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Cider-maker eyes Lincoln Park

A craft hard-cider establishment soon could be coming to Lincoln Park. Adam Ruhland of St. Paul aims to begin fermenting apple juice in Duluth and selling it under the Camp Cider label yet this year. He already has filed for a trademark and is co...

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The Essentia Duluth Heritage Sports Center and Clyde Iron Works is seen in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in 2017. A cider-maker is seeking to construct a facility in the neighborhood. (file / News Tribune)

A craft hard-cider establishment soon could be coming to Lincoln Park.

Adam Ruhland of St. Paul aims to begin fermenting apple juice in Duluth and selling it under the Camp Cider label yet this year. He already has filed for a trademark and is considering potential locations, all in Lincoln Park, including one that will be considered by the Duluth Planning Commission when it meets Tuesday.

Commissioners will weigh Ruhland's request for a variance that would allow him to install a parking lot and a loading area on the sides of a proposed 3,574-square-foot facility, housing a taproom, offices and a production floor. City code generally calls for parking and loading to be located behind a building, but that's not possible on the prospective site due to the shallow depth of the lot and the size of the facility Ruhland aims to build.

The property under consideration is located on West Michigan Street, between 29th and 30th Avenue West, just across from Clyde Iron Works and the Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Sports Center. But Ruhland said he has not yet fully committed to the spot and is considering other locations, as well.

Ruhland, 33, currently works as a software marketer, making cider on the side, but said he is eager to devote himself to the craft full time and to try his hand as an entrepreneur. His wife, Katie, grew up in Duluth, and Ruhland said they feel drawn to the city's outdoor recreational amenities, as well as its emerging craft scene. Ruhland said he also sees a good opportunity to add to Lincoln Park's growing list of offerings.

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"I think Lincoln Park has an up-and-coming vibe to it right now," he said.

Before moving to Minnesota four years ago, Ruhland lived in Vermont and said: "I saw the cider scene kind of explode out there."

He noted that craft cideries have proliferated throughout New England and the Pacific Northwest.

"But in Minnesota, there's still plenty of room to grow," Ruhland said. "People aren't as familiar with cider as a category."

"Typically what Minnesota mostly has are orchard-based cideries. So there are only a few people trying to utilize a different license to have a more urban system with sort of a brewing taproom kind of environment," he said.

"We're going to produce craft ciders. It's not going to be like Angry Orchard. It's not like probably what many people who have drank cider from a mass-produced bottle think it is," Ruhland said, explaining that his ciders generally will have a less-sweet, dryer and more complex flavor profile than many of the widely distributed products now on the retail market.

Initially, Ruhland expects that about 60 percent of his production will be sold and consumed on-premises at his Duluth taproom, but in time he hopes to increase both his output and retail distribution.

"I have aspirations to become a regional player, and Duluth is kind of a centrally located place with access to the Upper Midwestern market," Ruhland said.

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"The big brands coming in are from Washington and Michigan. I would say maybe Loon Juice is the one that is distributing the most in Minnesota, but there's room there for some dryer craft products," he said.

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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