Craft beer veterans announce new business venture

Veterans of Duluth’s craft beer scene have teamed up to form a new think tank.


t070816 --- contributed photo --- CRAFTBEER0711c1 --- Bev-Craft team from L to R: Paul Christensen, Dave Hoops, Tim Nelson, Brad Nelson // Photo via
Bev-Craft team from L to R: Paul Christensen, Dave Hoops, Tim Nelson, Brad Nelson. Photo via

Bev-Craft announced it has begun providing consulting services on development assistance, brewhouse planning, recipe formation, ingredient selection, brand creation and sales strategy. They’ll be working with clients who are both in the planning stages and already in operation, said Bev-Craft CEO Tim Nelson.

The craft beer industry has always been inclusive, and Nelson, who co-founded Fitger’s Brewhouse, said the new group has received a lot of questions from people starting their own breweries.

“Especially with the last few years of the huge expansion in beer manufacturing, we thought maybe there’s a place where we could really help people become sustainable — make good beer and keep making it for the long haul. We saw an opportunity to be able to do that for folks and so far so good,” he said.

Bev-Craft has gained clients in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin through word of mouth since late last year before publicly announcing its opening last week.

Nelson said the group likely will focus on craft beer in the Midwest but has no geographical limits when taking on clients.

The think tank will operate out of an office space above the Cedar Lounge in Superior. The group also is renovating the building’s bar area and plans to reopen it later this summer.

Craft brewing is an industry that has been booming in recent years and won’t be disappearing anytime soon, Nelson said.

The popularity of craft beer today is a far cry from his first days of focusing on local craft beer at Fitger’s Brewhouse beginning in 1995.

“That’s how we started in 1995 — one beer at a time, educating people on what craft beer even was. People didn’t even know what it was,” he said.

Eventually Fitger’s wasn’t alone as a craft brewhouse. There are now 4,200 breweries in the country, but 6,000 federal licenses have been issued, meaning there are 1,800 breweries that are in the planning stages, he said.

Bev-Craft wants to focus on localized production when working with clients. It’s something that the founders of Bev-Craft have done their entire careers, Nelson said. New brewers coming into the market today need to think about their local markets and how to serve their communities. Brewers need to be “cautious that we’re servicing our own community first and growing from there,” he said.

Nelson led Fitger’s Brewhouse for 20 years, drove the growth of five successful beer venues in Duluth and was an establishing member of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.

Leading Bev-Craft’s brewery operations is brewer and Nelson’s longtime collaborator, Dave Hoops. He was brewmaster at Fitger’s Brewhouse for 17 of the 30 years he’s worked in the industry. He also was a founding member of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, is a beer columnist, serves as a beer judge for the Brewers Association and has won multiple medals at the Great American Beer Festival.

Paul Christensen will head Bev-Craft’s sales programs. He has years of experience with sales, as well as marketing and managing food-related businesses in Duluth and Superior, most recently working at Fitger’s Brewhouse.

Brad Nelson serves as Bev-Craft’s director of brands. He formerly worked as the marketing manager at Just Take Action, where he worked on beer and restaurant brand development, oversaw the marketing department and created events for Fitger’s Brewhouse, Burrito Union, Redstar Lounge, Tycoon’s Alehouse and Eatery, Zenith Rathskeller and Endion Station Public House.

Written by Lisa Kaczke as published in the Duluth News Tribune