches. Other taproom art references the brewery’s name with drawings of bears and constellations cut out of steel. Ursa Minor, which means Little/Smaller Bear in Latin, is better known as the Little Dipper. Its counterpart, Ursa Major or the Big Dipper, points us to the North Star.
I got to try several beers during my visit, each of which surpassed any expectation I had.
- Grizzly Rooster; American IPA; 6% ABV, 59 IBU; a balanced and solid example of the style
- Caballo Blanco; Ginger Saison; 6.9% ABV, 26 IBU; a funky take on the style with a unique ginger spiciness
- Cherry Cream Float; Cherry Vanilla Lactose Sour; 5.4% ABV, 0 IBU; a milkshake sour isn’t something I’ve seen beyond Inbound BrewCo’s Pastry Ale Series, and I loved this variant
While the beer was worth the drive north on its own, the pizza was…something else. I got The Voyageur, which was made with red sauce, kale, oyster mushrooms, ricotta, parmesan & balsamic glaze. I took one bite and shouted, “This is the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!” Maybe I’m just a sucker for kale and mushrooms, and maybe I was starting to feel the cocktails I had at Vikre, but I then proceeded to demolish half the pie while eyeing my boyfriend’s half as he finished it.
Before reluctantly leaving the source of my greatest pizza love for the night, I got some advice from Holly, who was (wo)manning the bar that evening. She told me, “Don’t worry too much what other people think of you. All through college and beyond I had to learn that.” Now, Holly believes she embodies that advice. I’ll take that advice to mean, “I won’t judge you if you order a second pizza, go ahead!”