Crispin Cider Company By: Falon Haley
Look out beer-geeks. There’s a new craft beverage in town. Cider, once the drink of choice for colonial Americans, lost its popularity to beer as the U.S. Industrial Revolution took hold and people began migrating into cities. Over the past several years, however, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of craft ciders across the United States. In fact, the growth of the craft cider industry has surpassed that of craft beer, with cider sales increasing by more than 65% in this past year alone. While many beverage companies have scrambled to grab hold of the burgeoning cider market, few have been able to strike the right balance between innovation and remaining true to traditional cider brewing techniques.
Crispin Cider Company, the third largest producer of cider in the United States, was launched on St. Crispin’s Day in October 2008 in Minneapolis by Joe Heron and his wife, Lesley, after Heron’s previous venture, Nutrisoda, was snapped up by PepsiAmericas. Heron, perceiving a want for premium quality domestic cider in the United States, determined to push the boundaries of cider making. Defying conventional cider profiles, Crispin set out to create a drier apple cider, one that would stay true to the original English ciders brought to the United States by our founding generation, but depart from the sweeter, modern Irish and British styles dominating the market. When the rapidly growing startup acquired Fox Barrel Cider Company in 2010, Crispin’s headquarters was moved to the Sierra Foothills of Colfax, California, where the premium hard ciders were already being produced. In 2012, Crispin was purchased by MillerCoors, providing the company with the muscle necessary to keep up with the sharp demand growth for their craft ciders. Crispin Cider Company now operates as an independent division of MillerCoors’s craft-and-import division, Tenth and Blake Beer Co.
All of Crispin’s ciders, with the exception of their imported English cider, Browns Lane, are produced at the Colfax cidery using 100% pure, fresh-pressed juice from apples sourced from within the United States. Crispin’s main line is made using a premium blend of three to five varieties of apple, mainly Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Washington. There are over 10 pounds of apples in every gallon of cider produced.
Crispin Cider Company uses apple juices produced in various West Coast pressing houses for their ciders. Once pressed, the juices are then shipped to Crispin’s cidery in Colfax, where the process of fermentation begins within 36 to 48 hours. The Colfax cidery is actually a bonded winery, so Crispin’s ciders are produced in the same way as wine. Prepared with a white wine champagne yeast, or, for those who want to spice things up a bit, Sake, Belgian Trappist, and Irish Ale yeasts, the ciders are smoothed with pure apple juice or natural sugar sources, such as organic honey and organic maple syrup, and then lightly carbonated to aid the nose and aroma of the finished product.
What distinguishes Crispin from the competition is the way their ciders are created. Unlike many other mass market ciders, Crispin does not add sugar, artificial colorants, sorbate and benzoate preservatives, or malt or spirit alcohols. All of their ciders are naturally fermented using 100% natural, fresh-pressed American juice, not from concentrate. The delicate tang of the apple is permitted to stand on its own and the result is a crisp, clean flavor profile contrasting the excessively sweet stickiness of certain competing brands.
Crispin Cider Company offers seven different varietals, all gluten-free, including the classic Blue Line: Original, Brut, and Light; Browns Lane, an imported classic English dry cider; and their line of Artisanal Reserves: Honey Crisp, The Saint, Lansdowne, and Cho-tokkyu. Crispin Original is a classically styled, yet untraditional cider with a big apple nose. True to its name, Original finishes crisp and dry. Crispin Light, America’s first light hard apple cider, is a bright, full-flavored cider usually served on ice with a lemon slice for spritzer-style refreshment. Brut, the European style, extra dry cider billed as the “champagne of ciders,” has a fresh apple flavor with a clean, dry finish and a truly champagne-like effervescence. The Artisanal Reserve line offers ciders that are unfiltered, cloudy, and smoothed with natural sugars that deliver taste complexity rarely found in other ciders. Unfortunately, due to state alcohol laws, which dictate that ciders may not be more than 5.5% ABV, the Artisanal Line is not yet available in Pennsylvania. Original, Light, and Brut are available in 4-packs of 12 ounce bottles, or on draft at your favorite local watering hole.
Inspired by traditional, European-style ciders, Crispin’s various ciders are designed to be served over ice, though many prefer it straight from the bottle. The versatility of Crispin Ciders also provides infinite opportunities for creative cocktail making. One of the more popular Crispin cocktails is the Lemon Tree–equal parts Crispin Original and Leinie’s Summer Shandy topped with a slice of lemon–a quick, easy recipe perfect for those humid Western Pennsylvania summer days. Crispin Cider is proudly distributed by Wilson McGinley.