- Arianna Auber American-Statesman Staff
Fairweather Cider Co., a new cidery that debuted last month, is hoping it’s found the recipe to become your trusty go-to cider producer.
The vision of friends John Staples and Michael Gostomski White, Fairweather launched with just a single house cider on tap in the cozy tasting room built out of a warehouse space on Metric Boulevard, in an area of North Austin that has become a bona fide brewery hub.
Behind the tasting room is the small production facility where Staples and White, a two-man operation, ferment the apples they receive from a packing house in Oregon that supplies many of the Pacific Northwest’s cideries. They rely on dessert apples — common grocery store varieties, like golden delicious — to make their cider.
The decision to launch with a sole drink, the dry Common, was intentional, Staples said recently. But don’t worry: More Fairweather ciders, including the Tejano Dreams with Anaheim chili peppers, have since gone on tap in the tasting room. These are all very small-batch, while the Common is far more plentiful.
“We want to saturate spots in the city with our name first, proving that we can do the basic things well. This is our dry cider, our bread and butter, where the whole concept is derived,” he said.
The Common is very dry. The near total lack of sweetness is a crucial component of Fairweather’s philosophy. It’s intended to be the cider you turn to when it’s hot outside and you need some light liquid refreshment. It’s also palatable for beer drinkers who often find many American ciders to be just a tad too sweet for more than one glass.
Staples and White want to make sure you can’t stop cracking open cans of the Common, which are coming soon to local spots like the Whip In, the Brew & Brew and both locations of Quickie Pickie. It is intended to be your everyday, easy-drinking cider.
Common has a funky aroma, like the farmhouse-style ales that Staples and White are emulating, but the apple essence stands out in the flavor so clearly that you can’t mistake it for anything but cider.
“So kind of catering to us having originally started as beer drinkers, we’re using ale yeast as opposed to wine yeast,” Staples said last year. “A lot of people are using wine yeast when they make cider, but we’ve found that with the ale yeast we’re using, we can make a really dry cider. It has 5 grams of sugar per liter, but the cider really shines. It’s still a very fruit-forward beverage.”
He and White — former Fed-Ex drivers and roommates — began devising plans to open a cidery after a 2013 visit to Argus Cidery, which has made a name for itself as a producer of balanced fermented beverages like cider, perry and even tepache, a sparkling pineapple wine. They also appreciate what Texas Keeper Cider, in far South Austin, is doing by highlighting long-forgotten heirloom apple varieties that many commercial growers don’t produce anymore.
Staples and White aren’t opposed to using heirloom apples or even bittersweet apples, the ones specifically grown to make ciders like the kind that Europe has become well-known for. (Austin Eastciders sources them.) At the end of the day, however, Fairweather’s goal is to offer an accessible cider made just a little differently from other local options.
Fairweather’s philosophy is embodied by Common’s can design and in a large mural at the Metric Boulevard taproom. Illustrated by Paul Windle, the can and the mural feature brightly colored scenes of “this weird sort of utopia,” Staples said.
With the imagery, we wanted to “create a utopia or ‘fair weather’ world,” he said. “That is a sentiment that we are trying to communicate with the cider and what we want the name and image to be associated with. It’s very positive and happy. It embraces this weird 1960s, ’70s utopia of bizarre elements, like a horse with an eye patch on it, a hole in the ground with a ladder that just may lead to nowhere, things like that.”
The mural takes up one entire wall in the tasting room, which offers seating both at tables and at the bar. In addition to the Common and Tejano Dreams, Fairweather has been serving up a few different dry-hopped ciders and a couple of fruited ciders — boysenberry and apricot. Dry-hopping means that the ciders, like beer, take on aromas ranging from tropical fruit to citrus to earthy.
The two fruited ciders have been particularly well-received, Staples said.
A couple of weekends ago, “we did a fruited cider (the boysenberry) and it was overwhelmingly popular, so we’re slowly expanding the fruited cider offerings,” he said via email. The Tang-colored apricot infusion, called Juicy Lucy, is the latest.
While visiting, you might to plan out a brewery hop: Fairweather is next door to 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, a couple of blocks from Celis Brewery and across the street from Oskar Blues Brewery. Austin Beerworks, Circle Brewing and Adelbert’s Brewery are also close drives from the cidery.