Lionheart Cider Company announced today that it’s rebranding to become Minneapolis Cider Company, and developing plans to open a taproom and production facility in Northeast Minneapolis.
For co-founder Jason Dayton, it’s a not so much a shift away from the original brand, but rather a move back towards their original goal: to open a cider taproom in Minneapolis. While developing these plans, Dayton and co-founder David O’Neill, saw a prime opportunity to simultaneously refresh their brand—and they didn’t have to go far to find it.
“When we were thinking about who we are and what we want to be, everything kept circling back to Minneapolis, to that outdoor adventure spirit,” Dayton said. “When we were looking at real estate, it was never about looking at the suburbs.”
Unsurprisingly, the new can designs for Minneapolis Cider Company feature familiar Minneapolis scenery: sailboats on water, as well as a silhouette of the city’s skyline. The “Minn Made” epithet, which is featured on the company’s new logo, isn’t just the end-goal for the production facility; it’s also a legal obligation as a Minnesotan winery and taproom that at least 51 percent of their produce comes from Minnesota.
The commercial winery license that Minneapolis Cider Company will operate under—the same license as Urban Forage Winery & Cider House, Minneapolis’ first winery—will allow the company to sell its product in single-serving containers such as four-packs of cans, instead of filling growlers, but restricts the company from self-distribution.
Until the taproom and winery opens, the company will continue to make its current ciders under the Lionheart Cider name. But while the name is on its way out, the characteristics the original name represented remain.
Lionheart Cider was born in 2015, as a group project in a University of Minnesota entrepreneurship capstone course. It was named to exemplify the courageous spirit of someone “making their own way in the world,” as Dayton notes. Dayton, O’Neill, and six other co-founders, who have since left the company, dove head first into the cider industry––before the ink on their diplomas had dried––two summers ago, with the July 2015 release of their signature Lionheart Original, which was made available in the Twin Cities and in Greater Minnesota liquor stores.
Without a production facility of their own, Lionheart had been contract manufacturing roughly 500-barrels of cider each year at a winery in Washington state. Armed with a new Northeast Minneapolis production facility, and investor funding, Dayton said Minneapolis Cider Company hopes to brew upwards of 2,000-barrels annually right away, with space for further expansion. Their goal is producing a wide variety of ciders to appeal to to the most experienced cider drinkers as well as first-timers.
“Cider is a product that not a lot of people totally understand yet. People realize the difference between an IPA and a stout, but not everybody realizes the difference between sweet and dry ciders. People don’t necessarily get that there’s this huge spectrum out there,” said Dayton.
Dayton draws much of his inspiration for cider from Europe, specifically England, which is an epicenter of both the production and consumption of cider. Dayton first experienced ciders while studying abroad as a college student, and later began homebrewing with another cider-lover he met, now his wife, and her family. This past June, Dayton even traveled to the Orchard Centre in Hartpury, England, to take a cidermaking course taught by renowned expert Peter Mitchell.
“There are a lot of cider companies that will play in one area of the spectrum, they only do dry ciders or sweet ciders,” he added. “Our goal is to share the passionate cider culture that we experienced abroad and bring that culture and variety of ciders to the U.S.”
With plenty of inspiration for new styles, Dayton must now find a space where he can test and mass-produce his ideas. The plans have yet to be finalized, but look for Minneapolis Cider Company to land somewhere in Northeast. A formal announcement of the taproom location is expected in the coming weeks.