Boxstore Bird Fall Music Series

This fall, we’ll be welcoming Boxstore Bird into the Sociable Cider Werks taproom for an intimate series every Wednesday night. From 7:30PM to 8:30PM you can head on over to the taproom and hear songs from their new album, “Dirt Makes Pretty,” as well as your old favorites.

Boxstore Bird is heritage Americana, a delightful mix of americana, bluegrass, and storytelling that will hook you with a rare kind of songwriting.

This lyrically driven project was born out of a desire to create a different kind of musical experience–one in which the audience and artist can connect through a song and a story. Frontman Drew Peterson has been writing songs for over 20 years, and his lyrics have the power to pull you in and hold you there in anticipation of the story’s conclusion. He will be accompanied by Mandy Fassett, an incredibly talented musician who will blow you away with her fiddle, cello, and mandolin solos.

 

Boxstore Bird Fall Music Series

This fall, we’ll be welcoming Boxstore Bird into the Sociable Cider Werks taproom for an intimate series every Wednesday night. From 7:30PM to 8:30PM you can head on over to the taproom and hear songs from their new album, “Dirt Makes Pretty,” as well as your old favorites.

Boxstore Bird is heritage Americana, a delightful mix of americana, bluegrass, and storytelling that will hook you with a rare kind of songwriting.

This lyrically driven project was born out of a desire to create a different kind of musical experience–one in which the audience and artist can connect through a song and a story. Frontman Drew Peterson has been writing songs for over 20 years, and his lyrics have the power to pull you in and hold you there in anticipation of the story’s conclusion. He will be accompanied by Mandy Fassett, an incredibly talented musician who will blow you away with her fiddle, cello, and mandolin solos.

 

Boxstore Bird Fall Music Series

This fall, we’ll be welcoming Boxstore Bird into the Sociable Cider Werks taproom for an intimate series every Wednesday night. From 7:30PM to 8:30PM you can head on over to the taproom and hear songs from their new album, “Dirt Makes Pretty,” as well as your old favorites.

Boxstore Bird is heritage Americana, a delightful mix of americana, bluegrass, and storytelling that will hook you with a rare kind of songwriting.

This lyrically driven project was born out of a desire to create a different kind of musical experience–one in which the audience and artist can connect through a song and a story. Frontman Drew Peterson has been writing songs for over 20 years, and his lyrics have the power to pull you in and hold you there in anticipation of the story’s conclusion. He will be accompanied by Mandy Fassett, an incredibly talented musician who will blow you away with her fiddle, cello, and mandolin solos.

 

Cidermaker Profile: Rob Fisk of Wyndfall Cyder

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Rob Fisk // Photo by Aaron Davidson, The Growler

For most people, the word “spitter” evokes the thought of something unpleasant—angry llamas, perhaps, or individuals who require a little extra talking space if you want to stay dry. Not Rob Fisk. For him, the word means something beautiful, something high quality, something on which he’s built his life.

Spitters are the colloquial term for cider-specific apples. And Rob, owner and operator of Wyndfall Cyder, is adamant about bringing as many of them to Minnesota as possible, to make the best cider possible. “I want to make the highest-end product that I can,” he says. “We can make the best cider in the world in Minnesota with the right apples. The limits are endless.”

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Rob Fisk // Photo by Aaron Davidson, The Growler

We’re sitting in the hot June sun on the patio outside the Apple Lodge at Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest Orchard, in Jordan, Minnesota. Minnesota Harvest is the new home of Wyndfall Cyder as of late this spring, and Rob has just finished installing his equipment in a large room behind the lodge’s industrial-sized kitchen. He had been operating in conjunction with an orchard in La Crescent, Minnesota, prior to the move, but saw an opportunity for more growth in Jordan.

Minnesota Harvest has been in operation since 1971 and is a popular events venue and pick-your-own orchard. The 300-plus acre orchard boasts some 35,000–40,000 apple trees, and the owners “buy as many [new trees] as they can afford” every year. It’s a sprawling, pastoral setting just 45 minutes from the Twin Cities, and so far is proving to be an ideal location for Wyndfall to put down roots.

