Friday, November 28, 2008

mmmmmmm...Hard Cider!

I spent the week in Iowa City with the in-laws. It was nice to get away and it was pretty tolerable, perhaps due to the mind numbing beverages I brought along. Boy, did we consume a lot of beer! Anyway, as the week came to a close, "the men" decided to get away while the little buggers napped and take in a company making hard cider (among other things) in rural Iowa. You probably haven't heard of the little town of Sutliff Iowa. In fact, I'm not even sure if it is a town-village, hamlet, burg? In fact I hadn't heard of it and I grew up less than an hour away! Nonetheless it is a little area along the Cedar river, just south of Mt Vernon and Lisbon and North of Solon. Oh wait, haven't heard of those either. Ok, it's close to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. But this isn't an Iowa geography lesson here. It's about a great place called Sutliff Cider Company. I first heard about it a month ago as my parents were taking the Harley out for a fall ride through the countryside. For whatever reason they stopped, took the tour and found it was a whole lot like brewing beer. After tasting their hard cider, I knew I should stop by. I contacted Scott, the owner/cider maker. (Ok, someone tell me, brewers make beer, vintners make wine, who makes cider? is there a name?). Scott said he'd be in the Friday after Thanksgiving so we made the trip north about 30 minutes to the Sutliff Cider Company.

What we found was way more than expected. To say the least, Scott is passionate about his cider just as any brewer or vintner is about his drink of choice as well. We got a great tour. Here is a
little peak(forgot my camera, but bro-in-law Jeff came to the rescue until his battery died-still pretty good despite the camera phone pix):

In the main pressing room. An apple press is a new gizmo for me and I found it pretty cool. Sadly they were not pressing juice today as they normally do on Fridays.

Scott enjoyed "theifing" a little out for us. Ok, it was actually a lot. We tried 9 month old cider from four different barrels and even a little experimental perry (fermented pear juice).

Enjoying our cider right from the barrel with pa-in-law John. In the background are the 7 barrel fermentors. The cider is hazy in these tanks for many reasons including the yeast in suspension. After aging in the used wine barrels, it drops bright and delicious but is pretty dry with little sugar content. Scott then blends back each barrel along with some fress juice for the right amount of sweetness to accompany the tart crispness from this great cider. This is truly the art of cider making, I think. After that, they bottle it on a tiny bottle filler not unlike the one we use in our cellar.

A little blurry, but this is in their new tasting room where many of the barrels of cider will sit and age for 9 months before being blended and bottled. they have a lot more aging space now and are looking for bigger fermentors as well. I would kill for racks and racks of aging barrel space!
Sutliff Cider company makes three main products, Hard Cider, Soft Cider (non alcoholic) and Pure Cider (fresh press unpasteurized cider) John got to take a jug straight off the tank. yummy!
If you are ever in the Northeast area of Iowa take a little side trip to Sutliff. You'll be glad you did. Now, time to go crack a bottle out of that case I purchased.....


Anonymous said...

Checking out Sutliff has been on my to-do list for quite some time. It's a logistical nightmare, but we're able to coordinate with Scott so we can carry it at Electric Burrito, in Southwest Iowa. It's hard to leave it alone.


Stonch said...

This is all well and good, but why do Americans call cider "Hard Cider"? How did that come about? I mean, what do you consider "cider"? Apple juice? Why not just call it apple juice? It seems like almost deliberate perversity.

BrewerM said...

J.-definitely get up there if you can. The process is pretty cool and Scott will give you a major tour.

Jeffrey-A quick google search took me here: for an explanation of cider vs. juice and why in America we call it hard cider. I'm just following the what we do over here. Since we can buy cider and juice (and they are different) then we must have another name for the alcoholic version-hard cider.

Russ said...


Here in the States we have a little saying: "If it's clear and yella', you've got juice there, fella! If it's tangy and brown, you're in Cider Town!" Hence the distinction between (non-hard) cider and apple juice.

To any Chicago-area readers: if you're looking for a cider fix a little closer to home, check out AeppelTreow: They were at the Great Taste of the Midwest and blew me away. I still haven't had a chance to stop by, but they're just across in the IL/WI border.

Anonymous said...

Russ--I second Aeppeltreow. I quite liked their perry, and everything.