The Dark Side of the Craft Beer Craze (Part 1)

By KBJR News 1

May 22, 2013 Updated May 23, 2013 at 11:15 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The thirst for specialty craft beer is growing in Minnesota and Wisconsin where dozens of new brew houses have opened since 2011.

Many say the growth is a significant boom to the economy while others say there is a dark side to the trend.

With names like Sir Duluth Oatmeal, Dawn Treader Belgian, and Famine 47, craft beer is taking the northland by storm.

"Business has been great thanks to Duluth and our regional community of just coming in and we've had an out pouring of support from them," says Pepin Young from Canal Park Brewing Company in Duluth.

The craft beer boom began in earnest in the Northland in 2011. We were part of a national explosion in microbreweries and brew pubs.

We are firing on all cylinders and we're really hopeful that this summer we are going to bring even greater things.

The industry generated almost $300-million in wages, capital expenses and contracts in 2011 and the craft brewer retail dollar value was listed at $8.7billion dollars.

"I think we are going to be bringing quite a few people into the area," says Bryon Tonnis of Bent Paddle Brewing. "There are a couple of different groups that are getting tour buses to tour from the twin cities also local groups that are getting together to have brewery tours."

By 2012, more than 2,000 microbreweries and brew pubs had opened up across the country and the craft brewer retail dollar grew to $10.2billion.

"You can't really go anywhere without running into a craft brewery," says Kelli Latuska.

According to the American Brewers Association these microbreweries and brew pubs created almost 109,000 jobs, hundreds of them in the Twin Ports.

"It's going to support the salaries of someone that lives in Duluth rather than taking those dollars and directing them to a corporate beer," says Duluth Mayor Don Ness.

In the last three years 20 microbreweries or brew pubs have opened up in the Northland, contributing significantly to the region's economy.

"We're going to start with Duluth and then move up to the North Shore, up to the Ely/Brainerd Lakes area and move on down to the Twin Cities," says Tonnis.

"I'm a big supporter and believer in trying to keep things as local as possible and when you can brew beer using the best water possible and support our local economy it seems like it's a win-win," says Mayor Ness.

And while many community leaders embrace the new trend for its economic and social impact there is a dark side.

The alcohol content in these craft beers is significantly higher than in the top selling bottled beers in the U-S.

The higher alcohol like this one that we were dealing with is 9.9 percent alcohol by volume.

"There's more alcohol in your pint you will get drunk faster on that pint," says Lt. Charles Lemon of the Minnesota State Patrol.

With DWIs on the rise, some are questioning the role these high alcohol content beers might be playing. Officials at the Minnesota State Patrol say they deal with 33,000 DWI's throughout the state on average per year.