We’re a little over halfway into September, which means that apple season is in full swing here in Minnesota. Orchards are filled with nature’s bounty, leaves are juuuuuust beginning to turn, and it’s the perfect time to take a day trip out to visit one or two of Greater Minnesota’s excellent cideries. Get ready to don your boots, flannels, and make like Johnny Appleseed to one of these scenic destinations. Cheers!
North Shore: Duluth Cider and Wild State Cider
Autumn on the North Shore is the type of pretty that poets and painters devote their whole lives to capturing, so it should be no surprise that our first fall destination is going to be Duluth, Minnesota. Home to a pair of great cideries located just blocks from one another in the city’s Lincoln Park Craft District, Duluth is an urban gateway to the north with all of the foodie and tourism attractions that a daytripper could possibly need.
Still, you’re going to want to get out of the city to experience the best leaf-peeping opportunities. During mid-late September, the North Shore’s finest foliage can be found inland in the Superior National Forest, visible via the Superior National Forest Byway which begins an hour up the coast from Duluth in Silver Bay.
Once you’re back in the city, make a beeline for Duluth Cider to try one of their adventurous infusions like their Greenstone hopped cider and Las Lajas Coffee Cider, along with their more traditional expressions. Wild State Cider specializes in fruit-forward infusions like their Raspberry Hibiscus cider and Hazy Pink Pineapple, and their seasonal Apple Pie Cider tastes like autumn in a glass.
St. Joseph & Collegeville: Milk & Honey Cider
Home to the twin colleges of St. John and St. Benedict, St. Joseph and Collegeville are located in a divinely beautiful patch of lake-and-wood dotted prairie near St. Cloud. Regardless of their religious or scholastic affiliations, visitors should make a point to swing through the St. John’s campus to see the architectural majesty of the brutalist St. John’s Abbey. Following that, take a walk along Lake Sagatan on the college’s Chapel Trail, which offers plenty of scenic vantage points.
Milk and Honey Ciders‘ orchard acreage and handsome taproom are easy on the eyes as well, and their artisanal cider is worthy of a trip in and of itself. Specializing in aromatic, dry, and tannic ciders showcasing high degrees of complexity—try Heirloom for case in point—Milk & Honey recently updated its facility to offer expanded patio space and a brand new amphitheater stage for live music and comedy.
Hungry? Stop by Chefs Mateo Mackbee’s excellent restaurant Krewe in downtown St. Joe. With a menu inspired by New Orleans’ diverse melting pot of cuisines, Krewe is located next door to Flour & Flower, a bakery and flower shop headed up by Mackbee’s partner and co-founder Erin Lucas.
Northfield: Keepsake Cidery and Sweetland Orchard
Situated just 10 minutes outside of the bucolic riverside city of Northfield in neighboring Dundas, Keepsake Cidery are experts in wild-fermented cider that highlights apple varieties native to Minnesota. Wine enthusiasts will find a lot to love in Keepsake’s taproom pour list, which skews towards dry, complex cider, some of which—such as their Sunset Medium Cider—are even infused with berries grown nearby, and cheese and sandwich pairings are also available to elevate your experience. Take a stroll through their adjoining Woodkeep Orchards to truly connect with the roots of this farm-to-table product.
Just under 30 minutes away in Webster, Sweetland Orchard offers a quaint and cozy “classic apple orchard” feel, complete with roaming chickens and bushels of apples and pears available for sale. You can pre-order a tasting kit to taste through their cider selection, which displays a great balance of tart complexity and approachability. We love the cidery’s Perennial, which features delicate blossom aromas that evoke the apple orchard. Picnic supplies are also available with prior notice, and we can think of few more pleasant ways to spend an afternoon than snacking al fresco on Sweetland’s friendly grounds.
While in the Northfield neck of the woods, you can visit the Cannon River Wilderness Area and Big Woods State Park for rustic wooded trails to stroll, and the town itself has plenty to offer as well. In addition to shopping, art galleries, museums, and the Carleton and St. Olaf college campuses, Northfield hosts the craft-y Riverwalk Market Fair from 9 am–1 pm every Saturday until mid-October.
Hinckley and Sandstone: Sapsucker Farms
Roughly halfway between the Twin Cities and the North Shore, Hinckley and Sandstone are popular tourism stops for northbound travelers on the I-35 corridor. Hinckley features a cute, historic downtown married to the glitzy excess of Grand Casino Hinckley, while Sandstone is awash in natural splendor thanks to the nearby Banning State Park and Grindstone Lake. Self-styled as the “First City of the North Woods,” Sandstone has a distinctly Northern feel, and nature-lovers can learn more about the variety of habitats in the area at Osprey Wilds Environmental Learning Center (formerly Audubon Center of the North Woods).
Located about a half-hour south of Sandstone outside of the town of Mora is Sapsucker Farms, producers of Yellow Belly Cider. Visitors can enjoy a farm-themed taproom experience at Sapsucker’s sizable cider barn and have the opportunity to sample a variety of awesome Yellow Belly Ciders. Yellow Belly’s team are adept at showcasing homegrown ingredients from Sapsucker’s farms that go beyond apples, such as their pleasantly spicy Ginger variety. Sapsucker often features food trucks, live music, classes, and other programming, and has a plethora of farm-fresh produce as well maple syrup, honey, and other products available for sale.