It’s apple season, and local cider-makers are finding inventive ways to turn the state fruit into autumn in a glass.
“When apples ripen, there’s that obvious orchard instinct among all Minnesotans — the apples call us,” says Steve Hance, president of the Minnesota Cider Guild and co-owner of Number 12 Cider in Minneapolis’ North Loop.
At his cidery, cool-weather drinkers veer toward barrel-aged, oaked hard ciders that speak to fans of bourbon. “It’s kind of got a cult following,” Hance says.
Barrel aging is just one way Minnesota’s cideries are experimenting with apples’ versatility. Some add hops and other fruits, aiming for a consistent balance of flavors. Others stay steeped in tradition, amplifying the singular flavors of specific apple varieties.
Because cider is technically a wine, each batch of apples, and therefore cider, can be different, depending on the weather, trees and terroir. “That’s part of the beauty of cider,” says Jeff Zeitler, owner of Urban Forage Winery and Cider House in Minneapolis. He makes wines with fruit and flowers foraged from metro-area yards, including dandelion and carrot.
Minneapolis Cider Co. fortifies house-brewed ciders with apple brandy, creating cordials that can be drunk neat or served in low-proof cocktails in the taproom and are also available in stores for at-home bartending. Coming soon to liquor stores: a canned ready-to-drink milk punch made with the spirit.
Says Lars Olsen, the company’s liqueur maker: “We are exploring fruit.”
Three to try:
Raspberry Fields Forever
Minneapolis Cider Co., minneapoliscider.co
Start with their Pomologie line of cordials made by blending cider and apple brandy with herbs, berries and flowers. Stop there or add raspberry cider, honey and bitters for this crisp cocktail.
Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, urbanforagewinery.com
Spiced with juniper and coriander from a local gin-maker, this biting yet smooth cider gives off hints of the botanical spirit.
Number 12 Cider, number12cider.com
Barrel-aged and fortified with brown sugar, this cider’s boozy bourbon note and higher alcohol content appeals to hard spirit drinkers.