A winemaker and homebrewer have joined forces to make cider, and they’ve recently sent a limited amount of their first cider, Texas Keeper No. 1, to a few local stores.
Along with Lindsey Peebles, Nick Doughty and Brandon Wilde launched Texas Keeper Cider — a cidery located in far South Austin — because they believe it’s an appealing middle ground between wine and beer. Doughty, the head cider maker, has worked at a handful of wineries in New Zealand, Oregon and California; Wilde has been a homebrewer for 10 years.
"We were attracted to cider making also because you can play with it more than wine," Peebles, who is Doughty’s romantic partner and Wilde’s longtime friend, said. "You can add hops to cider but not to wine, that kind of thing."
Their debut cider doesn’t have any off-the-wall ingredients in it, but Texas Keeper No. 1 doesn’t need them. It’s an unfiltered dry cider, Peebles said, made from five different apple varietals, including two that are traditionally found in cider and one that’s almost extinct. They were clearly good choices, as the cider doesn’t have the cloying sweetness that far too many other ciders suffer from.
Once Texas Keeper No. 1 catches on, the trio already has plans in the works for more cider releases, including a couple with only one apple varietal in them and another, in a nod to Wilde’s beer background, they’re calling a "ciderweizen." As cider’s version of a hefeweizen, that will have hops in it but no actual wheat (a signature ingredient of that beer style) so that the cider remains gluten-free.
Peebles said they’ll probably name the single-varietal ciders after the brilliantly coined apples in them: Gold Rush and Golden Russet, respectively. These are also two of the apples in the No. 1 cider.
The name of their cidery is actually named after an apple varietal as well. Texas Keeper is a now-extinct apple that used to be found in orchards in Paris, Texas, in the 1800s before waning out of existence in the 1940s, Peebles said.
"I was reading recently that we had 7,100 varietals of apples in the 1800s, and now we have only 300 of those. You really only have a choice of six in the grocery store," she said.
One of the trio’s hopes is that Texas farmers start to produce more heirloom apples — older apple varieties not produced by commercial growers — because some were first grown here in Texas and, being better suited for the climate, could potentially help bolster Texas’ apple industry (which Peebles admits isn’t what this state is known for). Like many of the food and drink producers in town, the Texas Keeper co-founders want to be able to source local or regional ingredients for their cider.
Doughty earned his cider making chops at Austin Eastciders, where he learned some tricks of the trade after moving from the Pacific coast.
He and Peebles had been looking for a reason to return to Austin, where she and Wilde went to school together all the way from kindergarten to college, and opening a cidery seemed to be the answer. Austin has two others in town; in addition to Eastciders, there’s also Argus.
Currently, Texas Keeper No. 1 can be found in 750 mL bottles at East End Wines, WhichCraft Beer Store, East 1st Grocery and Sunrise Mini Mart. This weekend it’ll be at Jester King. For updates on where else to find the cider, visit Texas Keeper Cider’s Facebook page.