Beer lovers in the Twin Cities are taken care of, but many cider drinkers are wondering when the taps will turn toward their tastes. After all, Minnesota is known for its dynamic orchard industry.
This summer, Keepsake Cidery will marry local orchard and cider in a collaborative venture with Woodskeep Orchard in Dundas.
Launching with three varieties of medium to dry ciders in 750 ml bottles, Keepsake aims to hit the market by July, both at its Dundas base near Northfield and locally at South Lyndale Liquors, Sentryz, GYST Fermentation Bar, and other locations.
The ciders will be made according to traditional cider-making techniques that use low spray and organic ingredients whenever possible. Keepsake co-owner Nate Watters notes that it takes a special combination of apples to make a good cider.
"The best ciders are the product of a blend of apples with specific characteristics that, when combined, make an exceptionally balanced beverage," he notes, citing Sweet 16, Connel Red/Fireside, Honey Gold, Haralson and, naturally, Keepsake as some of his favorite breeds.
Cider apples differ from dessert apples, and part of the delay in seeing local orchard-to-glass cider is that new crops need to mature before production can begin. It takes three to five years before an orchard can begin harvesting the right apples for the alcoholic brew, meaning that a cider boom may be coming as new orchards mature.
"The orchard is the heart the cidery," says partner Tracy Jonkman. "We planted it specifically with cider in mind." Located side by side in Dundas, the orchard and cidery are separate but intertwined companies. Keepsake is a three-owner business among Watters, Jonkman, and Jim Bovino, while Woodskeep is owned separately by Watters and Jonkman.
In 2011, the partners decided to combine their mutual love of cider with a love of agriculture. "Burnt out from running a theater company, I returned to my passion for the land," Bovino says of the career shift. "My inspiration is really the connection between the land and human culture. The fermentation arts are an example of human innovation in collaboration with wildness." He learned the trade with Finnriver Farm and Cidery in Washington.
Keepsake is also planning a CSA-style distribution of its products, somewhere between a traditional fruits and vegetables CSA and a wine club. Members of the Cider Club will get a quarterly pickup in Minneapolis (and perhaps other locations) for a bundle including cider, merchandise, and more. "We look at our club as our inner circle, people we can get to know, bounce ideas off, and include in the creative process," says Watters.
They will not open an orchard taproom, as it doesn't fit with the rural setting, instead distributing their cider across the metro.
While fans may have to wait until July to get bottles, Keepsake is pouring samples at the following events:
Keepsake Cidery open house: Saturday, May 2, 2- 6 p.m., 4609 135th St. E., Dundas GYST Fermentation Bar: Saturday, May 9, 12 p.m.- 8 p.m. South Lyndale Liquor: Friday, June 5, 4 p.m. Town Hall Brewery Cider Festival: Saturday, June 6. Details TBD
Available in July: Woodskeep Cider: A medium cider, a balance of sweet and tart with rich and full flavor. Heartwood Cider: The driest cider, crisp and refreshing. Wild: A natural cider: no yeast added, no sulfites, just indigenous yeast and time. Available in the fall: Keepsake Series #1: Whiskey barrel aged.
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