Ash & Elm Cider Co.

Rooted in Tradition. Crafted for Today.

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The Flow of Culture

We have a guest blogger today - our fantastic Assistant Cidermaker, Joseph Kilbourn. Take it away, Joseph!


As a citizen of our fine modern city and the world, I regularly think about what defines culture. Culture is often a mix of blending current trends with unique ideas. Beyond society at large, a good share of personal culture is explained through stories and myths. I accepted the job of Assistant Cidermaker at Ash & Elm because of how the company has blended both sides of culture within its business plan and its story. It's summed up in the slogan, "Rooted in Tradition, Crafted for Today" and it shows in our first two limited edition releases, the Oaked Imperial Headlong and Del Camino tepache.

Microbrewers Festival lineup.

Microbrewers Festival lineup.

The Oaked Imperial Headlong debuts during the VIP hour at the 21st Annual Indiana Microbrewers Festival as an homage to the craft beer scene. I would've never pursued cider making without the influence and culture of craft beer -- where you can always try something new, and you can even try your own hand at homebrewing with loads of support from a community of artisans. And now craft cider has a chance to take off in Indy because of road paved by microbrewers. With nods to some of our brewing heros, like the intensely Citra-hopped 3 Floyds Zombie Dust and fond memories of enjoying a Tequila Barrel-Aged Fistful of Hops from Sun King, we oak-aged and tripled the Citra hops in our dry-hopped house cider, Headlong.

To stand up to the quantity of hops and smooth vanilla notes of french oak, we bumped up the ABV by blending it with an Ice Cider made with fresh cider from Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield, IN. The Ice Cider style was invented in Quebec and uses cryoconcentration to remove some of the water from the apple juice before fermentation. After our careful blending, we arrived at a subtle yet powerful ABV of 9.2% for the Oaked Imperial Headlong, which we offer as a sincere 'thank you' to everyone who has created a culture of craft in Indiana.

At the other end of the cultural spectrum, we created Del Camino based on a drink of culture that my wife, Jennifer Delgadillo and I had while traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico last year. Jennifer and I had just visited a traditional family textile business in the smaller village of Teotitlan del Valle where they loom fabrics from scratch on their goat farm. As we traveled back to Santa Lucia Del Camino, we saw a vendor selling a drink from a barrel by the side of the road and pulled over to try some. It was a homemade traditional tepache with pineapple rinds floating in it and bees swarming around it. My wife's cousin who lived there said that you know it's good when the bees want it. The vendor garnished the rim of our cups with a chili powder, salt and lime mixture and skimmed a few bees out for us. While we rode in the back seat of the car, we enjoyed the tangy fermented pineapple tepache. It was bursting with the flavors of piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar with notes of molasses), tamarind (a tart and sweet plant used in many Mexican candies that are coated with chilli powder and salt), and some hints of other spices.

Authentic Mexican tepache from Oaxaca.

Authentic Mexican tepache from Oaxaca.

Aaron and I recreated this experience as closely as any Hoosier could with a wild-fermented pineapple cider sweetened with piloncillo and Mexican spices. It came out just as tangy and sweet as the original (bees not included) with an ABV of 3.2% that makes it refreshing to drink on a hot summer's day. Ours also comes with the option to garnish it with a dash of adobo/cayenne chili powder, dried tamarind, lime and salt for an extra kick. I can't wait to see how Jennifer thinks Del Camino compares to the tepache we had from the street when it debuts as a refreshing treat for the patrons of the Microbrewers Festival.

Things get a little crazy around here sometimes...

Things get a little crazy around here sometimes...

So as Ash and Elm endeavors to become ingrained in the cultural landscape of Indianapolis, we will continue to convert our own cultural experiences into drinkable form so you can taste the ancient, growing, and fresh culture that flows through us.

Stay tuned for information about a special release of both the Del Camino and Oaked Imperial Headlong in our tasting room in the coming weeks.

