Texas Keeper Cider | Grafter Rosato 2022
Texas Keeper Cider is one of South Austin’s best kept secrets. A stunning 19 acre Hill Country ranch with a lovely rustic wood-paneled taproom just minutes away from the SoCo tourist bustle, the tight, dedicated team have been creating sophisticated small-batch hand-crafted cider since 2013. Blending career expertise in wine-making, brewing, fermentation and, of course, cider making, Texas Keeper offer a refreshing alternative to the sweet fruit-flavored canned fizz that is most commonly associated with both macro and craft ciders.
Texas Keeper’s ciders move in an equivalent world to spontaneous and mixed culture wild ales, designed to be sipped delicately to savor the fresh-pressed heirloom apples, yet so tasty and satisfying they will disappear quickly. The depth and complexity of the carefully selected flavors and fine-tuned creative process are apparent across Texas Keeper’s limited release ciders, with this year’s Grafter Rosato offering a particularly special cider-wine drinking experience.
This is Texas Keeper’s fourth year producing the Grafter Rosato, the third cider in their Grafter series where they rest heirloom apple ciders on vintage wine grapes. For this incarnation of the Rosato, Texas Keeper sourced Sangiovese grapes from local Central Texas vineyard Southold Cellars, and rested the cider, made from a combination of Northern Spy, Ben Davis, and Rhode Island Greening heirloom apple varieties, on the grapes for eight days. It was then aged in neutral tanks for 10 months, undergoing a natural malolactic fermentation. If you’re wondering what makes an apple an heirloom apple, the answer is history. Heirloom apple varieties are apples in their original, natural form. They are open-pollinated, unlike the hybrid varietals we buy in the supermarket that have been commercially bred for consistent appearance and taste, longer shelf life and resistance to disease. Many varietals of heirloom apples have existed for hundreds of years, but are now considered specialist products, and some even require conservation efforts. The apples used to make the Grafter Rosato were all popular in the US until the mid 20th century, and the combination of their individual and distinct flavor profiles, mixing crisp tartness with softer juicy sweetness, has been carefully designed to complement the dry tannins of the Sangiovese grapes.
An initial sip of Grafter Rosato offers crisp fresh red apple – similar to a Red Delicious but drier and more crunchy. The initial nose is short brisk nose but the aroma fills out as it gets warmer, with rustic earthy notes and hints of dried flower petals. There are notes of woody spice as the cider settles, and its long finish is where the Sangiovese grapes shine, the tannic texture of the skin lingering with hints of funky Brett and juicy red grape. Process is key to creating this charming, classy beverage. “The amount of skin contact really changes the extraction of pigments, and esters” says co-owner Nick Doughty. “We taste the developing cider each day trying to see when things start to get too tannic. It’s a balance.” Getting the right ingredients is also essential. “We work with small growers to source great apples. American heirloom apples and cider-specific varieties make for more interesting cider,” says co-owner Lindsey Peebles. “Taking the approach of allowing the cider to reflect the growing season, the vintage, and the weather in the orchard, keeps things interesting. The ciders are always different each year.” As a small local cidery, Texas Keeper have a great deal of flexibility when it comes to production, which is reflected in the quality of their output. “Our small size allows us to do a lot of experimenting, trying new apples, yeasts, and techniques, which keeps the cidermaking process open, fun, and a lot more satisfying. Working with real good apples results in better cider,” says Doughty.
For mixed-culture beer lovers keen to try ciders that match the quality and high production levels of Central Texas wild ale experts like Jester King, Roughhouse and Hedgehog, Texas Keeper is the perfect place to start your cider journey. The 8% ABV Grafter Rosato offers an intriguing flavor profile that’s accessible to cider, beer and wine drinkers, with Texas Keeper taking the lead in putting Central Texas on the national cider map.
Cider provided by Texas Keeper, opinions are the writer’s own.