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'Perfectly peared' dream team born of cider off-batch

Both on the verge of expansions, Vikre and Wild State Cider are coming together for a rare cooperation between a cidery and a distillery to release a complementary duo of brandy-based beverages that are years in the making.

Four cans of cider.
Wild State Cider and Vikre Distillery collaborated to produce Dry Dream, a blend of cider and apple-pear brandy.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — "Some of the best inventions start as mistakes," Wild State Cider Director of Operations Allison Longley said.

At least that was the case for a complementary duo of brandy-based beverages years in the making.

Can lable.
The story of how Dry Dream came about is on each can of the cider-brandy drink.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

So, what was the local cidery to do when a batch of its pear cider gave off a funky farmhouse flavor?

The culprit: Naturally occurring yeast was detected in the pear juice that had arrived to the facility.

"We strive for the perfect batch, but that pear cider didn't quite make a perfect batch. Off-batches of cider do happen occasionally, and there’s creative ways to prevent waste and make something delicious from those batches," Longley said. "Vikre was happy to experiment, and the distilling process removed that."

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Woman drinking a cider.
Allison Longley, Wild State Cider director of operations, enjoys a cider while visiting with a co-worker Thursday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

A new partnership between Wild State Cider and Vikre Distillery was formed. This wasn't the first time Vikre collaborated with others in the adult beverage industry during the fermentation and distillation process, according to Co-founder and CEO Emily Vikre . For example, breweries that brewed batches too hot, which Vikre was able to distill.

"We love projects like this. They're the base products of canned cocktails," Vikre said. "What is super fun about this collaboration is that we are taking a step further."

After two years of barrel aging, each business is using a portion of the distilled cider to launch its own unique, but inspired version of cocktails with shared notes from the same starting ingredient.

In mid-September, Wild State will release Day Dream, a light blend of cider and apple-pear brandy with hints of lavender, and Vikre will release a richer, more robust brandy with apple-pear juice called Reve, which is the French word for dream. Both adult beverages will be distributed across Minnesota in liquor stores and the taproom, available in limited quantities.

Hard cider lovers and brandy connoisseurs are invited to celebrate this rare new collaboration at the launch party. It will take place at the Wild State Cider taproom, 2515 W. Superior St., on Sept. 22. There will be food, music and both beverages to taste.

Wild State Cider taproom.
A customer receives his order at Wild State Cider on Thursday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

"It's super exciting to see people's taste get more complex in the craft cocktail world. What makes Duluth so special is a community of people that really care about producers and the environment. We are a triple bottom line company at Vikre, with zero waste in the production process, organic certification and we get local organic certified materials."

Wild State Cider shares a passion for environmental friendliness, Longley said. As members of 1% For The Planet, the cidery commits a 1% minimum of sales to environmental nonprofits dedicated to protecting and improving outdoor access.

Possible expansions are in discussion for both Duluth businesses. Vikre has a strong presence in Minnesota, Wisconsin and six other states. The distillery is considering a number of different options for additional or new space for its production, cocktail experience and events currently located at 525 S. Lake Ave. No. 102.

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"The goal is to have 20,000 square feet (or 30% bigger), but not for another year or more. Vikre is looking to stay downtown near Lake Superior," Vikre said.

Wild State Cider distributes across Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana and Virginia. As it grows, it is also exploring an expansion in West Duluth in early 2023, according to Longley. "Nothing is set in stone. We are not moving the taproom, but moving production to a new facility," she said.

Cider production area.
Two people walk through Wild State Cider’s production area Thursday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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