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September 19, 1972: Last day for employees of Fitger’s Brewery

On this day in Duluth in 1972, bottle house employees at Fitger’s Brewery reported for work for the last time. John Ferris, who had become president of the brewery in 1969, had been dealing with the State of Minnesota regarding the two significant situations that arose before his involvement in Fitger’s. The brewery was supposed to be renovated to meet deadline for compliance with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s order for the installation of pollution abatement equipment, which had been extended several times because the State Highway Department’s plans had been revised for routing the extension of Interstate 35 through the brewery. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent a letter to Ferris in mid-September 1972, citing a stipulation agreement “either to complete an expensive pollution abatement project or close down…not later than September 30, 1972.” In the same week, Fitger’s received a letter from the State Highway Commissioner that read in part, “It appears that it would be impractical for you to install pollution abatement facilities in view of the planning currently in process regarding the possible extension of I-35 within the city of Duluth.” Ferris decided to simply close the brewery. Fifteen employees, eight of whom had twenty or more years of service with Fitger’s, were let go. The last beer was brewed August 14, 1972, the last bottling was done on September 14, and the last canning followed on September 19. Ferris and his six-person staff dismantled everything of value from the brewery, including beautiful redwood aging tanks, oak-fermenting tanks, and oak settling and finishing tanks. All of these items eventually were sold to other breweries and individuals. A local effort saved the historic brewery from demolition, and the highway now passes in front of the former brewing facility through a tunnel. Read more about the Twin Port’s historic breweries here.

A postcard of Fitger’s Brewery c. 1900-1915. The artwork came from the company’s letterhead and includes some buildings that were never constructed, and a roof-top garden above the offices that was also never completed. (Image: Zenith City Press)tger