Single Varietal Series: KeepSake Cider

As we became more engrained in the world of cider, we have been able to explore ciders that are less commercialized and truer to the apple. We have tasted ciders that are naturally fermented, aged, foraged, locally sourced, and everything in between, but one of our favorite explorations in the world of cider is single varietal hard ciders.

Single varietal ciders are created by using a single delicious, nuanced, and regional apple in a large or small batch. Without blending several apples together, you get to experience the specific character of a particular apple, may it be its acidity, taste, or aroma.

To get a better understanding of different regions of the United States, and discover what single varietal ciders are being cooked up across the country, we started by asking Keepsake Cidery for their insights on single varietal ciders and the apples they are using for their products.

Tell Us More About Your Cidery

Keepsake Cidery is an orchard based, family farm cidery in the Cannon River Valley of Minnesota. We are heavily influenced by the ciders of Hereford and Somerset England, Normandy and Brittany France and the Basque region. We only use particular apples grown in our orchard and fellow orchards in our region and we press 100% of our juice before spontaneously fermenting then aging our ciders in a mix of stainless steel, HDPE, and barrels.

Our ciders are unfiltered, unfined, no tannin, acid, sulfite or sugar additions. Just cider. Sometimes we age on local farmed and foraged ingredients. Average aging time is about 18 months. Our ciders are Pet Nat, Charmat Method, or Still.

What Single Varietals Ciders Do You Make?

Single varietal ciders we have made in small and large batches:

  • Chestnut Crab
  • Jonathan
  • Keepsake
  • Dabinette
  • Kingston Black
  • Golden Russet
  • Dolgo Crab

Why Make Single Varietals Over Blends?

We make single varietal ciders for three main reasons:

  • They are delicious and fun for the drinker.
  • They are also a great way for the cider maker to truly get to know the fruit and its fermentation habits and flavors.
  • They help educate the consumer.

Great cider is made with great apples. When a cider maker showcases one apple, it takes away the advantages that blending can give you. It requires truly attention to detail in the process. Especially if the apple is approached like we do at Keepsake with no additions- no sugars, no acids, no sulfites, no tannins added- nothing but the apple.
The process should be the same whether you are making a blend or SV.

We select particular locally grown apples for their unique flavors. Will this apple contribute to a great finished cider? What will it bring? Tannin, phenolics, acidity, minerality,,,, sometimes we come across an apple that we think makes a great cider by itself, so we approach making a SV (single varietal) like all our ciders, just don’t blend it with other apples .

Having said all that, I think that the best ciders are usually blends. As you know, many “Single Varietals” in the cider world and wine world are also blends, usually 75%-80% has to be one varietal in order to label it a SV. I’m not sure if the cider world has made an official decision. Do you know?

We try to make all our SVs at 100% or very close. Whether or not the cider is a single varietal, the cider industry would benefit from more producers highlighting the apples they use in their ciders.

Describe Some Of Your Favorites Cider Apples & Their Unique Characteristics

The incredible differences between SV ciders from producer to producer add another layer of enjoyment. It’s good fun comparing a Dabinett SV made in Herefordshire with one made in Minnesota. The differences are due to the terroir and the processes used by the makers, and they can be VERY different despite using the same apple. As I am sure you have found.

Keepsake – This upstart apple from University of MN is one of our obvious favorites. The flavors are full of stone fruit and a chalky texture, acidity is present but lower than most American Dessert apples. For us this apple ferments very slowly and has repeatedly keeved for an arrested fermentation, leaving a perfect natural medium cider. We have found this cider to marry well with barrel aging too. It lacks tannin, but can offer a touch of bitterness some years.

Dabinette One of the classics SV from the Somerset, Herefordshire, and Wales. We love the smoke, leather and black tea elements of this cider. It also has that unique bittersweet fruit- reminds us of a cross between papaya and pear or some other make believe fruit. This apple tends to be a great candidate for keeping in our limited experience. Its fault is that it isn’t grown more in our region. We need more!

