“Plan B” business name grows into a perfect fit for Wild State Cider.
According to Adam Ruhland, co-founder and co-owner of Duluth-based Wild State Cider, the meaning of the term “wild state” is ultimately open to interpretation.
“We had a business name selected,” Ruhland shared, “But right before we opened, we had a trademark … situation. So, the name Wild State came out of that, and having to come up with another name.”
He explained some of the inspiration behind their moniker. “Wild State can refer to the type of product we offer, where we don’t put additives into our cider. It could also be a place you go to be yourself, such as the wilderness.” For some, the name may also conjure up thoughts of our beloved NHL hockey team, the Minnesota Wild.
Although it wasn’t their first choice, Wild State has morphed into the perfect fit. Now that the cidery has been open for four years, company leadership simply can’t imagine operating under any other name.
Wild State Cider initially opened in March 2019. The business was founded by Ruhland and an old friend, Andrew “Drew” Price,” whom he met in summer camp back in 2008.
Ruhland has a bachelor’s degree in media/video production, and a master’s degree in special education - both from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Prior to owning Wild State Cider, he worked as a teacher and also in the digital marketing industry.
Interestingly, Ruhland also met his wife, Katie Ruhland, at the same summer camp where he met Price. Katie is from Duluth and works as a technology teacher at Raleigh Edison Charter School. Settling down with a woman from Duluth provided the impetus for Adam to relocate.
While Ruhland is from the state of Virginia, Price is from Duluth. As Ruhland was taking a little “life detour,” where he lived in Vermont for a few years – a highlight during that time was drinking Woodchuck Cider - Price was brewing beer at Voyageur Brewing Company in Grand Marais. The two combined their passion for craft beverages with their years of friendship and decided to start a business.
For its first few years, Wild State operated a warehouse, production facility, and taproom out of its location at 2515 West Superior Street. Recently, Ruhland and his two co-owners, Price and Allison Longley, were able to purchase an off-site warehouse roughly three miles away, on 59th Avenue West. The taproom – where all the customer fun happens - is still located at 2515 West Superior Street.
Today, the cidery has grown to include roughly 30 employees. In addition to its owners, there are taproom employees, a sales team, production team, marketing team, and more. The cider recipes are typically created, at least initially, by Longley and Price, and then work their way through the “tasting team” until they are ready to go.
For his part, Ruhland typically handles finances, personnel, distributors, and directs the growth of the business. “Every day is different when you own a business,” he noted. “There’s always something new to figure out and solve.”
Vibe and Events
Ruhland describes the taproom’s vibe as “Scandinavian modern.”
“We have maple wood tones, lots of natural light, vertical lines, and a color scheme of black and white,” he explained. “We also have a plant wall, which was installed by Duluth Living Walls, which provides a lot of breath and life.” The taproom also features lots of unique touches, including twinkly lights, exposed ductwork, and even a large overhead garage door that can be opened when the weather allows.
Wild State Cider has a small kitchen, too, so a few food options are available, including hot pretzels, Vermont-style soft-serve ice cream, and chips and salsa. Customers are encouraged to bring in outside food, as well.
In addition to simply being a cool place to hang out and enjoy a cider, Wild State also hosts a variety of events at the taproom, too. Events include trivia nights, bingo, a Monday night curling league, a Fall Cellar sale, house plant exchanges, Sunday markets, and more.
Wild State Cider creates a variety of hard ciders which are made from a custom blend of fresh apple juices. Wild State prides itself on not adding additional sugars or other sweeteners to its product, other than apple juice. The cider is also sorbate- and gluten-free. Wild State utilizes pasteurization, rather than chemicals, to keep its cider fresh.
Its flagship options, which are available all year, in all markets, include pear, semi-dry, raspberry hibiscus, classic dry, and hazy pink pineapple. Seasonal and limited-release ciders are also available, and the “on tap” options vary weekly.
Wild State also does occasional collaborations with other local companies, such as Vikre Distillery. The duo’s limited-release canned cocktail last November was a huge hit with customers.
Wild State sources its apple juice from orchards and press facilities in Washington, New York, and Michigan. The business typically orders juice by the tankerload, which equates to 5,500 gallons of juice, and typically orders one tankerload per week. The cidery produced 180,000 gallons of cider last year, which equates to about 80,000 cases or around a million cans.
While Ruhland can pinpoint the specific apple varietals used, there is more to the story. “We typically use Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh apples, but we order by requesting things like how much acidity we need; how much sugar content we want; and by pH,” he explained. “The orchards and press facilities we use then blend the juice to meet these requirements.”
Wild State Cider also offers plenty of merch; sweatshirts, hats, hoodies, glassware and more are available for purchase online and in the taproom.
Where to Buy
Customers who visit the taproom can order cider by the glass, or try several mini samples with a flight. Kegs, four-packs, cases, crowlers (25-ounce cans), and refillable growlers (32-ounce glass containers) can also be picked up to enjoy at home.
Additionally, most major liquor stores, including Target, Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods, Costco, and more, carry the product. Wild State Cider is also available at select restaurants and bars.
The product can also be shipped direct-to-consumer, in 40 states. Please visit wildstatecider.com to learn more.
Another unique option is the Wild Cider Club. Participants can choose to receive specialty ciders, which are usually only available in the taproom, delivered to their home four times a year. Local residents can also choose to pick up their order.
Giving back to the causes they care about is important to Wild State’s leaders. The company donates 1% of its top-line revenue to various non-profit, environmental organizations which help people gain access to the outdoors.
Wild State also participates in local environmental efforts, such as the “Clean Yer Creek” initiative.
For Adam and Katie Ruhland and their family, which also includes a 4-year-old daughter, Tessa, a one-year-old son, Davis, and a dog named June, Duluth has become a wonderful place to call home. The family has settled down in the Morley Heights neighborhood, which is a perfect location to enjoy all their favorite activities.
“That gap of five years I spent in Vermont helped condition me for the cold weather,” Adam noted with a chuckle. “Then, Katie and I lived in St. Paul for a while, but it was too urban. We wanted to go somewhere with less people and more recreational opportunities.”
Duluth appeared to be the perfect fit. “Duluth – and Lake Superior – are so impressive, geographically,” he added. “And, we love skiing and hiking. We enjoy how the trails here are so intertwined through the neighborhoods.”
Wild State customers can expect to see a slight brand refresh in the coming weeks. While Wild State’s logo (featuring a bear, fox, and goose), won’t change much, the logo and packaging will undergo a slight refresh, to give the products a more polished look. Additionally, the plastic PakTechs (the device used to connect four-packs of cider) will also be phased out, in favor of cardboard cartons.
Ruhland shared some of his dreams for the future of Wild State Cider. “Our ultimate goal is to be the top cider in the region. Also, we want to be a place that is a staple of Duluth. We want our employees to be happy, paid good wages and benefits, with a good work-life balance.”
Please visit wildstatecider.com to learn more.