In the few months he’s been at Minnesota Harvest, Rob has planted 75 trees of “bittersweets,” or English cider apples—aka the spitters. “They’re so tannic you can’t eat them off the tree,” he explains. “So they’re called spitters, because you’d spit them out.”

The tannins that make these apples inedible are also the key to making the drier, English-style ciders (or “cyders,” as it’s spelled in the U.K., hence Wyndfall Cyder’s spelling) Rob seeks to produce. Table apples are bred for a balance of tart, sweet, and texture, not tannin. Once you ferment out all the sugar, you’re left with a tartness that’s “off the charts,” Rob explains.

Cider apples, on the other hand, have a lot of tannins, like grapes. It’s those tannins that are responsible for a cider’s complexity and nuance. “There are lots of different layers once you ferment the sugar out,” Rob says. “Just like wine grapes don’t taste like grapes after fermentation, cider apples don’t taste like apples—they taste like tons of other things.”

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Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest Orchard, in Jordan, Minnesota, is the new home of Wyndfall Cyder // Photo by Aaron Davidson, The Growler

Despite the similarities between cider and wine, most drinkers in the United States lump cider into the same category as beer: it’s generally lower in alcohol, has a similar mouthfeel, and is often packaged in similar ways. But that perception is starting to change. “The cider market in Minnesota is changing quickly,” Rob says. “Even in the one-and-a-half years since I’ve been in production it’s changed. But it’s still in its infancy relative to where we’re hoping it’ll go, […] which is to treat it like a fine wine.”

Rob first got into the fermentation game with beer, homebrewing with friends in college. He was studying environmental policy and forestry at the University of Minnesota at the time, and the more he learned about homebrewing, the more he started thinking about switching from beer to cider. “I was loving brewing, but then I started getting into the sustainability aspect of everything, and it was like a light bulb went off,” he says.

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Rob Fisk in Wyndfall’s new production space // Photo by Aaron Davidson, The Growler

That light bulb was Rob realizing the benefits orchards can have on the environment versus corn and bean-type crops. “If we sustained orchards and weren’t plowing all the time, we’d lessen erosion and runoff issues,” he says. “So I was thinking, ‘Okay, how do you do that sustainably and make money?’ And it was obvious: if you ferment the stuff, you can sell it for a lot more than if you’re just picking apples off the tree. Then I realized I could do what I was going to school for and my hobby at the same time.”

He returned to the University of Minnesota to get his master’s in horticulture, taking such classes as organic fruit production from professors like Jim Luby, the breeder of the Honeycrisp apple. While he learned a lot, his focus remained on cider apples and someday opening his own cidery.

Next page: Rob’s path to becoming a cidermaker

Sweetland Orchard Bottling Line of ‘Scrumpy’ Hard Ciders

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Three varities of hard cider from Webster, Minnesota’s, Sweetland Orchard are now available in four-packs and kegs // Photo courtesy of Sweetland Orchard

Sweetland Orchard, in Webster, Minnesota, has been making hard cider since 2012 and is now bottling and kegging it for wholesale distribution.

Four-packs of Sweetland’s Scrumpy Original (“tart, dry, and unfiltered”), Scrumpy Sweet (“a sweet-tart cider that gets its flavor from from the non-alcoholic cider added to every bottle”), and Cherry Rhubarb Scrumpy (“combines hard cider with rhubarb and tart cherries in a brilliant pink cider”) recently began showing up at area liquor stores in 375ml bottles.

Sweetland makes its hard cider from a blend of 100-percent Minnesota-grown apples. They combine apple varieties like Zestar and Paula Red that ripen earlier in the year with late season varieties like Haralson and Honeycrisp.

The term “scrumpy” commonly refers to locally produced, small-batch cider versus more mass-produced ciders. “Going scrumpin'” can also mean going to pick apples.

