the story of square one - a foreword
by Brody Mcallister, photos by Becca Shunkwiler
In a time when mechanical industry has replaced natural industriousness, the apple has suffered, but has not been overcome. Within the past 80 years we have transitioned the projection of our orchards from old growth, sturdy, disease resistant varietals, to high intensity, fast production, sweet, over sprayed varieties. With this transition in apple production the innumerable varieties that once were, pre-industrialization yet post Johnny apple seed era, have been lost to the winds of a different time and the overdevelopment of once fertile grounds. The 13 years of prohibition has forced many farmers to cut down cider apple varietals that so wholly encapsulated the terroir of this region potential for a unique wine of our own. As cider comes back into the hands of the people, we see the increase in old varieties that have been rediscovered and on their way to a revitalization. They have been grafted onto rootstock and are being distributed to farmers with an eye towards the future. The increasing necessity for the old to once again be revitalized into the apple community is where our community cider comes to fruition.
Our Square One: Community Cider is a project that leads us down a trail much further than Millstone - to our countries roots over 100 years ago and to those who preserved fruits into the future withholding the government from destroying a figure in life's history. This project takes Curt Sherrer, owner and founder of Millstone Cellars, and myself, sourcing specialist here at Millstone, all over Maryland to old homesteads and the middle of abandoned fields searching for what gems may be hidden behind the tangles of time. The fine thing about finding old trees is to see their vitality and size, trees that reach at least 100 years of age have wide bases and towering branches, even when left unmaintained they seem to have quite a resilience towards diseases such as fire blight, apple scab, etc. But the apples, what lovely distortion they have, gnarled and twisted just like the life they have seen, they hold flavors extraordinary compared to the apples you find pristine and perfect in the store. The tannins, the acids, the candy sweet hidden under a weathered skin - each apple has a story to tell. After finding the complexity of the apples themselves, the fermentation begins which brings us deep into a multitude of micro biomes that exist beyond simply sight, scent, or taste.
The micro biomes existent on apples that have been left to the tending of nature become a complex balance of yeasts and bacteria that work together in a dance of fermentation creating complex flavors not always found within our commercial strains of yeast. A community of yeasts and bacteria come in as the winds pass over the fruits, coming from lands far and near, to not allow for a stagnation of flavors but an ever-evolving community.
With the wildness that we allow to culminate within our community cider, we come back to Square One.
square one: our community cider
by Zachary Kaiser
Square One is a cider the exemplifies the traditions of old world cider-making and the rustic ethos that pulses through our veins. It is a cider that used apples foraged from an abandoned rehab orchard near The Mill. We then added in apples from some neighbors' backyards to create a melange of dynamic, complex, and earthy flavors. Our neighbors and many of our friends came out to help in the process of foraging and pressing.
It is these apples from our community, with their unknown beginnings and old age, that during pressing and after fermentation we discovered had unbelievable complexity, low acidity, a bouquet of aromatics, and palate altering new flavor profiles. We used the process of harvesting late which allows the flavors and sugars to mature and concentrate within the apples. This is a technique that has been studied in wine and is now a theory amongst our team; that mature apples are known to produce slightly stronger aromatics and increased sugar concentration. It is a process we use for many other ciders in our portfolio, but with this cider we wanted to capture as much of these mysterious apple flavors and aromatics as we could. The juice was aged in oak for over a year at low temperature in the cellar of The Mill. This helped produce a low acid cider with intense flavor and a delicate body.
We love doing things hand-crafted, and in this vein we got our labels pressed from our friend, Mary Mashburn, the proprietor of Typecast Press. Mary crafted our labels using traditional methods of letterpress printing. Take the time to look at some of the amazing work she does with Baltimore area companies. You will not be disappointed. To take handcrafted to the next level we used our potdevin mechanical gluer to glue our labels. From there, we hand-labeled and hand-waxed Square One.
This cider is truly hand-made and small-crafted, as our team likes to say. As always, our cider is made with 100% local fully ripened apples, and fermented & aged without any use of chemicals, filtration, or pasteurization. As Curt always emphasizes to our team, "we want to make cider tree to table, and restore cider tradition."