- Arianna Auber American-Statesman Staff
Austin Eastciders will soon have a cider made with rare heirloom apples, another made with brisket from local Micklethwait Craft Meats and yet another made with hops. But perhaps the most exciting bit of news about the cidery is that it finally has a home base — a place of its very own to produce all that cider and a place right next door for people to stop by and drink it.
The urban cidery, located in an industrial part of East Austin that’s slowly transforming into a retail and entertainment area, probably could have opened sooner if Eastciders founder Ed Gibson didn’t have his heart set on turning an old railroad station into a tasting room and urban cidery.
He’s long been tied up in a permitting battle over the tucked-away Springdale Road location and had dealt with the setbacks by making cider at a Hill Country winery up until about a month ago, when Austin Eastciders was finally cleared to start making cider on the east side, as Gibson had always wanted. Even though opening the urban cidery has been one obstacle after another for him, his vision of what Austin Eastciders will be is finally developing into a reality.
“It’s this little oasis on the east side with a nice combination of urban and rural elements,” he said as he looked out at the shaded outdoor patio where a handful of red tables sit not far from some dead-end railroad tracks that spill into grass. “You look out the windows and you could be in the countryside. And the train station is a gift. It has the feel of a pre-Prohibition building, so it’s quite perfect for a taproom of traditional ciders.”
But he and the other cider makers can’t sit back with a cold glass of cider at one of those tables just yet. They’ve been getting ready for the grand opening of Austin Eastciders on Saturday — which will be followed by a handful of events tied to Austin Beer Week, running today through Nov. 2 — by making lots of small-batch ciders, including Small Batch No. 1, the only one of those that’s being bottled and released on a wider scale on Nov. 3.
Small Batch No. 1, a single-varietal cider featuring hard-to-find Winesap apples, is a very different sort of cider from Austin Eastciders’ two mainstays, Gold Top and Original, currently on the market in bottles and cans, respectively. The cider made from Texas-grown apples, Gibson said, has “a strange and lovely cotton candy aroma and a surprising savory note to the taste. It’s citrusy and salty, almost reminiscent of a margarita, with a punchy acidity and a nice, dry finish.”
The other ciders that are being made especially for the week of opening events are also rather unusual. The brisket cider has already drummed up some buzz, and a taste I had of an early version of the Micklethwait collaboration — an odd but endearing tug-of-war between sweet and smoky — suggested it could live up to the hype.
The hop cider, the recipe for which was developed by one of the cider makers with a beer background, would be “absolute sacrilege in England,” where Gibson is from, he said, because it goes against the tradition of cider. “But we want to push the envelope and see what we can do.”
That’s where the small batch series comes in, allowing Eastciders to experiment with old, rare apples and with barrel-aging. Next up in the series is another single-varietal cider made with Arkansas Black apples and, after that, a cider that’s been aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. These will all be limited bottle releases.
Although the taproom won’t be ready in time for the opening — the old-fashioned space inside the railroad station needs a bar and other refurbishments — it will eventually offer eight taps, with three to four of those pouring ciders that people will only be able to try there. In a few months’ time, Gibson also hopes the outdoor terrace will draw cider and live music fans. In the meantime, tours of the cidery will start on Nov. 1 and run every Saturday through the rest of the year.