Like local beer makers, the cideries in this town are adventurous, playing around with funky apple varieties, heirloom apples that are rarely sourced these days and blending apples with other, occasionally off-the-wall ingredients (remember Austin Eastciders’ brisket cider made with meat from Micklethwait Craft Meats?).
Texas Keeper Cider, the youngest of the trio of local cideries, is no different. Since releasing Texas Keeper No. 1 last August, Texas Keeper co-founders Nick Doughty, Lindsey Peebles and Brandon Wilde have gone on to produce an additional four — including the latest, a cider-and-wine blend debuting at a special release party on June 20 at the cidery.
Called Grafter Rosé, the new cider is made primarily from heirloom Rome Beauty apples. But 7 percent of the beverage is Pedernales Cellars’ Texas Tempranillo that was blended in to bring “a slightly riper fruit profile to the finished cider,” Peebles said via email.
“We think experimentation is at the heart of any good craft, and cider/wine blends are not really being done yet,” she said. “Apples and wine grapes work beautifully together — the chemistry of the fruits are really very similar.”
Introducing wine into the cider wasn’t a stretch for Doughty, a former winemaker. His background with grapes has always brought a “wine attitude” to Texas Keeper’s ciders, Peebles said.
“That’s why our ciders are typically very clean and dry, like an aromatic white wine, and why we seek out interesting heirloom apples,” she said. “Just as you wouldn’t typically make a great wine from Thompson’s seedless, ciders are more interesting when they come from apples that have a bit more tannic weight and better acid structure.”
The cider makers originally got the idea for the Grafter Rosé — which is going to be just the first in a series of cider and wine blends — when they pressed the Rome Beauties and noticed the juice was a pretty pale orange color, perfect for making a summer rosé with. Peebles said they chose to use Tempranillo grapes for this initial pairing “because it’s a grape variety that grows well in Texas, ripening with notes of strawberries, plums and a hint of vanilla.”
But the next grapes to be used for the Grafter series will be very different: Blanc du Bois grapes from Haak Winery in between Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. For Grafter Blanc, they’ll be co-fermented with Texas Winesap apples.
“With the Grafter series we get to help showcase the great fruit that’s being grown in Texas,” Peebles said.
Try the Grafter Rosé on June 20 at the Texas Keeper cidery. It’s not quite opened with regular hours yet — Peebles said they’re looking at an official fall opening — but the Texas Keeper trio has been throwing fun Saturday parties there for the past couple months to provide fans with a sneak peek of the scenic space in the Onion Creek area of town.
“It’s a beautiful spot, a little reminiscent of Jester King, with lots of live oaks and a great view of Onion Creek,” she said, adding that in addition to having all of the Texas Keeper products available for tasting there, the cidery hopes to cultivate “a list of our favorite ciders from across the U.S. and internationally in order to expose folks to all the exciting things that are happening with cider.” Food pairings will also be a focus when Texas Keeper opens with weekend tours and tastings.
In the meantime, next Saturday’s event will have much more than cider. The Grafter Rosé release will feature live music as well as a brisket dinner and sides. The ingredients for this feast will have originated from Central Texas farms that were hit hard by the Memorial Day weekend floods. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will go toward Green Gate Farms, which lost a number of animals, roads and crops in the devastating flooding.
Tickets to Texas Keeper’s events tend to sell out in advance, so make sure to grab yours soon.
Texas Keeper Cider Release and Supper, 5 to 9 p.m. June 20. $10-$50. 12521 Twin Creeks Rd., Manchaca. www.texaskeeper.com.