The latest drink from Argus Cidery has no apples in it at all.
Instead, Tepache Especial is made with two primary ingredients — pineapples and yeast — to produce a wild-fermented sparkling pineapple wine light on the sugar and spice.
When owner and winemaker Wes Mickel stumbled across tepache, a fermented beverage popular in Mexico that’s made from the flesh and rind of pineapple, he was intrigued by the drink, not least because it isn’t commonly found in the states, and began to develop a recipe for Argus’ version. Argus Cidery just might be the first U.S. company to make and sell the drink commercially.
Bottles of the tepache have already been available for $10 on store shelves for the past several weeks, but Argus has officially launched it with a wider release in Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina and more states to follow this summer.
Another reason Mickel decided to experiment with making a pineapple wine, he said, is that Texas’ apple harvest has been a rough one the past few years, the result of poor growing conditions and other unforeseen circumstances.
“Our apple program is based on the best possible fruit we can find,” Mickel said in a press release. “Instead of expanding our apple program by other practices and techniques that go against our principles and standards, we chose to look into another fermentable. Tepache provides a way for us to deliver a product year-round without compromising cloying sweetness in a production style more similar to making commercial ciders.”
Plus, with Argus Cidery, he likes to get adventurous.
“Besides (the poor apple harvest), beyond grapes, apples and grains, there isn’t much else used to make alcoholic drinks so we wanted to experiment and see what we could produce,” he said at the Austin Food and Wine Festival last month.
To create Tepache Especial, the cidery tweaked the typical tepache technique to make it more in line with Argus’ standard production methods and preferences, with flavors influenced heavily by the wild yeasts and bacteria fermented into the drink. The pineapples used are a fair-trade, 100 percent organic Cayenne varietal.
“The result is a new take on traditional Tepache, featuring a flavor profile of straightforward pineapple and citrus notes, with a mineral, and some would even say, salty finish,” the press release said.
But don’t think the success of Tepache Especial means Argus Cidery has abandoned making apple wines. Mickel hopes to have two new sparkling varietals on the market sometime in the fall or winter. He also mentioned at the Austin Food and Wine Festival that the cidery is looking into producing an agave wine, a ginger ale-like drink that might come in a can.
Although the tasting room at Argus currently isn’t open, it’ll reopen its doors on May 31, taking reservations for Saturdays between 4 and 7 p.m. To make a reservation, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And for more information on Argus, located not far from Jester King, visit www.arguscidery.com.