The U.S. doesn’t have very many of the apples used to make cider in Ed Gibson’s native England, but it was important to him to introduce Austinites to the dry, complex flavors of the ciders he grew up enjoying — a project, Austin Eastciders, that is doing exactly that in the several months since he first launched Eastciders’ debut cider, Gold Top, into the local market.
On tap since October, Gold Top is now found in about 55 to 60 Central Texas bars and restaurants and will soon be in bottles at grocery stores, too. The cider was joined this week by another, Eastciders Original, in a can.
Lighter than Gold Top at 4.8 percent ABV, the Original is “very summery,” with a blackcurrant finish and an apricot aroma. Gibson said the Original is a blend of both worlds and cider styles, with American dessert apples and European bittersweet apples (the ones in English ciders) mixed together to produce the cider’s balanced profile. Bittersweet apples, also known as cider apples, are high in tannins, which give the cider a depth of flavor, a longer finish and an astringency that makes the cider not too sweet, but not “bone-dry,” either.
Like Gold Top — whose cider apples were fermented in England, then blended and finished at Flat Creek Estate winery, which has been helping Gibson produce his ciders pending the opening of the Eastciders space — the Original is helping change people’s minds about cider. The apple-based drink is widely consumed in England and Europe; in the U.S., Gibson said he’s noticed it’s a little different.
“Cider is being presented here as an alternative to wine,” he said. “But in England, it’s an alternative to beer and served in pints. It’s something I want people to see is great with barbecue and floating down the river and other Texas activities. Cider isn’t necessarily paired with fine dining.”
That’s in part why he decided to distribute the Original in cans, versus bottles, as Gold Top is (and the timing, rolling them out just before summer, certainly doesn’t hurt). Look for them now in Whole Foods and, in the coming weeks, at HEB; they’re also starting to show up in bars. Cheer Up Charlie’s was the first bar to get them.
Gibson hopes that starting in early July, you’ll also be able to enjoy both ciders at the Austin Eastciders space that isn’t open for the public yet due to a permitting problem. Once an old railroad station on the east side of town, the cidery has “a lot of character and outdoor space,” and he wants to be able to produce experimental ciders only available in the tasting room. Austin Eastciders recently took on two new cider makers, one with a beer background, the other with a wine specialty, who are eager to combine their skills to barrel age and discover what else they can do with cider.