Five Things We've Been Working On

Hey cider fans! Things have gotten really busy for us over the last month, and they will only continue to be so. Now, we have great intentions of a few blogs related to the cider-making process, but before we delve in, we’re going to ease back into blogging with a snappy Top Five list so that we can all get on the same page with each other. Deal?

Here are five things we’ve been working on over the last two months:

5. Permits – Truly, ‘permits’ will probably be in every top five list we ever write about our progress. Since the last blog a month and a half ago, we’ve applied for and been granted a sign permit, an encroachment license, a construction permit, and some sort of elusive ‘electrical upgrade certificate’. As of today, we actually HAVE all of these permits!

4. Production Space – Our production space is 90% finished! Right now, most of what we’re waiting on is simple and not totally necessary for the production of cider. For example, we still need to put in a couple of sinks, wire the walk-in coolers, etc. But, our tanks are set, the coolers are built, the floor has been epoxied (twice!), so we’re almost ready to show the space off to visitors.

Look at those pretty fermentation tanks and unfinished floor drain!

Look at those pretty fermentation tanks and unfinished floor drain!

3. Tasting Room Décor – Finally, the fun part of a build-out! We’ve been scouring websites and taking weekend trips to Ikea to get light fixtures, plan out the bar, get the right draft system, and build tables. Our bar and tables are being built by Matthew Osborn (check out his website – he’s awesome!), and seeing them built has been a blast.

Parsons table for the tasting room.

Parsons table for the tasting room.

2. Paint Parties – We have some good friends and family in town who have graciously showed up several times to help us paint our space. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do for a dingy old warehouse, not to mention that it’s really nice to share our business with the people who care about us.

Wes is good with a roller and a ladder.

Wes is good with a roller and a ladder.

1. Test Batches – While we’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for our electrical upgrades that will allow us to use all of our fancy equipment, we’ve been doing some recipe tweaking. Aaron will have a full blog about yeast trails in the next few weeks to outline the process.

Aaron's ideal evening - doing science-y things mixed with alcohol-y things.

Aaron's ideal evening - doing science-y things mixed with alcohol-y things.

0. Merchandise – Woohoo, we have some merchandise! Tasting room glassware, shirts, coasters, and stickers are here and ready for the sharing. Thanks to Amy McAdams for her awesome designs.

Heyyyy...A&E Shirt Selfie!

Heyyyy...A&E Shirt Selfie!

Alright! We're caught up with each other! Stay tuned for some blogs about the actual cider-making process and news about our grand opening!

Everything is Happening!

It’s about time for an update on our progress, wouldn’t you say? I’ve been meaning to write a blog about what we’re working on for a while now, but so much happens in a day that that update is old news after just a few hours. But you know what, the people deserve to know! So, here’s an update on a few key areas:

1.       Construction – We are majorly, deeply in the thick of construction on our production facility right now. Concrete floors are being excavated, re-poured, grinded (ground?), and epoxied. Internal walls are getting put up and wired so we can have an office, kitchen, and bathrooms. Electrical work is being patched in so that we can run great big machines and tiny little laptops. And, we’re digging a moat around our building, too, just for kicks (just kidding, that's electrical work too).

You're looking at what will be two bathrooms, a lab, a commercial kitchen, and a walk-in cooler.

You're looking at what will be two bathrooms, a lab, a commercial kitchen, and a walk-in cooler.

Still to come on the construction side of things is the tasting room next door, which will get moving as soon as the production space is finished.

2.       Production – All of our permits have been granted, and we’re starting our first test batches of cider in the space. We started with a small batch (330 gallons) of our flagship Semi-Sweet cider to make sure everything runs smoothly before we size up.  As of this morning, things are fermenting away and creating a nice apple-y smell underneath the drywall dust and dirt smell.

Aaron pitching the yeast in our test batch. 

Aaron pitching the yeast in our test batch. 

We also have some nice heirloom apple juice bubbling away that we’ll age and release sometime in the fall, and some juice from our friends at Tuttle Orchards in Greenfield as part of our local orchard partner lineup. Altogether we have about 415 gallons of cider in process right now.

