One of the many things I learned at Keepsake Cidery’s annual cider club party is that harvest season for cider apples begins in late August. Not being from an agricultural background, or living even close to farmland, I have no concept of how this particular calendar works. While that may have been the reason for the date of the party we attended, I would have jumped any any excuse to get out of town and enjoy some good cider.
The Keepsake Chestnut might be my new favorite of their ciders. The listing on the chalkboard described it as “semi-sweet” but because Keepsake ciders typically run dry, this revealed itself to be a very different breed. With subtle notes of nut and wood, a crisp taste, and a smooth finish, I found myself agreeing with the rest of my friends in that this was one of the cidery’s best. Unfortunately, we found ourselves having to leave before I had time to have another. Even more unfortunately, I don’t think that this variety of Keepsake has hit the shelves yet. But when it does, I will be sure to pick up another bottle.
One of my favorite parts of the party was a tour of the orchard. Keepsake is a small cidery, and likes it that way. As we followed Nate, the owner, past the rows of apple trees, he would point to certain rows and know instantly which variety of apples were growing there. I always enjoy being in the presence of someone who not only knows their craft intimately, but enjoys it as thoroughly as he does. Every time I visit the cidery, I am reminded of their commitment to remaining organic and local whenever possible, and I just love it.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9.5/10
This is a day I always knew would come. I have painstakingly curated my consumption of ciders, as well as the list that keeps record (in chronological order) of my exploits. However, what happens when I attend a festival or some kind of event in which I try a slew of new ciders? I suppose the answer is that I review them all at once. Fortunately for me, the event I attended was the soft opening for Keepsake Ciders’ tasting room, which kept all of the ciders I tried today within the same manufacture. I indulged in a beautiful trio of ciders, served on a hand-carved flight board, and here is the breakdown:
Heartwood: Each of the ciders I sampled today was on the dry end of the spectrum, but the Heartwood truly embraced it. The cider was spritely and effervescent, with a tart flavor bordering on pleasantly acerbic. Of the three ciders I sampled, this one emerged as my clear favorite. I am never one to seek out a dry cider, but the Heartwood was inventive and enjoyable enough that it kept me engaged throughout the entire beverage.
Wood & Spirit: The Wood & Spirit was aged in oak whiskey barrels. Unlike several ciders I’ve had previously that have also employed this method, this was very apparent in the flavor. The dryness of the Wood & Spirit was very forward, and the aroma was much woodier than the Heartwood.
Wild: This was certainly a unique one. The Wild cider was fermented using the yeast that was native to the peel of the apples, and this certainly came through in the flavor. The Wild bore a very full body, and a lovely apple-forward taste. The aroma here was very inviting, and made for a polished overall presentation.
I had the opportunity to talk with Nathan, the cider maker at Keepsake, and was delighted to hear about his passion for working with other local orchards, as well as collaborating with other cideries to establish Minnesota as a state with a cider identity. Keepsake is a family-owned cidery, and a great addition to the high level of craftsmanship in Minnesota cider-making, and a fantastic place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon.
The Ciderman’s Rating:
Wood & Spirit: 8.5/10
Something that I really enjoy about words is the way that they can be arranged in such a way that can leave a lasting impression. They have the ability to form a memory based simply on the choice to order a series of letters in a certain way. A word selection can trigger any number of reactions, from evoking a sensory memory, to recalling another use of the word, to laughter at a poor word choice (as in the YouTube series “Your Grammar Sucks”).
Upon seeing the Keepsake cider on the specials board, my immediate reaction was “That sounds really familiar. Have I had that before?” A quick check of my list revealed that I had not. Turns out that I had just heard the word ‘keepsake’ in a certain context, and that was what caused it to sound familiar. I found my whole reaction funny though, given that the trigger word was keepsake: a physical manifestation of a memory.
My research showed me that Keepsake Cidery is a fairly new establishment about 40 minutes south of the Twin Cities, which is great because I love to drink local. However, I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with one of the chief cidermakers, who happened to be working the bar. I asked him which variety of cider it was, as I couldn’t properly match it with the listings on their website and he told me that it was called the Woods Keep and that it was going to be released sometime in August. Score.
He also told me about the fermentation process of cider, and how cider is first fermented in casks and then fermented a second time in the bottle. The cider I was drinking was an experiment, as it was fresh from the tap and skipped the bottle process. In the bottle, it was to be more dry and tart-tasting.
In the face of my standard dry/sweet scale, I would have to classify the Woods Keep as “extra medium.” It may have been the experimental fermentation process, but this cider didn’t have an outward push in dryness or sweetness. Because of this, the focus of the flavor shifted more toward the apples themselves (which is an unfortunate rarity). As a result, it just tasted like good, wholesome cider, and it was very drinkable. The flavor was reminiscent of apple crisp: something made with love and laden with memory. I’m looking forward to finding a bottle of this when it’s released so I can compare.
The Ciderman’s rating: 9/10