Craft cider coming soon to Duluth

Duluth will soon have its first, and second, hard cideries. Duluth Cider is planning for a mid-to-late September opening date, while Wild State Cider expects to open before the year’s end.

Both businesses will seek to satisfy consumers’ growing thirst for locally crafted beverages. Duluth has already made a name for itself within the craft beer industry. It also supports several local coffee roasters, a distillery and two kombucheries.

Craft cider is a rapidly growing category within the national craft beverage market. Regional and local cideries, in particular, are thriving.

Duluth Cider and Wild State Cider will be located in the same neighborhood in the Lincoln Park Craft District, at 2307 W. Superior St. and 2515 W. Superior St., respectively.

But in keeping with the spirit of a collaborative craft culture, the folks behind these new businesses don’t see this proximity as a problem. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to make that neighborhood of Duluth a destination.

Christian Fraser, Valerie Scott & Jake Scott

Christian Fraser, Valerie Scott & Jake Scott. Photo by Lissa Maki

Duluth Cider

The idea for Duluth Cider was conceived out east, but has local roots. Owners Valerie and Jake Scott met while attending college at the University of Minnesota Duluth, she for environmental studies and he for English. After school, they married and moved out to the Boston area.

Valerie helped open Far From the Tree Cider in Salem, Mass. and manage its taproom. The seed for a cidery in Duluth was planted four years ago as the Scotts learned more about craft cider and watched cideries crop up in the northeast.

“We started thinking, ‘Why doesn’t Duluth have one of these? Of all the places in the world, I can’t believe Duluth does not have a cidery yet,’” says Jake.

The Scotts started to look into what it would take to open a cidery. Valerie says Far From the Tree Cider was incredibly helpful in sharing expertise during this process, even opening up its books to her.

Next, the Scotts enlisted fellow UMD alum Christian Fraser to help make the project a reality. The three friends met in college and all have a history of home brewing.

“I think our skill sets are complementary and also for all three of us, Duluth is so much part of who we are … Duluth feels like home for us,” says Jake.

It gave the Scotts a reason to move back to Duluth. “We absolutely love the community. We couldn’t stay away, we had to come back,” says Valerie.

Christian will serve as Duluth Cider’s production manager. He fell in love with hard cider while studying abroad in London but was disappointed once he got back to the states and found sweeter, mass-produced cider brands.

“We’re looking to do something a little more traditional and to add a little more complexity to the scene,” Christian says. “Kind of like what the craft brewing scene did for beer.”

Duluth Cider intends to source 100 percent of its apples from in-state to start, which he admits will be a challenge. In the future, they may source apples from nearby areas like Bayfield.

Customers can expect Duluth Cider to have four flagship ciders on tap. With up to eight taps total, there will also be room for seasonals and small batch varieties. Tasting flights will be available. The idea is that everyone should be able to find at least one cider to suit their palate.

Duluth Cider will have a stage for hosting local music. Patrons can bring in food or order food for delivery from nearby restaurants like OMC Smokehouse. The taproom will also carry some prepackaged bar snacks.

Duluth Cider

Duluth Cider occupies the west side of the century-old Hoch’s Garage building. It was designed by F.G. German for use as one of Duluth’s first automobile dealerships, then served as a car repair shop for decades. The Duluth Preservation Alliance honored the building in 2011 after a restoration was completed. It had in recent years been headquarters for ZMC Hotels on the east side and Companies to Classrooms on the west side.
Photo by Lissa Maki.

The cidery will employ 10-15 people. The initial plan is to get the taproom open and invite people in to try the cider, according to Jake. They’re also talking with other local businesses about tap accounts. If all proceeds as planned, the second phase of development will include canning and distribution.

As Duluth Cider has been in development, Jake says they’ve reached out to a number of players in the local craft beverage community — such as Bent Paddle Brewing, Vikre Distillery and Duluth Coffee Company — with questions and have found them to be generous with their time and expertise.

The trio says they’re inspired to see the investments happening in Lincoln Park, particularly in their immediate vicinity. They’ve developed a good relationship with neighbor Ursa Minor Brewing. The two new businesses were looking at some of the same buildings and ended up signing leases on spaces a block apart from one another without realizing it. Ursa Minor is also planning a September opening.

The Scotts live nearby and look forward to seeing the area between 19th and 27th avenues west evolve. “It is inspiring to see investment in this community. We aren’t just interested in getting a business up and running but in the health of the community as business owners and a residents of this block. We couldn’t be more excited,” says Jake.

Adam Ruhland, Wild State Cider

Adam Ruhland – Photo by Lissa Maki

Wild State Cider

Adam Ruhland and Andrew Price are the team behind Wild State Cider. The pair formed a friendship about a decade ago while working at a summer camp in California near Lake Tahoe.

The name “Wild State” has two meanings. It speaks to the founders’ sense of adventure and proclivity for being in the wilderness and also the idea of preserving the character of apples in their wild state.

“It says a bit about who we are,” explains Adam, adding that simplicity, concern for the environment and “leaving things better than we found them will be part of the mission of the company.”

Adam currently works in marketing for a software company but has always wanted to own a business. “The idea of a physical product like cider was appealing, especially because it’s my favorite alcoholic beverage,” he says.

He witnessed the beginning of craft cider’s upward trend while living in Vermont. He sees an opportunity for cider to grow as a category in Minnesota and throughout the upper Midwest.

Adam and his wife Katie, who is from Duluth, have been been living in St. Paul for the past four years but have wanted to move out of the city.

Duluth is appealing because they have personal connections and because it enables them to be closer to nature than in the Twin Cities. “The lake is a grounding force. It feels like a more natural space,” he explains.

Adam has homebrewed and taken fermentation courses at Oregon State University. Andrew is from Duluth and has the experience of brewing on a larger scale as the assistant brewer at Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais for the past few years.

In Minnesota, there are 18 cideries, most are based on farms with their own orchards. Urban cideries that sell directly through a taproom have to source 51 percent of their apples from Minnesota. Wild State Cider anticipates sourcing from southern Minnesota and the Bayfield area as well as Michigan.

Adam looks forward to educating consumers about craft cider. Wild State ciders will be semi sweet, which Adam says is about half the sweetness of most popular national brands. Customers can expect semi dry and dry ciders as well.

Wild State Cider’s space and equipment give the company room to grow. They’ll start with a mobile canning operation at first. Since cider is regulated like wine, they’ll need to work through a distributor to sell it.

The taproom will include a kids’ play area. Adam notes that the goal is for it to be family friendly and a place people in the neighborhood people can be proud of.

Wild State Cider’s taproom will have some food options, but not just the usual bar fare. “Cider pairs well with food,” Adam says. “We want that to be part of taproom.” Customers can expect cheese plates and other prepared foods. He’s working to develop partnerships with local restaurants and bakeries.

Adam looks forward to seeing development in the area around the taproom. He thinks having three craft beverage establishments over the span of a few blocks is good for business and notes that there’s room for all of their different business models.

“We’re here to grow together. If it becomes competitive, it really sours for everyone in the end. There’s plenty of room for more neighborhood breweries,” he says.

Future Site of Wild State Cider

The Wild State Cider building was constructed in 1947 for Duluth Welding and Machine Works. A variety of electrical companies occupied it from the early 1960s until roughly 2016. Those included Collins Electrical, Lakehead Electric, Mesaba Electric Group, Megcom and most recently Parsons Electric. Photo by Lissa Maki.

1 Comment

Helmut Flaag

about 6 years ago

Americans discover the joys of dry cider only 400 years after the rest of the world.

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