It’s a great time to be drinking apples in Minnesota.
As the Minnesota craft beer industry keeps gaining steam, and local craft spirits have become the sexy new thing, Minnesota’s cider industry has enjoyed a steady ascent. The Growler reported that cider output from Minnesota-grown apples is projected to reach 400,000 gallons by 2019.
Many cider-makers decided the path would be best navigated together, so 10 of Minnesota’s 17 cider-makers banded together last year to form the Minnesota Cider Guild. Gretchen Perbix of Webster-based Sweetland Orchard, the longest-running cidery of the group, is leading the charge as president.
“We’ve got this under-developed cider culture in town,” said Perbix, “and I think we can do more to develop that culture if we’re all working together.”
POD: Gretchen Perbix discusses single-variety ciders, the value of having out-of-state competition, and “the archetypal cider apple” over a cider flight at Republic Seven Corners.
If you think you can just whip up a jug of cider and BOOM! you’re in, you’ve got another thing coming. Membership requires making a minimum of 500 gallons of cider per year; making cider from whole juice, as opposed to water or concentrates; and the cider must be made in the state of Minnesota.
The University of Illinois reports that 2,500 of the world’s 7,500 apple varieties are grown in the United States. According to the University of Minnesota, the U of M has released nearly 30 varieties from their breeding program since it began in 1888. At Sweetland Orchard, Gretchen and Mike Perbix have 49 varieties in production.
“Much of what we’re doing is trying to support craft, high-quality, local agriculture,” said Perbix. “At the end of the day, if we’re able to develop a Minnesota style of cider – which I think is possible – it’s because of the apples that we’re growing here.”
The guild’s first coordinated attack on the Twin Cities happens this week, in the form of the state’s farthest-reaching Cider Fest yet.
VIDEO: Colin Post of No. 12 Cider House explains how he makes his taproom-exclusive Maple.
While Cider Week isn’t new to the Twin Cities – Town Hall Brewery, in fact, began the Cider Week tradition back in 2010 – this is the second year in which cider makers from all over the state are coming in. Drinkers can expect a series of tap takeovers, expanded cider selections at a number of bars and restaurants; and cider dinners at Town Hall Brewery and St. Genevieve. All three Town Hall locations will be among those with expanded cider selections, along with usual suspects like Republic Seven Corners and the Happy Gnome in St. Paul.
The week’s festivities will culminate Saturday, when Cider Fest kicks off at City House St. Paul. In addition to the guild’s contingent, 11 international cider makers will be pouring their goods. In all, 33 cider-makers and 88 ciders are up for enjoyment. More may be added as the week progresses.
“There are some places [where] you can get lucky because they ordered a case of such-and-such by chance,” said Perbix, “but there are going to be a lot of ciders in one place that people haven’t had before.”
Tickets can be purchased on the website for $30 and can be purchased on the guild website.