The State of Duluth-area Cider

Hard cider has been steadily growing as an alcoholic beverage category in the United States over the past decade. The Duluth area is no different. The region is now home to seven craft cideries.

Several small, farm-based cideries have cropped up, bolstered by the abundance of homegrown apples on Bayfield’s fruit loop and beyond. Duluth’s Lincoln Park Craft District gained Duluth Cider and Wild State Cider in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Following the trend of local craft breweries, their taprooms have become destinations. They quickly become the largest cider producers in the Duluth area.

“A lot has happened since we opened that we didn’t anticipate — just like everyone else in the world. It’s been a pretty wild ride with lots of twists and turns,” said Duluth Cider owner Jake Scott, noting that the cidery’s growth occurred at a faster rate than expected and “curveballs from COVID” resulted in continual adjustments to the business such as accelerating a plan for statewide distribution to compensate for lost sales when the taproom was shut down.

Local growth

Scott is pleased Duluth Cider has become a hangout for locals and also a destination for tourists. “Overall we’re really excited to see what we set out to do and what we were hoping to see it coming to fruition,” Scott said. “A lot more people are excited about cider in northern Minnesota and Minnesota in general — especially here in Duluth.”

Despite opening on the cusp of the pandemic, Wild State has risen to become Minnesota’s second top cider producer. Owner Adam Ruhland pointed out that the pandemic probably helped distribution as people were spending more in liquor stores when they couldn’t go out. “People rallying around local benefited local businesses at the time … We appreciate and probably benefited from that,” he said. Looking ahead, Ruhland intends to find ways to continue growth into other states and to deepen Minnesota connections. “Still so many people have never heard of us and have never heard of cider.”

Dane Hauser is the fifth generation in his family to operate Hauser’s Superior View Farm in Bayfield, which started in 1908. The business added Apfelhaus Cidery in 2017. Hauser enlisted his sister Rebecca Wroblewski, a chemical engineer who had been working in Chicago, to help realize this dream of building the cidery. He said her background was key to helping get it up and running. “There’s no manual for it and people don’t really share recipes when it comes to brewing. It was kind of just trial and error,” he explained. Apfelhaus has done well. It has already grown into a new facility and its equipment has been upgraded. Hauser said he is working on building a new tasting room.

Hauser said the farm typically sells 20 percent of its apple crop in three days during the Bayfield Apple Festival, which didn’t happen in 2020 due to the pandemic. Pressing those apples for cider helped to salvage that loss.

Crop dependence and diversification

Though all the cideries in the area were able to withstand the pandemic, weather can have an outsized affect on some of the smaller producers who are dependent on hyper-local fruit crops. Last year’s late freeze and drought diminished the production of several cideries.

Jon Hamilton of White Winter Winery, which recently celebrated 26 years in business, pointed out that he doesn’t buy apple juice from across the country or use concentrates. White Winter strictly uses apples from the Bayfield region as well as fruits like blueberries, strawberries and black currents. All had a poor year in 2021. “The apple crop was down by two-thirds last year — so was cider production,” said Hamilton.

Diversity in offerings can help these businesses succeed when crops are finicky. Superior View Farm also sells perennial flowers. Canosia Grove Farm & Cidery in Duluth raises Icelandic sheep and produces honey as well. The newest cidery on the scene, Blue Ox Cider of Bayfield, opened in 2020 at an established winery and orchard. Like Sawtooth Mountain Cider House in Lutsen and White Winter Winery in Iron River, cider only represents a portion of the business, which also includes wine (or in White Winter’s case, honey wine).
Apfelhaus Cidery logo

Apfelhaus Cidery

Year opened: 2017. Hauser’s Superior View Farm has been active since 1908. It has 80,000 to 100,000 farmed acres. Besides fruit, the company grows perennial flowers.

Owners: Dane Hauser is the fifth generation of his family to operate the farm.

Cider makers: Dane Hauser and Rebecca Wroblewski

Distribution: Locally to Bayfield, Cornucopia, Madeline Island, Washburn.

Number of gallons produced in 2021: Approximately 2,480 to 3,100

Address: 86565 County Highway J, Bayfield

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: Apfelhaus just released an Apple Pie Cider, which is semi-sweet and features apple pie spices. The company also produces cider with farm-grown blueberries and tart cherries.

Unique attributes: The farm has been growing apples for more than 100 years, which is an advantage in the business, according to Hauser. “My grandpa planted a lot of the trees as a kid, so they’re pushing 70-80 years old, some are 100. The more you read on the topic, that’s what makes good cider. We had a good base to start a cidery that makes decent cider off the bat.”
Bayfield Winery and Blue Ox logo

Bayfield Winery and Blue Ox Cider

Year opened: Founded in 2020. Sales to the public started in 2021.

Owners: Phil and Jen Bratsch bought Bayfield/Seven Ponds Winery and added a cidery to the business. Cider currently makes up about 15 percent of the business.

Cider makers: Phil Bratsch and Ian Hauser. The Hauser family originally started Bayfield Winery in 1995.

Number of gallons produced in 2021: 3,100

Distribution: Ninety percent of sales happen at the farm’s tasting room. Local stores in Bayfield also carry Blue Ox Cider four-packs of 12 oz. bottles.

Address: 87380 Betzold Road, Bayfield

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: The Ginger Cider is the best seller and earned a bronze medal at the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition. The Brut Cider is a “bone dry” beverage for “cider nerds.” It’s fermented with wild yeast and features a mix of estate-grown and wild-foraged Bayfield County apples.

