Fall is the time for apple harvesting, and cideries are hard at work preparing batches of freshly-pressed apple juice for aging and fermenting. Nothing makes me crave a glass of cider quite like dropping temperatures, crackling fires and turning leaves. Luckily, Austin has a few locally-made ciders to oblige my craving.
There’s no doubt that a craft cider movement is brewing in Austin, and Texas Keeper is at the forefront with a new (and amazing) tasting room due to open its doors on Dec. 5, 2015.
Three Austinites, One Mission
Texas Keeper’s three co-founders, Brandon Wilde, Nick Doughty and Lindsey Peebles, are long-time friends and original Austinites.
Before joining forces to make cider, Brandon had 15 years of brewing experience under his belt and Nick had been trained in wine-making. Lindsey had spent ample time working in orchards and vineyards in New Zealand.
“Many cider manufacturers add sugar or syrup to their ciders,” Wilde told me, “and many of them are made from concentrate.” In contrast, the Texas Keeper team came together with the mission to create a pure apple cider with no additives, made from traditional American apples. They seek to develop a taste profile in each batch that does justice to the essence of each apple varietal.
They also try to avoid using dessert varieties most of the time (Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Gala), as they want to bring out more of the tannins and acidity in the fruit.
So far, Texas Keeper’s mission has been a success. They are in the process of remodeling their cidery location, which is on a former ranch near Manchaca. The ranch house was built sometime in the 1800s, and most of the restoration and remodeling work is being done by the Texas Keeper team.
New Cider Tasting Room
Texas Keeper is taking over the main residential portion of the ranch house to create a tasting room and retail location. The old ranch house, surrounded by sprawling oak trees and rolling hills, creates the perfect ambiance for kicking back and enjoying a glass of high-quality cider. The tasting room has large windows on three sides, giving a panoramic view of the surrounding trees and a large old fireplace that gives the space a cozy pub feel.
The tasting room won’t only be for sampling their own ciders. They plan to hand-pick ciders from around the U.S. for patrons to try. The goal is to educate the public on the process of cider-making and share taste profiles that can be found in great ciders.
With the knowledge and experience these guys have, there’s no doubt the experience will be well worth a trip to the edge of South Austin. Texas Keeper plans to open for tastings, dinners and other events starting Dec. 5 of this year.
Creative Concoctions: Cider Wine & Cider Beer
Texas Keeper has stayed true to the craft movement by experimenting with their own unique blends, which have done quite well. One of these blends is Ciderweizen, a combination of Gold Rush and Crispin apples with Bavarian Hallertau hops. The hops act as a grapefruity, floral bridge between the citrus and banana notes of the fermented apples. The result is smooth and satisfying.
Another combination that Texas Keeper experiments with is wine and cider. Last summer, they released a Grafter Rose, which was a combination of Rome Beauty apples and Texas Tempranillo. The result was a refreshing rose-colored cider with notes of green apple and strawberry. It sold out in three weeks.
This winter, Texas Keeper will release a seasonal, double-fermented stout/cider hybrid with a 10% alcohol content. Sounds like the perfect beverage for a cold winter’s night.
Where to Find Texas Keeper Products
Here are Texas Keeper’s ciders that can be found in stores year-round, plus the seasonal blend for fall:
- Gold Rush – Only single varietal cider, using only Gold Rush apples.
- Texas Keeper No. 1 – First cider released by Texas Keeper, containing a blend of five different apples including Northern Spy and Ida Red. This blend has no oak, but has undergone malolactic fermentation, giving it a smooth, buttery taste. Notes of peach, pear and tropical fruit.
- Ciderweizen – Mentioned above, a blend of Gold Rush and Crispin apples with hops.
- Heirloom – Special fall blend is a dry, crisp champagne-like cider made with a blend of heirloom apples: Rhode Island Greening, Rome Beauty and Ben Davis. Rhode Island Greening is the second-oldest apple strain in the United States, dating back to 1650. This blend is then aged in French oak to create the champagne of ciders. I will definitely be going back for more of this one.
Texas Keeper ciders are sold at Whole Foods, Central Market, Twin Liquors, in.gredients, Quikie Pickie, and a host of other local stores. Check out Texas Keeper’s website for additional locations, and be ready for the winter 2015 opening in South Austin!
@natalien_n wants to know:
What is your favorite locally-made cider?