Despite challenging economic conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Duluth's two cideries recently undertook expansion projects as they see an increasing demand for cider.
Wild State Cider is now among Minnesota's largest cideries based on production space, according to its owners. And down the road, Duluth Cider announced this week that it launched a new line of 12-ounce cans and that it's branching into the Twin Cities market.
Both cideries attribute their recent successes to unwavering community support throughout the pandemic.
Wild State Cider
Wild State, which opened in 2019 at 2515 W. Superior St., has expanded its footprint in its building, allowing for in-house canning and more packaging space — all of which lowers costs, said Adam Ruhland, who owns the cidery with Andrew Price.
Before the expansion, the taproom and production space filled up around 4,000 square feet of its building. They also didn't have an in-house canning line, meaning a mobile canning line was brought into the taproom every few weeks to package Wild State's cider.
Now, with the addition of 5,000 square feet, Wild State has more space for packaging, a new cooler and a new canning line, Ruhland said.
The expansion better separates the taproom from the production space — and reduces work for staff as they don't have to tear down the taproom to make space for the mobile canning line, he said.
Additional space also allows Wild State to order bulk amounts of packaging items, which lowers costs.
"It's just so much easier," Ruhland said.
The cidery was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture because it uses Minnesota products in its production. The grant helped fund the purchase of the new canning line, he said.
Unlike many businesses, Wild State has seen revenue stay about equal as the demand for packaged cider increased during the pandemic. When the stay-at-home order was implemented, customers could only find Wild State's cider in liquor stores or by picking up a to-go order from their location, Ruhland said.
This increase helped them balance out a loss in taproom sales, he said.
"We're maintaining, which feels good considering what a lot of other businesses are going through right now," Ruhland said.
Jake Scott, one of of Duluth Cider's owners, finally has an answer for a question he's frequently asked: "When are you going to be available in the (Twin) Cities?"
He can now tell those who ask that starting this week, Duluth Cider is available in a number of liquor stores in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Also this week, the cidery launched its first line of 12-ounce cans that will be sold in liquor stores.
Scott, who owns Duluth Cider with his wife, Valerie Scott, credits the successful expansion and new line to support the community has shown throughout the pandemic, as many people have bought to-go growlers and crowlers.
"We haven't just survived this time, but we've actually been able to thrive," he said, allowing them to add a new product, expand their market and hire more staff.
"It's definitely a testament to ... the Duluth community," he said.
When Duluth Cider started in 2018 at 2307 W. Superior St., Scott's first goal was to make the "best cider we can." They quickly accomplished this, evidence of which is in their U.S. Open Cider Championship gold medal, and are now turning to Scott's second goal: "to make that cider as available as possible."
Its production space is five times larger than it was when the cidery began, which is mostly full of stainless-steel tanks and 500-gallon plastic fermentation tanks — necessary tools as they use European and American cider-making methods.
The timing of their expansion into the Twin Cities is strategic, he said. With high demand in the Duluth area, they couldn't afford to send their cider to other markets at the risk of depleting inventory.
"Duluth has always really supported us — enough to the point where we actually (couldn't) afford to send products out of town for a while," he said.
Scott hinted at further plans for expansion in 2021, but wouldn't share specifics as the pandemic continues unfolding.