While craft beers have taken the industry by storm, their quieter, younger “sister” – hard cider – is also blossoming and growing nationwide and in Minnesota.
According to the Cidercon newsletter, the cider industry is “still seeking to define itself.”
It notes, “Makers of hard cider fall into many camps: Some are orchardists; some make ciders very similar to wine; some produce cider and market it like beer; some are owned by larger beer-making operations.”
Duluth has not had a cider taproom where locally produced wares can be sampled, but two new cideries, Duluth Cider and Wild State Cider, are opening in Lincoln Park, just down the street from each other.
Most cider production is done by farmers (orchardists) who make their cider products from their own apples. Duluth Cider and Wild State Cider both fall into a different category – cideries acquiring commercial winery licenses and opening their own taprooms to sell their cider directly to customers.
Duluth Cider, founded by Jake and Valerie Scott, is opening in the next few weeks at 2307 W. Superior St. Adam Ruhland and Andrew Price are opening Wild State Cider in the next few months at 2515 W. Superior St. – the building formerly occupied by Parsons Electric.
Jake and Valerie Scott and their friend Christian Fraser met while attending UMD. After graduating and getting married, the Scotts moved to the Boston area.
The idea of opening a cidery came partially as a result of Valerie working as the taproom manager for Far from the Tree Cider in Salem, Mass. The “seed” was planted for the husband and wife to open their own cidery. Valerie worked intensively with the owners of Far From the Tree to learn all that she could about operating a cidery with its own taproom.
The Scotts also visited vineyards in central Italy as part of their fact-finding base of how regional products are made, with many of the Italian vineyards going back several generations.
As the pieces came together, the Scotts wanted to bring in Fraser as their production manager. He also began helping the couple look for possible sites and even made a few visits to Far From the Tree. Fraser has a masters’ degree in biology so he brought another component to the puzzle of putting the plan together piece by piece.
Jake noted, “We kept asking the question, ‘Why hasn’t anyone opened a cidery in Duluth?’ Then it became, ‘Someone should open a cidery in Duluth’ and that finally led to “We should open a cidery in Duluth.’”
The 99-year old building they found in Lincoln Park had long ago been a horse stable for the Post Office, and later a car showroom, a radiator shop and a classroom supply center for teachers.
After renovations, the taproom area (with an occupancy of 115 people) will also include a stage for performances from local musicians. The Scotts loved the large open space from the first.
“The building just felt right,” Jake said. “We want it to be a warm, comfortable place for people to sit and relax with friends.
“We are also filling the gap from the middle of the Lincoln Park District west to the Heritage Center. It’s kind of a no-man’s land now, but we will help bridge the two parts of the district,” he added.
“Our goal is to make a product that Minnesotans can be proud of,” Jake noted. “We want to make a cider for everyone. We will have a semi-sweet cider with strong, fresh apple characteristics, not too tart and not too sweet; a dry hopped cider with notes of floral and citrus; a mixed berry mint cider, which will be our 100 percent local cider blended with mixed berries and fresh mentha mint; and a Chai cider, which is our traditional cider infused with a smooth blend of delicious chai spices.”
They will use apples grown in Minnesota as much as possible. The Scotts want to concentrate solely on the cider for now and do not plan to have food from their own kitchen to start. Instead, people can order takeout from places like the Duluth Grill, Corktown Deli and OMC to be brought to their tables at Duluth Cider.
“Duluth Cider is as much about Duluth as it is about cider. We are proud to bring a new product to Duluth,” Valerie said. “We consider Duluth home and we want to give back to the community.”
Wild State Cider
At their website, Wild State Cider’s mission statement reads, “Operating a business is a privilege. We promise to use our success as a means to lift those around us – our team and our community. We promise to leave things better than we found them, by celebrating and protecting the wild places we all enjoy.”
Adam and Katie Ruhland and Andrew Price are excited to open their Wild State Cider in the next few months, after renovating a 4,000-foot section of their 9,000 square foot space. The site includes a large outdoor space and parking lot. Their operation will include a 6,000-gallon capacity system.
Ruhland became interested in the apple cider business while living in Vermont with his wife Katie, who is a Duluth native. He explained, ”There is a big farm-to-table industry in Vermont. I have always wanted to start my own business and this seemed like a natural. We decided to come to Duluth to live in a smaller community, closer to nature, that has a similar vibe to Vermont. Mayor Emily Larson even sent us an e-mail welcome to Duluth.”
Ruhland notes that they are setting up an urban cider-style taproom similar to the Minneapolis-based Sociable Cider works, Minneapolis Cider Co. and Urban Forage. They plan to use as much Minnesota fruit as they can, and will source from other states for apples that do not grow here or are out of season locally
Born in Duluth, business partner and Wild State’s head cider maker, Andrew Price, traveled around the world before returning to Minnesota. He and Ruhland are working with a plan to start with four cider options in their taproom.
Wild State is still refining what their final on-tap ciders will be but Ruhland notes they will have a semi-dry, dry, hopped, and something with a fruit addition (like cherry or blueberry).
“We plan to focus on a family-friendly welcoming gathering place, with a colorful Scandinavian vibe. We will also have a non-alcoholic regular apple cider and pre-made cheese platters,” said Ruhland.
Both cidery owners are excited to be part of the burgeoning arts and crafts scene in Lincoln Park.
“We love the Lincoln Park community,” Ruhland said. “It is already becoming an up and coming craft district. We think it is a great place for our new business.”
“Everyone in Lincoln Park has been so great to us,” Valerie noted. Chatting with people from the Heritage Center to Bent Paddle, Frost River to the Duluth Grill, the Scotts have felt very welcomed.
Both new businesses are feeling good about two cider taprooms opening so close geographically and within a short amount of time. Jake said, “It’s great that other cideries will be opening up in this city. Duluth deserves good cider, and we fully expect to see the industry grow in the coming years. We would love to see a dozen more cideries open in Duluth in the next decade.”
Ruhland has similar sentiments, “We think it is great to have two cideries that people will be talking about. It is wonderful for Duluth to have multiple cider options the way they have multiple craft beer options..”
The old saying goes, “If you want to have apples you have to shake the tree.” Duluth’s two cideries are also shaking up the Lincoln Park district, by making new and refreshing apple cider beverages.
Sheryl Jensen is a Duluth-based freelance writer.