The mission statement behind Minneapolis Cider Co. is simple: “Welcome to cider.”
“We put it on our glassware, we talk about it, that is our guiding ethos in everything that we do,” says co-owner Jason Dayton. “It’s about: how do we enthusiastically welcome people to the category, and how do we guide our work every single day to make sure—whether that’s in the ciders we’re creating, the educational programs, the events we’re putting on—to make cider approachable while making it a fun place to be.”
The three owners behind the cidery, located on the edge of Northeast and Marcy-Holmes, have been active in the cider scene for several years. Taproom manager David O’Neill and brand manager Jason Dayton co-founded Lionheart Cider Company in 2015, which they conceptualized during a University of Minnesota entrepreneurship capstone course. The pair announced in 2017 that they’d be rebranding Lionheart as Minneapolis Cider Co., and would be bringing on Rob Fisk as head cidermaker.
Up until he joined the team, Fisk was the owner and operator of Wyndfall Cyder, which began producing cider at Hoch Orchard in La Crescent in 2014 before moving to Minnesota Harvest Orchard in Jordan in 2016.
Between O’Neill and Dayton’s backgrounds in high-volume production and distribution, and Fisk’s horticultural and cidermaking expertise, the trio hopes Minneapolis Cider Co. can be the local epicenter of cider education.
Minneapolis Cider Co. will produce a wide array of ciders, from traditional to new-age styles and flavors. “It’s really a good combination of the two actually—we [Lionheart and Wyndfall] were both on very different ends of the cider spectrum, so we’re making this a very approachable, high-quality product,” Fisk says. It’s all part of a focused effort to guide more drinkers into the world of cider, a realm that many are still unfamiliar with.
“It’s such a new thing where [people are] like, ‘I don’t like cider, but I like this one.’ People say that all the time,” says Fisk. “So it’s like, well, you do like cider then. You just didn’t like the ones you’d always had in the past, because you always assumed they were too sweet, or whatever. So it’s really just getting that first one into somebody’s hand that they think they might like. So if you have a range of dry to sweet, fruity to earthy, there’s something for everybody.”
The team spent 18 months looking at potential warehouse spaces in Northeast, eventually selecting a space in spring 2018. But by mid-summer, they realized that the building’s foundation couldn’t support the weight of the tanks and they were forced to find another location. Thankfully, their first landlord helped connect them with the landlord of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse just north of St. Anthony Main, which had previously been the home of an indoor soccer field. “It was a little more space than we needed originally, but it gives us room to grow into it,” says Fisk. “We can really make this the spot, long-term.”
The choice to set up shop in Northeast was a strategic one: if you can lure in the brewery-goers, you’ve got a better chance of broadening the cider-drinking crowd.
“If there are four people going out to breweries, and one person wants to go check out the cidery, now we get all of them,” says Dayton. “We don’t have beer on tap, so you’re gonna drink cider. So that’s our opportunity to have those conversations and educate people.”
Unlike the distribution-focused rollout of Lionheart, the team plans to introduce Minneapolis Cider Co. slowly and intentionally, highlighting education every step of the way. They’ve got plans for cider seminars that will range from the basics to more advanced topics like the differences between varieties, cidermaking, and food-pairing. There will be food trucks on-site, as well as charcuterie boards (and vegan options) for snacking in the taproom.
The team plans to start small-scale distribution later this summer, then slowly increase as they expand their production capacity.
As a licensed commercial winery permitted to produce fruit-based beverages up to 20% ABV (40 proof), Fisk is planning to eventually launch a cocktail program in the taproom, too, starting with an apple brandy used as a base for a pommeau. “We’re obviously limited to fruit, but what does that mean? There’s actually a wide range of things you can do in that world, but it’s not totally explored yet,” he says. “We’re going to push the boundaries a little bit with that kind of stuff. […] It should be fun for people to come in here and experiment with us to see what happens.”
The team also plans to collaborate with Minnesota orchards to make single-estate ciders, highlighting local varietals while telling the orchards’ stories. “That’s another way to have that conversation, to tell that story, and say, ‘These are the apples that came from this orchard, and this is a cider that’s expressive and reflective of that, and this is why,’” says Dayton.
From Fisk’s experience on the orchard with Wyndfall to his work with Minneapolis Cider Co., he says he’s most excited to continue making cider that advances the conversation around the beverage, this time with more access to a wider audience. “This is really going to be bringing it to the Twin Cities and elevating what cider is in the entire region,” he says. “I think five years from now, everyone’s going to know it’s not a ‘cider beer’—there is no such thing as cider beer.”
Cidermaker: Rob Fisk
Cider: Raspberry, Orchard Blend, Citrus Hop
Address: 701 SE 9th St, Minneapolis, MN 55414
Hours: Mon: closed; Tue–Thur: 3pm–11pm; Fri: 3pm–12am; Sat: 11am–12am; Sun: 11am–9pm
Soft Opening: May 9, 2019
Grand Opening: June 2019 (official date TBA)