According to a press release from Sweetland owners Mike and Gretchen Perbix, the four-packs wouldn’t have been possible without help from their friends and family. Their bottling crew included Sam Falbo, a friend who designed the bottles’ labels and carrying cases “who still refuses payment in any form other than apples or cider,” other friends of the orchard, Gretchen’s mother and brother, and Mike’s parents.

The State of Cider 2015

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Sapsucker Farms in Mora, Minnesota, has been making its Yellowbelly Hard Cider since 2007.

The art and science of hard apple cider has been practiced in America since long before there even was a United States. The first English settlers to arrive in New England are said to have promptly requested apple seeds from the motherland upon learning that the crabapples native to the promised land were unsuitable for the making of their favorite fermented beverage.

The first American apple orchards were soon planted in Boston, Massachusetts, in the early-1600s, and wood grafting and other agricultural technologies advanced quickly. American production of hard cider was soon in full swing. Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were known to have made the stuff — and it’s said that John Adams’ “preferred drink before breakfast” was a “a morning ‘gill’ of hard cider.

With an influx of German and Eastern European immigrants to the States in the early-1800s, so came a shift in America’s alcoholic beverage preference. The westward expansion to the Midwest had provided farmers access to soil and conditions more conducive to the growing beer ingredients like barley. Beer quickly became the most consumed adult beverage in the country. While the rapid expansion of beer production put cider into decline in the United States, Prohibition is responsible for the most crushing blow.

When the Volstad Act was passed and Prohibition went into effect, draconian laws restricting the production of even non-alcoholic cider led orchards to stop growing cider apples altogether. In an effort to eradicate the production of hard cider, FBI agents chopped down and burned countless acres orchard, permanently killing an untold number of apple trees and the industry of hard cider in America.

Until now.

By the numbers, hard cider is the fastest-growing segment of the United States’ beer market. Seeing more than 70% growth each of the past two years and a market share that has grown fivefold in the past three years, hard cider is in the midst of a full-blown renaissance.

The reasons for hard cider’s resurgence are many. An increase in options is a big part of it. Until recently the only hard ciders widely available in Minnesota — or the rest of the country for that matter — were imports from Europe and a handful of mass-produced (oftentimes overly-sweet) big brand ciders.

The growth of craft beer has also undoubtedly played a role in hard cider’s new evolution. As consumers have become more interested in quality and flavor in their beer, they have also become more eager to explore their palates and try new things outside the realm of malt beverages. And there’s a new generation of cider makers who seem eager to please.

We are seeing the early stages of a resurrection that shows no signs of slowing any time soon. Minnesota is now home to more than a dozen licensed cider makers dotting our landscape and there are  several more soon-to-open cideries in the planning stages. The best thing about the cider scene in Minnesota right now is the same thing that makes their products so intriguing: individuality. There are urban cideries, farmhouse cideries, vineyards that make cider, make-your-own-cider breweries, cideries focused on foraged ingredients, and the list goes on. Some make dry ciders. Some make sweet ciders. Some only make one cider. Some make a new cider every month.

What’s most exciting about the state of cider in Minnesota though, is the future. Increased options and access for consumers combined with a passionate and creative group of hard cider producers has the state primed to make a splash on the cider scene nationally.

Check out our map below or click the link in the below tweet to hear our own Joseph Alton chat with the 89.3 The Current Morning Show crew about The State of Cider in Minnesota.


Minnesota Cidery Map

A map of hard cider producers in Minnesota (click the icon in the upper-lefthand corner to display a list). Don’t see your favorite cidery listed? Email [email protected] to have them added.

Sweetland Orchards Scrumpy

Sweetland Orchards Scrumpy

John Garland / Growler Magazine

Our favorite beer bars are getting wise to the national trend. There, on the drink lists, among a litany of IPAs and Belgians, you’ll increasingly find dedicated selections of hard cider, giving us a chance to expand our craft palates.

