Hibbing grapples with beer brewhaha

Iron Range newsCommunities across the country are working on an abstract concept called “wellness.” Healthy, happy people are more productive and efficient, costing local, state and federal governments less money to pump full of drugs and replacement joints.

So, that’s why there’s a wellness committee at my job, and a wellness event scheduled in Hibbing, Minnesota, next month, just one of many wellness events scattered across northern Minnesota’s Iron Range and/or The Universe.

The Hibbing Daily Tribune reports that the issue isn’t the fact that there’s beer at the wellness event, but that it’s not local beer.

In reviewing requests for temporary liquor licenses Monday night, some members of the Hibbing City Council pointed out a problem. The 2014 Men’s Health Night, scheduled for April 29 at the Hibbing Memorial Building, was requesting a temporary liquor license.

Now, perhaps you would wonder why a wellness event would need beer. Not that well people can’t drink beer; just that drinking beer is not, in and of itself, generally consider a path to “wellness” in any traditional sense.

Well, that’s not the dispute at all. In fact, in 35 inches of copy not a soul pointed out this irony. The problem? They are bringing in *Duluth* beer. Microbrews from Fitger’s, to be specific.

“Well, how well do they have to get?” asked [city councilor Patty] Shafer.

Councilor Darby Sater also took issue with the out-of-town provider, pointing out that the request is coming from the Chamber, which, like the council, advocates buying local.

“Are we going to let this go or ask them to go locally?” he said. “We try to do everything local here. Maybe we ask them to prove that they tried.”

Of course, there are no microbreweries in Hibbing. And microbrew beer, to my understanding, is pretty much beer. If anything, it’s heavier beer with more alcohol in it. So why isn’t there a decadent cake tasting at Men’s Health Night? A sampling of rich cheeses from the windswept caves of a faraway land? And why is the Chamber using out-of-town vendors for a local event? And why is the story framed as “they have to prove they tried before giving up on the local economy, as though to say we know everyone does eventually?”

I won’t lie, this story is a window into everything that is maddening, frustrating, soul-crushing, short-sighted, self-awareness-lacking, foolish and naive about Hibbing and, at times, the entire Iron Range. Look if you dare. Look. If you dare.

Listen, I wish Men’s Health Night all the luck in the world. I understand this was just one small part of a much larger event. I write this to ask everyone to take two big steps back to look at how this all looks to a newcomer, an outsider, or a young person. Think about it.


  1. Dawn Pereda says

    I lived in Hibbing for 4 years. The people there are very backwards and not willing to open their community to outsiders. They see the outside world as untrustworthy and as a threat. When I was at work helping these people I was fine, but after work hours I was like a plague to be avoided by all. Instead of serving beer at the wellness event perhaps they should focus on the rampant rate of alcoholism in their community.

  2. John Ramos says

    I hope they at least buy the Cheetos locally.

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