Northern Wilds Magazine
Duluth Cider was recently named Minnesota’s Best Cidery in the Star Tribune’s Reader’s Choice Awards. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

The tale of Duluth’s first cider house

Founded in 2018, Duluth Cider is today one of two successful cider houses operating out of Duluth.

Duluth Cider has a top-notch taproom that frequently hosts live music, its cans are distributed as far south as the Twin Cities, and it boasts a lineup of locally-sourced ciders that give Duluthians plenty to be proud of.

It’s hard to imagine Duluth’s craft district without Duluth Cider, but where did the idea for Duluth’s first cider house come from?

“It all started one night in a taproom,” says Jake Scott, co-founder and owner of Duluth Cider with his wife Valerie. “We were having a drink at the Far From the Tree Cider House Taproom in Salem, Massachusetts, and we suddenly looked at each other and were like, ‘it kind of feels like Duluth in here, I wonder why there isn’t someone making cider in Duluth?’”

“I really don’t think that we were serious at the time,” continues Jake, “but the idea got stuck in our heads and started to grow like a seed. There wasn’t really a moment where we decided that this was what we were going to do with our lives, but eventually Duluth Cider just sort of… turned into what we were doing.”

Though neither Jake nor Valerie were born on the North Shore, both visited the area regularly growing up and grew to love the place from a very young age.

They both attended UMD for undergrad, which is where they met, fell in love, and first started home-brewing with one another.

“We had both learned how to brew independently of one another,” says Jake, “but when we first started dating, we thought it would be fun to try making a batch of beer together.”

“From there,” continues Jake, “we just kept experimenting and making more and more. We’d make a batch of beer or two and then invite everyone that we knew over to drink it and hope that it would disappear so that we could clear the fridge for the next batch we had in the fermenter.”

Duluth Cider’s production manager Christian Frasier works hard to source all of their apples locally, sticking to orchards that grow apples “within the Great Lakes Region.” |SUBMITTED

Valerie and Jake got married after college at the spot where they first met overlooking Lake Superior, the lake that drew them together, and spent the next couple of years settling into life in Duluth.

Soon after, however, they started to feel a need to “get out and see more of the world,” to live somewhere outside of their home state.

So, they moved to Boston.

“We left everything behind when we moved to Boston,” says Jake. “We both quit our jobs and got rid of most of what we had. We didn’t have jobs or a place to live waiting for us out there, we just literally got in the car with our cat and whatever we could fit with us, got rid of everything else and just went.”

After making the move out east, Valerie found work at Far From the Tree cidery, while Jake started up a marketing company with a friend. It was through Valerie’s connection to the cider house that the two entrepreneurs gained their first real experience with the “world of cider.”

“We’d always been into brewing,” says Jake, “but as soon as Valerie started working at Far From the Tree we started diving head-first into the world of cider. Pretty soon it was all that we were doing at home.”

“It was right around that time that the idea for Duluth Cider first came to us,” continues Jake, “and thanks in part to the folks at Far From the Tree who were so generous with sharing their knowledge and time with us, we eventually turned that idea into a reality.”

After setting their sights on starting Duluth’s first local cider house, Valerie and Jake decided that they needed to do all that they could to learn as much about cider as possible.

The desire to develop a “midwestern” cider that Midwesterners can be proud of led them on an extensive “wine-and-cider-focused” backpacking trip through France, Switzerland and Italy, a trip that—according to Jake—shaped a lot of what Duluth Cider was to eventually become.

“One of our biggest takeaways from our trip through Europe,” says Jake, “was the pride that everyone we encountered expressed towards their locally grown fruit.”

“The finished cider was not the only important part,” continues Jake, “but where the ingredients for that product were grown, that was equally if not more important than the fermentation techniques used to produce the wine or cider. And all of this got Valerie and I thinking—Minnesota is known for its apples, the University of Minnesota is a pioneer in the world of apples, we should make a product that Minnesotans can be proud of, a product that we can say ‘we grew this here.’”

The team at Duluth Cider is constantly coming out with new and exciting ciders, ciders that blend traditional techniques that Jake and Valerie encountered in Europe with more modern, experimental techniques and styles. All of their ciders are unique, and, above all else, local.

Inspired by the wineries and cideries in Europe, Duluth Cider’s production manager Christian Frasier works hard to source all of their apples locally, sticking to orchards that grow apples “within the Great Lakes Region.”

October is also the month where Duluth Cider hosts their annual Big Bad Apple Bash, an event where they invite community members to contribute home-grown apples to a “community cider.”

“It takes all day to press the apples,” says Jake, “so we celebrate with lots of festivities, live music, food trucks, etc. Then the resulting juice is fermented, bottled and aged at Duluth Cider, and then released the following year at the next year’s Big Bad Apple Bash as special release.”

This year’s Big Bad Apple Bash will be taking place Saturday, October 9.

You can find information on all of Duluth Cider’s upcoming events, special releases, and where to find their cider on their website:

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