3.       Marketing – In addition to the brass-tacks of getting our production going and construction managed, we’re trying to spread the word that we’re coming for Indy in a matter of months. We’ve had a bit of media buzz already, which we really appreciate! The Indianapolis Star featured us as a business to watch in 2016, and Indianapolis Monthly had a nice little article about us too! We love that the word is getting out there and would love YOU, our FANS to continue that good work. Retweet us on Twitter, come to events we’re pouring at (Indy Pies and Pints and Corks and Forks are your next opportunities!), like us on Facebook, and gather up your cider-drinking pals and let them know that we’re on our way!

4.       Grand Opening – So…we’ve keyed in on a date for our GRAND OPENING! Of course, we can’t share it with you yet because it’s just a little bit too touch-and-go with construction at the moment, but know that we’re planning a killer party, at least four cider flavors, giveaways, and tasty food. Go ahead and black out your calendar for May, because it’s probably going to be sometime in that month, and if we’re all lucky, you’ll be able to drink some of our cider on tap at your favorite downtown bars and restaurants well before that.

Stay tuned! Like I mentioned, as soon as I post this, something will change, but we're circling the end of our 'startup' phase and moving toward our 'operational' phase really soon. Cheers!

We Have a Space!

If you’re connected with us on Facebook or Twitter, you may have heard snippets of these updates already, but we wanted to give you a more thorough status update on Ash & Elm. So much of our progress occurs behind the scenes and isn’t necessarily that interesting (submitting multiple tax documents, anyone?), but today, we have some big progress updates to share.

We have a location! I (Andrea) quit my job a year ago because I thought we’d find a location within three months and then get going, but finding our location turned out to be one of the most frustrating parts of our fledgling business to date. We looked many places, talked to many realtors, community development organizations, architects, and business owners, but finally found a spot that is better than we imagined. It’s on the Near-Eastside of Indianapolis, which is where we live and has always been our ideal scenario (Aaron’s commute will someday be a 15 minute walk, as opposed to his 1 hour commute that he’s been doing for TEN YEARS now). We have more space than we need for now, and a beautiful historic building to have a stellar tasting room in.  Lastly, we get to be a part of revitalizing an up-and-coming neighborhood, which is something we care a lot about.

Future tasting room greatness to happen here.

Future tasting room greatness to happen here.

We got the attention of the Indianapolis Business Journal in their Property Lines Roundup, which was exciting, and we had a successful rezoning hearing, getting approval to sell alcohol, food, and have a parking lot. Those in the know about city planning know this was a big hurdle, and kudos go to our landlord and his real estate agent for leading the rezoning charge successfully.

A Word on Alcohol Laws As I’m sure most of you know, starting a business includes a lot of paperwork. especially a business that sells alcohol. We’ve mentioned before that we needed to submit our Federal Tobacco and Trade Bureau (TTB) application, which takes about 3.5 months to process. We got that taken care of exactly two and a half months ago, so we’re hopeful we’ll be approved by the TTB sometime in November.

After that, it’s time to file our State application to the Alcohol and Trade Commission (ATC), which will take about three weeks to be approved. That means, in our ideal scenario, we could be licensed to sell our product by the first of the year. Wow! If you know either of us, you’ll know that – of course – we already have the ATC permit application completed and are just waiting to send it in the second we hear that our TTB permit is approved. We should be able to hit the ground running as soon as we get ourselves legal.

So…when are you opening?  GREAT QUESTION! I wish we knew the answer. If everything goes smoothly, March. If it doesn’t, which is more likely, sometime before June. The best way to stay up to date on our progress is to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or drive by our location at 2112 E. Washington St and poke your head in the door. :)

We appreciate all of the interest and excitement we’ve been getting from you all, and are excited to share a cider together soon.

Working for the Weekend: Our Visit to Blake's Hard Cider

Since we started this business, Aaron and I have been itching to spend some time in a large-scale cidery to get our hands dirty and have a bit more exposure to the day-to-day operations. We’ve visited countless cideries around the States, but finally got our chance to work a couple weeks ago when we visited Blake’s Hard Cider in Armada, Michigan.