Chestnut Another great Minnesota apple. It’s small but full of flavor. We have had this clock in at 17 brix. Tasting notes include smoke, leather, black pepper, pear. Lots of phenolics and medicinal flavors, low on tannin. Some years brings a tangy acidity, some years it’s muted. Great as both medium and dry, but tends to finish dry.

Quick notes:
From a grower’s perspective, both Keepsake and Chestnut make a wonderful cider and are great to eat! Also, in a small competition during our Eat an Apple Drink an Apple Event- Keepsake beat out Dabinett, Golden Russet, Kingston Black and Chestnut!


Bauman’s Cider Company’s McIntosh Single Varietal

My brother-in-law asked me if it was really a good idea to prune apple trees in the winter. It seemed to him that cutting the limbs during the freezing temperatures would put more stress on the tree. I can understand why he might feel this way. This weather is difficult for many of us mammals. It would seem more insulting to injury to require an organism to endure not only months of freezing temperatures but to heal new wounds at the same time. Fortunately, that’s not quite the case. We may learn a lesson from the trees that go dormant at this time of year. It’s okay to rest. This is a good time of the year to dump what we don’t need.

I may have strayed too far from the cider review, but that’s where I’m at now. I run in hardcore winter mode. I do the things I need to do and some warm up my spirits, but I mostly just hang around until the days get a little longer. But luckily for me, I can enjoy semi-hibernation with some good cider. This week, I’m sharing my thoughts on the McIntosh Single Varietal from Bauman’s Cider Company.

Bauman’s Cider Cidery small cider company has been named to GLINTCAP for the year 2021. The headquarters is located in Gervais Oregon. The cemetery was established in a small family farm and orchard by Christine Walter whose journey in cider attempts to balance family tradition and expertise with modern scientific knowledge.

I’ve only reviewed one Bowman’s juice before, the Mountain Rosé. I made my top ten list for 2020. This raises my expectations.

Here’s that review:

I recommend visiting Bauman’s Cider online to learn more:

Here’s the basic information I was able to get online for a McIntosh Single Varietal.

Macintosh Varied One | 6.0% ABV

Gold Medal – 2021 International Preparation Competition (UK)

Gold Medal – 2021 Portland International Competition

Gold Medal – Great Lakes International Competition 2021

Platinum Medal – SIP Magazine Best Northwest Awards

We started by importing McIntosh apples grown by our McIntosh Cider Our friends are in Petrotrot Valley, Montana. We do minimal intervention so it is necessary The apple flavor shines through, as we leave a little leftover sweetness for rich presentation Apple flavor and aroma.

Appearance: Tuscany yellow, shiny, few bubbles

When looking at the color schemes of shades, this is very similar to Tuscany yellow. It gives that sunny warmth. The cider is great with just a few visible bubbles.

Flavors: apple juice, cherry blossom, cinnamon and peach

McIntosh is very aromatic and full of juicy apples. The nose also features elements that evoke cherry blossom, cinnamon, and peach.

Sweetness / Dryness: semi-sweet

I’d call it semi-sweet, but some people might interpret it as more like semi-dry. The sweetness is pleasant and well integrated.

Experiment with flavors and drink: juice, crunchy, apple, tart

This is a treat! The McIntosh Single Varietal from Bauman’s Cider Company makes me happy that I chose it for my cider today. The first impression is plenty of ultra-fresh malic acid, which makes every sip crunchy and delicious. Apple juice tastes more directly like apples than most of the people I drink. It capitalizes on the fruity, sweet and juicy experience of fully ripe Macintosh apples.

There’s more to this apple juice than just instant fruit. The McIntosh is a light tan with the texture of coarse sandpaper. I love this thing about him. It has clean fermentation. There is no whiff of funk. I appreciate McIntosh’s medium intensity of shine and massive body. This cider stays fun from end to end with its honeyy finish. My high expectations were fully met!

Cheers to enjoying good cider while not doing too much. This is a very convenient way to beat the winter.