I Like Them Apples


Geeking out over Cider with Paul



Do craft beer geeks drink cider? Is there room for another geeky alcoholic beverage in this booming market? Paul Vander Heide thinks so. So does Tenth and Blake. Paul and a few other cider makers (Original Sin, Fox Barrel and Crispin) got together to offer their flagship ciders and a few experimentals to a packed crowd at Fountainhead a few weeks ago. Since then I’ve seen Paul’s Vander Mill ciders showing up on craft beer menus all over town and he’s slated to do more tappings in Chicago.


There’s definitely something happening here. But is it a rising-tide-raises-all-ships scenario or is there something deeper? “I think [the craft beer boon] has encouraged people to expand their willingness to try new products. In the end that really is a benefit to us all” says Paul. But cider has its own audiences too. Upon entering Fountainhead, Cleetus from City Provisions latched on to my arm and said “these cider guys are crazy geeky!” One sip in to Vander Mill’s Totally Roasted and I was convinced — 4lbs of homemade cinnamon roasted pecans in a 30 gallon batch, and a little vainilla to mellow it out, this cider had all the complexity of a Belgian with the sessionabiltiy of a summery white wine.


In other cidery news from that day, it was announced that Tenth and Blake acquired the popular Crispin cider company. While most cider geeks I talked to don’t consider Crispin a true craft cider (even questioning why they were there at all) they certainly have been driving a lot of volume in a niche space. Ciders from bigger brands like Crispin and Magners are typically made from a concentrate, or even worse, fermented glucose water, and then have the flavor added back in with juice. But craft ciders like Vander Mill and Original sin are made from a real presses cider and real fruits like pear, cherries and of course apples.