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With Wild State opening soon, Duluth doubles its cideries

Wild State Cider general manager David Fitch sets up the cash register at the Lincoln Park cidery. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 4
Adam Ruhland, partner and co-founder of Wild State Cider, stands on the second floor of the Lincoln Park business while talking about the cidery’s upcoming opening. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 4
Wild State Cider assistant manager Jacob Esselstrom (left) and cider maker Andrew Price confer near three 2,000-gallon tanks. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com3 / 4
Wild State Cider opens soon at 2515 W. Superior Street. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com4 / 4

Wild State wants to teach you about cider. And the best way to learn is through experience, right?

"Alright, you've heard about cider, you're interested in learning a little bit more — here's all the things you can do," said Adam Ruhland, listing off the first flavors Duluth's second craft cidery will have on tap when it opens this month.

There's the standard semi-dry, the ginger, the pear, a raspberry hibiscus (the pink one), a hopped cider and an oak-aged variety. And that's just the start.

Wild State Cider at 2515 W. Superior St. will start pouring April 16, and a grand opening celebration is planned for April 27.

Since alcoholic cider is still such a niche in these parts — and only in the past decade has it taken off on the coasts — the cider's founders are aiming for approachable. It's not apple-flavored beer, or beer-flavored apple juice. Cider is like wine, especially in the way it can range from simple to complex, crowd-pleasers to snobs-only.

"A lot of people have had a really sweet cider and think, 'Oh, I don't like cider.' But it's not like you had one beer you didn't like and you say you don't like beer — there's so many varieties," Ruhland said. "What consumers might find is that they'll say this is not as sweet, but there's so much room to go before we would call it a dry cider — that hasn't hit the mainstream."

Andrew Price, brewer at Wild State Cider, fills a jug of cider from a 2,000-gallon tank. Photos by Steve Kuchera / News TribuneRuhland partnered with Andrew Price — the pair became friends as counselors at a summer camp a decade ago — to open the cidery just as the industry is taking off in Minnesota and craft businesses are taking off in Lincoln Park.

Last week they and several other employees were applying the finishing touches to the space ahead of a final staff training. Light easily filled the space from big south-facing windows, where a "living wall" of plants also resides. There is a Nordic feel to some of the woodwork, and that now-familiar craft drinkery aspect to the cement floors and the mezzanine seating area overlooking the place, with the tall 2,000-gallon tanks in plain view.

There's a kitchen, though offerings will be limited to local meat and cheese plates and other light fare to start. Overall the focus will be on "as natural as possible — 100 percent fresh-pressed juice, no concentrates or additives," Ruhland said.

Glasses sit behind the bar at Wild State Cider. When you walk out of Wild State, look east and you can see a sign for Duluth Cider, which opened in November. At this point it's not even friendly competition, Ruhland says — just friendly.

"Anyone who goes here is going to say 'Oh, there's another one, I'll try that,' and vice versa," he said. "Breweries might be at a point where there's a little more competition."

A banner on the front of Wild State Cider advertises its soon-to-be-open status.Wild State hopes to get on shelves this summer after the cidery starts canning — though providing for the taproom takes precedence. The cidery is set up to brew more than 100,000 gallons of cider a year and already has room to grow, but things are starting slow — for now. First, folks need to know what craft cider tastes like.

"We're not the top end — that really expensive cider that's maybe not approachable. And we're not at the bottom end, which is what the mass market side is," Ruhland said. "Eventually we'll take it to the next level, and start to get more adventurous with flavor profiles. Right now people just want quality cider, and we want to meet everyone there."

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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