These places include both Republic locations, which comprise two of the four Metro locations currently offering taps from Sweetland Orchard of Webster, MN. We tasted their Sweet Scrumpy at Calhoun Square (above). The deep golden colored cider isn’t as “sweet” as the name suggests. Rather, it’s a lush, full-tasting sip, a tad off-dry, with a touch of tannin on the finish. It also has a  complimentary tartness keeping the sip balanced throughout.

Mike and Gretchen Perbix are going on their fourth season of hard cider production at Sweetland, and the numbers look encouraging. Gretchen tells us the volume they’re looking at for the 2014 harvest is around 10,000 gallons, nearly seven times the volume of the 2013 crop which is currently what you’ll find in bottles and kegs.

Their Scrumpy Original and Scrumpy Sweet are made mostly from dessert apples – lots of haralsons, honeycrisps and SweeTangos. They’re sourcing a fair amount of juice from Pepin Heights, as well as orchards in Michigan, and now use their own orchard stock for unpasteurized cider and hard cider R&D.

Find 750ml bottles of Sweetland’s Northern Spy and Scrumpy Gold ciders at Stinson WBS, France 44, The Wine Thief/Ale Jail, and most likely Zipp’s by week’s end.

Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis

Now Open (Or Damn Close) visits an enthusiastic Twin Cities cider house.

By Brian Kaufenberg

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Sociable Cider Werks

Fall in Minnesota is when families visit local orchards to pick baskets of apples from the trees and buy fresh apple turnovers, applesauce, apple cider, apple pies, and every other iteration of apple products. All save one—locally sourced hard cider.

From colonial times until the late-1800s hard cider was the preferred alcohol beverage in America, but cider curiously disappeared from our cellars, replaced by beer, wine, and spirits. Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson of Sociable Cider Werks located in Northeast Minneapolis are hoping to bring local hard cider back to Minnesotans.

“Minnesota has an awesome apple culture,” says Watkins. “There’s no reason we don’t have cider here.” Minnesota is world-renowned for its apples largely due to the University of Minnesota, which has bred 16 different hardy apple varieties including Honeycrisp and the new SweeTango™.

The duo was inspired to start their own cider house after enjoying Thompson’s father-in-law’s cider, a dry, bottle-conditioned cider that proved cider could and should be “designed to be drank as a great alternative to beer,” recalls Watkins.

Blast from the Past: ENKI Brewing’s Now Open or Damn Close

Since there are only a few cider apple orchards left in the U.S that yield the bittersharp apples ideal for hard cider, Thompson and Watkins have created a number of apple graffs recipes using fresh unfermented cider from Pepin Heights Orchard in Lake City and blending it with a lightly hopped malt adjunct.

Wade Thompson (left) and Jim Watkins (right) of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy of Sociable Cider Werks

Wade Thompson (left) and Jim Watkins (right) of Sociable Cider Werks // Photo courtesy of Sociable Cider Werks

“It’s going to be a challenge to educate consumers,” explains Watkins about their apple graffs. “We’re not apple ales. We’re ciders with a malt adjunct.” The lightly hopped malt adjunct—some recipes are sorghum-based while others are malted barley—replaces the acids and tannins found in traditional cider apple varieties and adds body and structure.

Sociable Cider Werks, named after a two person side-by-side bicycle from the early 1900s, will soon be serving their cycling themed Freewheeler Dry Apple Graff and Broken Spoke Stout Apple Graff from the taproom at their 6,000 square-foot production facility, along with a handful of their own craft beers as well for patrons who don’t have a taste for hard cider—yet.

“Minnesota is late to cider and we’re excited to bring it here,” Watkins states.


The Brewers: Jim Watkins and Wade Thompson

The Cider: Freewheeler Dry Apple Graff, Broken Spoke Stout Apple Graff

Visit: 1611 Polk St. NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413 – Eventual Taproom Hours: Thu-Sat 4pm-10pm

A Blind Tasting beer festival

Taste & Rate 48 Minnesota Oktoberfests

Sept. 20, 2019 | 5:30–9pm
Upper Landing Park
Tickets: GA $40 | DD $20