One Houston Cider Company flagship cider, the Semi (left), and their small batch Carrot Cider (right) that is limited and only available at the Town In City Brewing Co. Taproom (photos by Christina Martinez).
Houston Cider Company’s head cider maker, Brandon Baldridge, said he started making cider as a bet. He visited friends in Houston back in 2011, tried some Texas cider and said he could do better. Today, Baldridge and Houston Cider Co. are rolling out their flagship ciders and putting their mark on the Houston map for dry ciders.
License approval came through the last week of November 2017, label approval gave the green light the first week of January 2018, and Houston Cider Co. is a go. The Heights (for now) cidery is a sister concept to Town In City Brewing Co., located at 1125 W Cavalcade St., and is the base for operations. For now.
Houston Cider Co.’s Baldridge got his start back in 2011 at home in Denver, CO. in the taproom, and then in production as the assistant cider maker for C Squared Ciders. A Houston friend that knew of Town In City and Justin Engle’s plans to open a cidery made the connection for the two, bringing Baldridge to the likes of Houston in 2016 to join on as head cider maker.
Since 2016, Houston Cider Co. has seen more red tape than production, moving Baldridge to assisting Town In City Brewery’s production while they wait. And wait. Now with approval, Baldridge has begun his cider process.
“Cider is like a wine process,” Baldridge said. “Juice goes into the fermenter, gets acid adjusted a little bit, I’ll add malic acid, then we add yeast, wait until it ferments out and then put it in the bright tank. We sweeten it back with a little juice because we ferment out all the way dry, then carbonate it and keg it.”
The Houston cidery will have two flagship ciders: Houston Cider Co. Semi-Dry and Houston Cider Co. Dry. The Semi is already out on the market and at near-by establishments like, Bernie’s Burger Bus, Cedar Creek, Dan Electro’s, Darwin’s, Drink of Ages, Cactus Cove, Good Dog and more. The Dry will be rolling out in about a month.
With the same overhead comes the same sales team, so chances are good you’ll see Houston Cider Co. where you can find Town In City brews in the near future. Currently, the cidery has capacity to sustain 25-30 accounts and the staff and sales team are already there.
As far as flavor profiles go, both the Semi and Dry will be similar, coming from the same base cider/fermented juice: Little Tannic. The Semi is acidic, has a nice bite, good apple flavor and crisp. The Semi is just a little sweeter than the Dry, Baldridge said. Alcohol content comes in at 6% for both.
On the creative side, Baldridge is working on small batch ciders, like his carrot cider, that is currently on tap in the taproom. “Whatever weird stuff pops in my head,” he said. These small, 15 gallon batch ciders will be limited and available only in the Town In City/Houston Cider Co. taproom, so keep an eye on the Houston Cider Co. Facebook page for when a new one drops.
Current production is at the Heights brewery, using the fermentation and bright tanks, no need for the hot side. Eventually, the plan is to expand either at Town In City or in another facility to where the cidery can have a set lineup to do four canned ciders, in addition to drafts and seasonals.
“We’ve been looking in EaDo, it doesn’t have to be in the Heights,” Baldridge said. “We need a lot of warehouse, so looking in EaDo makes sense with warehouse space over there.”
Justin Engle, owner of Town In City and Houston Cider Co., said they’ve looked at neighboring developments, but rent expectations aren’t plausible.
“We’re looking at all avenues for what might work,” Engle said.
Asking Baldridge if they have plans to expand outside of Houston, he was quick to answer with, “I’m not sure we need to.” Focusing on the Houston market is the goal for now and filling the void for dry ciders.
Let’s see where Houston’s first cidery puts roots down. For now, we’ve got options on Calvacade.