Duluth Cider - “Superior to the Core”
The people have spoken. And they have unequivocally shared a strong preference for consuming locally-sourced products and ingredients.
As such, craft beverages have been all the rage in recent years. Breweries and distilleries have joined the popular ranks of wineries and continue to pop up all across the U.S.
Another rapidly-growing option? Cideries!
Today, we share the compelling story of Duluth Cider, a locally owned and operated cidery/taproom that opened right here in Duluth in 2018. Its catchy tagline, “Superior to the Core,” demonstrates both a dedication to quality and deep roots near Lake Superior.
While apple cider is a beverage to be enjoyed by all ages, hard cider - containing alcohol – provides next-level apple-y refreshment. It is true that the beverage has gained popularity in recent years; however, cider is actually a drink that originated in ancient times.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Until relatively recent history, apples weren’t for eating. In fact, they were often too bitter to just munch on. Instead, for thousands of years, people would press them for the juice and leave it to ferment, letting it bubble away until it turned into boozy hard cider.” 
Duluth Cider, located at 2307 West Superior Street, is owned by Jake and Valerie Scott. The business celebrated its grand opening in November 2018 and has been going gangbusters ever since.
“We’re in a country where breweries are king, but there is a rich tradition of cideries, too,” Jake Scott shared. “We offer ciders ranging from sweet to dry, along with traditional ciders, experimental, fruited ciders, and even hopped cider.”
The business strongly favors using local ingredients. “Minnesota is known for its apple varieties, and the University of Minnesota is such a trailblazer in the apple world,” Jake said. “We source our juice from the Great Lakes area, mostly from Minnesota and Bayfield, Wisconsin.”
Jake shared a bit about Duluth Cider’s output thus far. “Last year, we sold 60,000 gallons, and we are on track to finish this year well above that number,” he said. “But our goal isn’t volume, but a Superior product. We want to continue making really good cider and bringing the community together in our taproom.”
Valerie Scott is originally from Chaska, Minnesota, while Jake hails from the Brainerd area. The couple met while attending college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and got married in 2013.
Jake explained their mutual interest in cider. “Before we got together, we both had an interest in beer and brewing beer, and Valerie was also interested in wine and wine-making. We made beer together for our wedding. We both enjoy it and enjoy doing it together.”
During a temporary move to Massachusetts, Valerie got a job with Far from the Tree Cider, based in Salem. “After that, our hobby of making beer became a passion for cider,” Jake said.
The couple later spent some time backpacking across Europe to learn the craft. “Some of the best cider makers in the world are in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the UK,” Jake shared. “We wanted to learn how they do things and learn about the culture and global traditions of cider.”
The Scotts worked on the logistics of their cidery – including a business plan, location, and financing – for about two years before making the leap.
When 2307 West Superior Street became available, the couple knew it was the right venue for their cidery. “It was built in 1919, and originally used as stables for the U.S. Postal Service’s horses,” Jake said.
“It has barn-like ceilings, and original brick walls,” he added. “But the brick was covered with several layers of thick paint. We scraped and stripped it down ourselves. It took hundreds of hours.”
Ultimately, all that hard work paid off. “Duluth Cider offers warm tones, low lighting, and a place where people can just sit down and feel cozy. Knowing Duluth, sometimes you just need a cozy, warm place,” Jake noted.
Duluth Cider’s logo is a creatively rendered blend of hops and an apple. “Our logo brings together tradition and innovation,” Jake shared. “Among other choices, we have hopped ciders on tap. We love expanding people’s perceptions of what ciders can be.”
As of this writing, Duluth Cider currently has 16 varietals on tap. This includes Gitch – a semi-sweet cider; Trailside – a strawberry-basil flavored, semi-sweet cider; and Las Lajas – a coffee-infused sweet cider, which is infused with coffee from Duluth Coffee Company. The rotation is always changing, so customers are encouraged to watch Duluth Cider’s website and social media pages for updates.
Glensheen Gold, a cider created in partnership with Glensheen Mansion, where apples are harvested from the grounds, will also be available at the end of October.
Duluth Cider orders fresh-pressed apple juice - in quantities of 6,000 gallons per order - to make their cider. Erickson Orchard, based in Bayfield, Wisconsin, has been one of the cidery's closest orchard partners since opening in 2018.
“We contact the orchard and order a blend of juice,” Jake shared. “It is unpasteurized, unprocessed, and unfiltered. Then, the fermentation is done here at Duluth Cider.”
The apple juice varietals are typically a blend/mixture of either crab apples or dessert apples, including SweeTango (introduced in 2009 when horticulturalists from the University of Minnesota bred a Honeycrisp with a Zestar), McIntosh, and Pazazz.
Customers can purchase cider by the pint, flight, pitcher, crowler, growler, and can. A “cider finder” on Duluth Cider’s website can point patrons to liquor stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota that carry their products.
Duluth Cider employs about 20 people. This includes bartenders, packaging assistants, administrative roles (including HR and marketing), and assistant cider makers. Christian Junes is the head cider maker, and Tara Norstegard serves as the taproom manager.
Jake Scott handles sales and marketing, events, and outreach. Valerie Scott handles production, HR-related tasks, and financials for the business.
“We’re a pretty small, hardworking team, and we take pride in what we do,” Jake shared.
Events and Merch
Duluth Cider offers a variety of fun, on-site events. There are two stages (one indoor; one on the patio) for live music. Every Monday there is trivia. Tuesdays offer Bingo Taco Tuesdays, where free bingo is available and the Oasis Del Norte food truck is parked outside.
The Big, Bad Apple Bash, an annual anniversary celebration, will be held on October 15th. A special cider featuring community-donated apples will be available.
Duluth Cider also has an on-site gift shop. Patrons can pick up items like hoodies, flannels, hats, t-shirts, and dog toys.
In just four years in business, Duluth Cider has picked up many awards, including the Star Tribune’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Minnesota Cidery in both 2021 and 2022.
The Las Lajas Coffee Cider earned the 2019 U.S. Open Cider Championship Gold Medal, and the Greenstone Hopped Cider won the same award in 2020.
And, in 2022, Duluth Cider earned the Glint Cap Award’s gold medal for the Trailside Strawberry Basil.
The Scotts have many other interests beyond cider. The couple, who live in Duluth’s Hunter’s Park neighborhood, have an Australian Shepherd pup named Archie, and two cats – Nixon and Luna. Nixon falls under the umbrella of an “adventure cat,” and has joined the Scotts on many outdoor expeditions.
Additionally, Jake is a musician, and Valerie is a rock climber. They both enjoy hiking – particularly on the Superior Hiking Trail - and traveling.
For the Scotts, owning a cidery is a satisfying endeavor. And being in Duluth is the icing on the cake.
“The most rewarding thing to me is introducing people to the world of cider,” Jake shared. “I remember the first time I tried a really good craft cider – which was in Salem, Massachusetts. I said to myself, ‘There’s a whole world here that I knew nothing about.’”
Despite this synchronistic occurrence on the East Coast, however, Duluth will always be home for Jake and Valerie.
“When we were in Massachusetts, we’d sit by the ocean and say, ‘Man, I miss Lake Superior; I miss Duluth. We felt we needed to get home. Duluth is a huge part of our hearts, and it always will be.”