Unique attributes: “We use apples that are all either grown on our site or picked in a wild forest — they’re all state grown. When people come out here, they can see the trees they’re coming from,” said Bratsch, who has been building up the orchard with specific hard cider apple varieties.
Canosia Grove logo

Canosia Grove Farm & Cidery

Year opened: 2017

Owners: Bob and Mehgan Blair

Cider maker: Bob Blair

Number of gallons produced in 2021: 500 (600 to 1,000 per year, typically)

Distribution: Locally to bars and restaurants. The Blairs also distribute bottles of cider through the Twin Ports REKO Ring, which they helped found. The group of local farmers and food producers use social media to sell directly to consumers. The cider tasting room is open to the public by appointment. The farm also hosts events such as weddings and raises Icelandic sheep. Cider makes up 75 percent of the business.

Address: 5508 Martin Road, Duluth

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: “We did a really neat cider with locally grown sumac,” said Mehgan, noting that the cider has tea-like tannins and a pinkish hue and explaining that the Staghorn Sour gets its tart character from the phenolic acid that naturally occurs in sumac as well as in cider apples.

Unique attributes: “It’s really important to emphasize that we’re really locally focused. When buying apples or sourcing fruit it’s entirely from our orchard or from Northern Wisconsin and Northern Minnesota,” Mehghan said. “That separates us from the cider makers that bring in juice in totes. We’re starting with a whole product.”
Duluth Cider logo

Duluth Cider

Year opened: 2018

Owners: Jake Scott, Valerie Scott, Christian Fraser

Head cider maker: Christian Junes; production manager: Christian Fraser

Number of gallons produced in 2021: 55,000

Distribution: From the taproom and in bars and liquor stores statewide in Minnesota as well as portions of Wisconsin and North Dakota.

Address: 2307 W. Superior St., Duluth

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: Sol Cider is made with mango, carrot and key lime. Jake Scott called it a “curveball experiment from our cider laboratory” that is “totally unique and delicious,” and noted, “I’ve never tasted anything like it. A lot of people say it’s their new favorite.” The cidery also began distributing its Pineapple Sour in cans this summer.

Unique attributes: “Our name, Duluth Cider, is really simple but really important. We love Duluth and we love cider. We love gathering community together,” said Scott, adding that the cidery has a lot of fun summer events planned including a concert series and a cornhole league.

Sawtooth Mountain Cider House (based at North Shore Winery)

Year opened: 2016

Founders: Chuck and Kim Corliss; Owners: Jayden Corliss, Charlie Bronstien, Mary Hanson, Jeremy Hanson, Charles Corliss, Savanna Corliss

Cider maker: Charlie Bronstien

Number of gallons of cider produced in 2021: 4,202. Approximately one-third of the cidery’s production is cider; two-thirds is wine.

Distribution: Local bars and liquor stores, regional online sales.

Address: 202 Ski Hill Road, Lutsen

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: Herbie’s blend is their most popular cider. The off-dry, European-style cider is lightly sweetened with local maple syrup.

Unique attributes: “All of our ciders are made with 100 percent Minnesota apple juice, never from out of state or concentrate,” said Jayden Corliss, owner, manager and winemaker.
Wild State Cider logo

Wild State Cider

Year opened: 2019

Owners: Adam Ruhland, Allison Longley, Andrew Price

Cider maker: Andrew Price; operations manager: Allison Longley

Number of gallons produced in 2021: 135,222

Distribution: Mostly sold in Minnesota, 35 percent of business revenue is still generated by the Lincoln Park taproom. Wild State Cider is also available in Wisconsin and Ruhland said they’ve expanded to areas where they “had opportunities and saw craft cider could do well.” So far that includes Bozeman, Mont.; Fargo, N.D., Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Address: 2515 W. Superior St., Duluth

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: Wild State released its Hazy Pink Pineapple in cans in July. This cider will be the cidery’s fifth flagship. It’s an unfiltered, classic dry cider with dragonfruit and pineapple that has sold well in the taproom.

Unique attributes: The company has been “growing and trying to keep up” and is facing “unique space challenges,” according to Ruhland. “The new challenge is to figure out how to keep growing. We’re working on trying to find that next warehouse.” He estimates that by winter 2023 they may end up moving production. “This summer if we could make cider faster, we would be making more of it.”
white winter winery logo

White Winter Winery

Year opened: 1996; started making cider circa 1998.

Owners: Jon and Kim Hamilton

Cider maker: Jon Hamilton

Number of gallons produced in 2021: Approximately 1,300 gallons. Production was down by about two-thirds or more due to the poor fruit crop in 2021. Total production including mead was about 11,000 gallons.

Distribution: Tasting room and gift shop sales as well as distribution across the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Where laws allow, White Winter ships across the country direct to consumers.

Address: 68323 Lea St., Iron River

Specialty ciders or customer favorites: The business specializes in mead (honey wine) but also produces cider and spirits. White Winter typically makes five different styles of cider each year, some are only available in the tasting room. Its biggest sellers are the Raspberry Island Hard Cider and Northern Highlands Cider; both are semi-dry.

Unique attributes: “Even after 26 years, we keep as close to home when possible when buying. We go outside our area only when we absolutely have to,” said Hamilton. “One of the best parts of our business is that we’ve found and developed and worked hard at having relationships with farmers.” White Winter has been sourcing its cider from Erickson’s Orchard in Bayfield for 26 years.

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