Breweriana Collectors Show Off Rare Northland Brewery Collectables

By KBJR News 1

July 8, 2012 Updated Jul 8, 2012 at 10:48 PM CDT

CLOQUET, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---In the 70s, it seemed everybody collected beer cans for at least a little while.

Since then, the novice collectors have faded away but the hard cores remain.

This weekend, they met in Cloquet to show off their rarest items.

Along with fresh brewed beer and hand made pizza, a patron at the Thirsty Pagan Brewpub in Superior can feast on a display of 80 years worth of Northland brewing history.

These relics of our thirst quenching past are only a small part of the breweriana collection of Pete Clure.

The bug to collect pieces of the Twin Ports beverage making heyday struck in the 70s.

"I would walk around the old Fitger's Brewery and they had a display window with some breweriana and I thought that stuff was really neat," Clure said.

Clure isn't the only one to find that stuff really neat.

Our region is home to one of the oldest chapters of the Breweriana Collectibles Club of America.

This weekend, they held their annual show at the Northeastern Saloon on Cloquet's Dunlap Island.

"As you can see, Dunlap Island survived the flood and everything is okay in Cloquet!" John Pickar, a breweriana collector said.

The BCCA members in our region call themselves the Nordlager Boys after a long gone beer from Fitger's.

Most specialize in memorabilia from Duluth and Superior breweries.

"There are a number of pieces from Fitger's, Duluth Brewing and Malting and Northern," Clure said. "We had four breweries here."

The last of those four, Fitger's, closed in 1972.

The passage of time has sent some of those companies' memorabilia into the hundreds and thousands of dollars range.

That has reduced the number of collectors but intensified the passion of those who remain.

"It's a niche now from a stand point of the old stuff is harder to find and what you find is cost prohibitive," Pickar said.

The future of the hobby remains bright, however, because of new Northland breweries popping up in the last 20 years.

"Microbreweries in Knife River, Borealis Brewery opening up, Fitger's Brewhouse," Clure said. "Dublin's is brewing their own."

Plus Canal Park Brewing opening soon and the recent return of Fitger's Beer in bottles.

The Nordlager Boys hope those companies produce advertising items that rival their ancestors in wall hanging beauty.

They're always looking for new collectibles and new friends.

"I highly recommend they come on down to our shows in the future and enjoy good hospitality and good friends."

The Nordlager Boys say old brewery collectibles still turn up occasionally, especially during renovations of older homes.

Items tend to pop up in attics, under floor boards and in walls.

Dave Anderson