Ash & Elm Cider Co.

Rooted in Tradition. Crafted for Today.

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Confessions of a Cider Agnostic - Guest Blog by Nicole Cesare

As a 20-year-old studying abroad in Seville, Spain, I found myself enchanted by the flamenco music, the cobble-stoned streets, and the hand-poured café con leche available even in gas stations. However, when it came time to order a drink at a bar, I was overwhelmed, having never done so at home because of my underage status. After a few thoroughly misguided attempts at urbane sophistication (cloying, 80s-era cocktails like Grasshoppers and Piña Coladas), I finally settled on a go-to order: cider.

Spanish cider was crisp, dry, and refreshing, the perfect post-siesta libation. And while sangria gets all the press, cider is something of a Spanish institution, with the sidrerias (cider houses) offering cider straight from the barrel much like you might get wine at a more rustic venue.

Spanish cidra is often poured from a distance to aerate the cider on its way into the glass.

Spanish cidra is often poured from a distance to aerate the cider on its way into the glass.

When I took a spring break trip to Oxford, I discovered Strongbow, an English cider that hit similarly clean notes. Somehow, the beverage that worked so well in the Spanish heat also worked in the British damp.

However, after returning to the U.S. (and turning 21), I wasn’t able to find cider that worked so well. Most of the mass-marketed brands I tried were sweet and faintly chemical tasting, closer to soft drinks than wine. I stopped ordering cider, preferring instead to check out craft beers and work on developing a palate for wine. This continued for years; having lost my taste for the drink, I described myself as a cider agnostic.

Recently, though, I’ve been excited to hear about the craft cideries springing up around the country. Having had the opportunity to taste some of their offerings, both from cider-exclusive operations like Commonwealth Ciders to well-known brewing companies that also produce ciders, like Cigar City Brewing Company, I’m learning that there’s a whole world of quality cider out there. There are champagne-like, slightly sweet offerings to full-bodied, apple-forward brands. I’m eager to try them all.

Should the opportunity present itself, I’d love to return to Spain or England and really immerse myself in the cider culture that stretches back centuries. In the meantime, however, I’m glad to know that craft American cider is on the rise. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming a believer.

What's the Hold Up?

 Things have been a little quiet around here lately. Every time we talk to friends and family who are interested in our business, they ask us what we’re doing all the time. It’s a good question. Here’s what we’re working on, and what we need to get done before we can open.

Priority Number 1 – Location

We’ve been looking for a location pretty much non-stop since November. It’s hard to find a space that’s perfect. We've fallen in love with locations only to find out they won't work over and over again. Often, we feel like we’re on a never-ending episode of HGTV's “House Hunters”.

<Insert narrator’s voice>

“Aaron and Andrea have been looking for a location for their new cidery. Location #1 is on an accessible road with downtown views, plenty of space, and falls well below their budget, but can they handle a building that’s needs so much work? Location #2 offers room to expand in a convenient location in an up-and-coming neighborhood. But the lack of a private entrance and signage opportunities could cost them. Location #3 has everything they’re looking for – rustic character, functional space, and a busy street, but it’s a short-sale. Are they willing to risk their business future by letting the other locations go in their pursuit of this risky venture? Stay tuned to find out!”

<Fade to black>

It would be funnier if it weren’t so accurate.

So anyway, the location is a big issue. We think we’re close to having our location figured out and a lease signed, but until the paperwork has been finalized, we can’t move forward in any of the other areas.

Priority Number 2 – Permitting

Once we have a lease signed, we’ll be allowed to apply for our Federal Tobacco and Trade Bureau (TTB) permit. The application is comprehensive, and once it’s been submitted, it takes roughly 110 days (that’s 3.5 months!) to get our permit granted. Only after we have the TTB permit can we file for our state alcohol permit, and then after we’ve received that, we can apply for our city permit. All in all, the permitting process will take about 6 months if things go smoothly, and remember, we can’t start that process until the lease is signed.

Priority Number 3 – Build Out

Another item dependent on the lease. Once we have a lease and have our permit applications going through the Federal rigmarole, it’ll be time to start building out the space. Some of it will be un-sexy build-out, like getting the HVAC systems up and running, the plumbing and electrical requirements covered, etc. After that, the fun stuff will start and the cidery will really start to take shape. It’s hard to estimate how long this will take because we don’t have access to the building yet to see just what all needs to get done, but it will take at least several months to go from beginning construction to being able to open our doors to customers.

In the Meantime…

So a lot of the above issues are outside of our control. But, we’re still making gobs of cider and would love to share it with anyone who is interested! If you have an event coming up or if you’d like to throw a cider party at your house or business, send us an email and we can talk! So far we’ve provided cider to a nonprofit fundraiser, a wedding, and a medical office grand opening gala.

We also continue to make connections and contacts with people in the industry in Indianapolis so that we’ll be able to hit the ground running when we open.

So if you’re anxiously awaiting updates on our progress, please know that we’re awaiting those updates right along there with you, and probably more anxiously. :) 

Thanks for hanging in there with us and we’ll see you soon!

Where Will We Get Our Apples?

A lot of people ask us where we’ll get our apples from. When we started working on this project a year ago, our plan was to work with local orchards to source apples for our cider. We met with an old friend whose family owns an apple orchard, and she dropped some wisdom on us that was a bit surprising: Indiana sells all the apples they grow, and in fact, we have to import apples from Washington state and China just to supply everyone with enough apples to eat! In other words, while we have several orchards sprinkled throughout the state, we don’t come close to having enough extras laying around to fuel a large cider company.

Another issue: the great majority of apples grown in Indiana are considered dessert apples - the kind you can pick up and eat or use to make an apple pie. Historically, those aren’t the kinds of apples that are used in traditional cider-making. Now, lots of cideries in the States use dessert apples to make their cider. We plan to, too, for a lot of our products. But having traditional cider apples available can bring a complexity to cider that is hard to get with dessert apples alone. Can’t we have both?

Luckily, our friendly neighbor to the north, Michigan, is an apple powerhouse. They are usually tied for second place in the nation with New York (behind Washington) in apple production in the States, and they also have the infrastructure to package, store, and ship their apples. They have a seemingly endless supply of dessert apples, but they also have a lot of folks growing traditional cider apples as well plenty of apples that are good for cider-making as well as eating, like Northern Spy, Jonagold and Gold Rush.

So, what’s our plan? For the majority of our ciders, we’ll ship juice down from Michigan. We can get different blends to fit with the style of cider we’re making and get a good mix of sweet, tart, and bitter to make a flavorful cider with a lot of complexity.

We’ll also work with those Indiana orchards as much as possible. The busy season for apple orchards usually runs from Labor Day weekend through Thanksgiving, but come December 1st, people aren’t thinking about apples anymore. Unfortunately, plenty of apples are still on trees in December, so orchards end up pressing the juice to stock their shelves throughout the winter or having an excess of apples that they can’t sell. This is where we hope to come in and help them extend their growing season by buying up those late winter apples so that we can showcase the orchards around the state and make a truly local cider. We can’t wait to share it with you!

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