Blake’s Hard Cider is a really great place – a family-owned orchard for decades, one of the sons, Andrew, decided to add hard cider their already bustling business. Not surprisingly, the cider part of the company has grown by leaps and bounds in the first couple of years, and now they’re neck and neck for the largest cidery in Michigan. We reached out to them to see if they might be interested in some weekend day-laborers, and they responded with great interest and warmth. Our trip was planned!

The night before we left, we decided that, instead of getting a hotel nearby, we’d camp out at a local park. It was beautiful, relatively serene, and the price was right ($25/night). We’d definitely do that again – for a weekend spent working, it was nice to also feel like we were on vacation for a few hours each evening.

Campfire

On Saturday morning, we met up with Rob, their production manager, to learn about the processes involved in running a large-scale cidery. We saw their tanks, canning line, coolers, concrete pads, loading docks, and their expansion plans. After the tour and lots of questions, Rob put us to work labeling and filling bottles.

Intense focus while labeling bottles of cider.

Intense focus while labeling bottles of cider.

Aaron taking care of business.

Aaron taking care of business.

We did a pretty good job, and cut down the amount of work Rob had to do on a Saturday. They treated us to lunch in their tasting room and let us try a sampling of their house and seasonal ciders (tasting notes: YUM). Spending time in the tasting room was great – it gave us a lot of ideas about the design and function of our soon-to-be tasting room.

Some good ciders in the tasting room at Blake's Hard Cider.

Some good ciders in the tasting room at Blake's Hard Cider.

We spent Sunday morning talking with Robert, the cidermaker, who cut his teeth in Napa Valley and New Zealand working in wineries. He and Aaron hit it off, and spoke about all things fermentation/yeast/clarity while I chatted with Andrew about the business side of things: staffing, HR compliance, pricing, and distribution.

We headed back to Indy on Sunday afternoon, tired, buzzing with new ideas, and grateful for the generosity of our new friends at Blake’s. If you are in Michigan, seek out some of their cider – it’s great!

Brew-Ha-Ha Festival

Last month, we had the opportunity to share our cider at the 20th annual Brew-Ha-Ha Festival. Tied with the Indiana Microbrewer’s Festival for the longest-running beer festival in the state, Brew-Ha-Ha is a fundraiser put on every year to support the programming at the Phoenix Theater. We were really thankful that they let us be a part of their event before we were even open!

One of the benefits of having a name that starts with an 'A'.

One of the benefits of having a name that starts with an 'A'.

We had done several events prior to Brew-Ha-Ha, including another fundraiser, an opening gala, and a few weddings, but this was by far the largest (and most knowledgeable!) audience our cider had ever had. It was important to us that we came off well especially since so many other great breweries would be mere steps away.

After spending some time thinking about what ciders would be the best to bring to a beer festival, we settled on bringing six!

BHH Lineup 1
BHH Lineup2

On the day of the festival, we loaded up our compact car to the gills with cider, signage, our jockey box, a CO2 tank, and a couple coolers and drove the mile to the festival.

Overall, we had a great time and were able to talk with so many people who were excited to hear about a new cidery coming to Indianapolis. Some of the highlights included convincing die-hard beer fans to try a craft cider for the first time and hearing them say, “Hey, this is actually pretty good.” On the other range of the spectrum, it was also great to find out just how many people have been looking for a way to get more cider and who loved ours. We had a woman from France who said she’d been looking for a good cider to drink in the States for years and had finally found it in our Dry cider, and we had other people who came back multiple times in an effort to get a taste of the pumpkin cider, which we didn’t tap until halfway through the day. Another great part of the day was sharing cider with several bar and restaurant managers who expressed interest in carrying our ciders at their location in the future.

Aaron BHH

Thanks to the handful of a friends and family who helped us serve that day, and thanks to the Phoenix Theater for a great event. We hope to be a part of it next year and for many years moving forward.

Copyright Ash & Elm Cider Co.