In what used to be a cinder block garage in Bozeman, a cidery has sprung up. Like most things that spring up, this one took more than a year of planning and renovation before the Lockhorn Cider House opened Feb. 1.
Glenn and Anna Deal bought the building on South Wallace and turned it into a quintessential Bozeman hot spot. The chic-industrial tasting room retains some of the cinder block walls, counters faced with reclaimed wood, local art on the walls, glass walls opening to a sidewalk patio, and is energy efficient.
The Deals filled the bulk of the building with three 3,000- gallon tanks for fermenting cider. The first batch included four blends of sparkling hard cider apple, black current, Cascade hops (the kind used in beer) and ginger. The apples are certified organic, and the cider is gluten and sulfite free.
During colonial times, apple cider was consumed as the main beverage with meals because water was often considered unsafe for drinking.
Sometime after Prohibition, the word cider began to refer to unfiltered apple juice. Americans like it hot, with a dash of cinnamon. Anywhere else in the world, apple cider is as dry as Champagne and as cold as beer. To clarify things for thirsty Americans, we call the first cider and the second hard cider.
Making the hard cider is about a three-week process involving the right ingredients, chemistry, monitoring and waiting. The Deals start by filling their three 3,000-gallon tanks with organic apple juice and bringing the temperature to 60 degrees.
They add yeast and organic nutrient, then carefully monitor the temperature because as the yeast metabolizes, it generates heat, which can disrupt the flavor. Adding to the mad scientist feel, they measure the specific gravity with a hydrometer, which tells them the amount of sugar in the cider. When the hydrometer reaches zero, the beverage is ready for the next step.
After two weeks, the almost-cider enters a period of cold stabilization. The temperature is dropped to 40 degrees to force the nutrients and yeast to settle to the bottom.
The golden liquid is then racked, or pumped into another tank where carbonation is added. A finished sparkling, boozy concoction is the result.
Most ciders have added sugar to sweeten things up, but the Deals avoid adding the carbohydrate to their drink perfect for those on a low-carb diet. They also let their cider run dry, or ferment completely, so it is naturally preserved without the addition of sulfites or the need to pasteurize.
Like wine, the cider ages well and improves over time.
Unlike a brewery or distillery, Lockhorn Cider House operates under a winery license. This means that it can stay open late.
On Saturday nights, they often have a band and a food truck parked out front. A fire blazes in the patio fire pit, warming up the night.
The Lockhorn Cider House sells cider by the pint and growler, wholesale kegs for bars and restaurants, and gourmet pizza by the slice. They are open seven days a week.
This story originally appeared in The Great Falls Tribune, March 23, 2014