Farm Horizons, Aug. 2016

Number 12: New local cider is made with tradition

By Jennifer Von Ohlen

In brewing a batch of passion and tradition, Deer Lake Orchard of Buffalo has opened its own cider house for its locally-grown Number 12 hard cider.

The idea took its first steps toward reality in the basement of Steve Hance of Minneapolis. Hance describes himself as being a cider-enthusiast and hobbyist, and has practiced making his own cider for about 20 years.

He would have about 300 gallons in his basement on any given day, while balancing his work as a lawyer.

As his experimentation and product improved, Hance inquired if a business would be willing to do custom pressing.

In his search, he met Yuri Preugschas, the five-year owner of Deer Lake Orchard, along with his wife, Jill, who said he would press 150 gallons of Hance’s cider.

Impressed with the results, Preugschas and Hance decided to go into business together in 2015 with their first product, Sparkling Dry Cider.

“It’s a pretty good partnership,” stated Steve Preugschas. “It makes sense; we have the apples and the location.”

Sparkling Dry, the result of 17 years of experimentation, is described by Hance as a “crisp, dry champange-like style cider.”

It is also said to be rather difficult to make, and that crabapples are essential to having it taste good.

The name, Number 12, comes from the 12th recipe created. It was their first recipe to win an award, and introduced them to the rest of the cider community.

The perfect blend

Number 12 Cider House strongly believes the key to a truly good brew is a blended balance of the right apples.

Hance explained that the larger cider businesses usually just mix together any apples they can get their hands on, for the sake of quantity, and often resort to adding sugar and apple flavoring for taste.

Number 12 Cider House does not share this method.

“We take a traditional view [to cider],” Hance said. “We’re a farmer winery, and have a winery perspective to the product,” he added.

Number 12’s cider recipes include more than 10 Minnesota-grown apple varieties. These apples are selected for their desired levels of sweetness, aroma, acidity, and tannins for the products.

While these apples can possess one or more of these qualities individually, it is the tactful balance Number 12 executes that makes it unique and tasteful.

In preparing the cider, several of the apples are cultivated, harvested, pressed, and fermented onsite at the orchard.

“We try to keep it as local as possible, as much as we can,” stated Number 12 producer Colin Post.

Post and Hance have known each other since they were in second grade, and spent much of their childhood “sampling” the neighborhood apples. They knew which apples were located where, and what each variety tasted like.

Throughout the years, they would brew cider and talk about one day running a cider business together.

Post recently retired from 25 years of teaching to become fully endeavored in cider.

He is also responsible for Number 12’s second product, Black Currant Dry, which received a gold medal at the 2015 Beverage Testing Institute World Beer Championship, with a 93 rating. Sparkling Dry earned a silver medal with an 89 rating.

Black Currant’s primary ingredients consist of jam and black currant berries. With its modest wine-like qualities, it is said to be “the cider that will change your perspective.”

Number 12’s latest product, Chestnut semi-dry, is a sweeter cider, making it a good selection for introducing oneself to dry ciders.

The name comes from its chosen blend of chestnut crab apples. The cider also includes spirals of oak and honey produced by the orchard’s bees.

Alcohol and family orientation

When it came time to open the Number 12 Cider House, the team was nervous about how their long-time orchard visitors would respond to having alcohol at a location focused on family activities and traditions.

To their delight, the reactions were quite positive.

“It’s amazing, the amount of smiles people had when they learned they can get hard cider here,” Hance commented.

While one does not have to visit the orchard to get a sip (or bottle) of Number 12, its makers believe it is the best location for the local product.

However, Number 12 has been picked up by Artisan Distributors, who have helped bring it to about 130 liquor stores and more than a dozen restaurants and bars, all of which are listed at number12ciderhouse.com.

In reflection, Hance said the sales have been “great” as people discover Number 12.

“Every time somebody tastes it, they love it,” Hance stated.

With the business’s success, the Number 12 team hopes to have a separate facility at the orchard strictly dedicated to its cider.

Preugschas also recently purchased about 100 more trees of 10 different varieties specifically for cider production.

As plans for these additions are underway, the team has turned its attention to its Number 12 Tap Room.

Located in the back of the orchard’s main barn building, the Tap Room offers visitors the “perfect date night,” where they can enjoy a glass of cider, dine on a handmade wood fire pizza, and take a stroll among the apple trees.

Visitors will also have a chance to taste samples of each cider, and buy 750-ml bottles of select products. Souvenirs will also be available for purchase.

Before the orchard season begins, the Tap Room will be open Friday, Aug. 5 and Friday, Aug. 12 from 5 to 9 p.m. Starting Aug. 19, the Tap Room will be open each weekend during orchard days.

Post and Hance continue to tinker and taste products undergoing research and development, while joyously returning to a glass of their “finished” cider.

“It’s fun making something you’re passionate about,” Hance stated.

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