orchard

Cider starts with the orchard, and the bounty of apples that they produce. Apples come in all shapes and sizes, with over 600 varieties being cultivated in the United States and over 2000 worldwide. Located in the Mid-Atlantic, we choose to focus on southern United States apple varieties that grow well in our climate. Southern apples are generally high in acid and sugar concentration as they get extremely ripe from the warmer growing climate, but normally lack the high tannin found in more northern climates.  

sources and methodology

At MillStone, we believe in crafting our ciders from the local palette of ingredients available to showcase what makes our growing region unique. We work with over 15 different farms and orchards within 150 miles of our cidery to accomplish this. Working closely with these growers we are able to implement more traditional harvesting practices. One such method is collecting ground drops, a traditional way of harvesting in Europe, where the apple falls from the tree at peek ripeness and then is collected and pressed. This practice aids in creating ciders with high levels of complexity, earthiness, and aroma.

side projects

We have also implemented various side projects to help us gain the best ingredients possible, as well as work with the surrounding communities. A foraging program to seek out intriguing local fruits, plants and spices that grow wild in our area is one of these projects. As is our lost orchard project, which has worked to find overgrown abandoned orchards, and wild growing apple tree's to harvest for some of our small batch projects. In addition, we have also started working with a historic orchard  on Antietam's Historical site to cultivate and harvest old American cider apples.  

always learning

Each cider apple offers a plethora of diverse traits, from acidity and tannin to aromatics and flavor quirks.  Our goal at Millstone is to deconstruct each of the local varietals and learn how to create harmonies and interplay between different apple varietals and ingredients. We are constantly learning about the American apple and working on improving our sourcing, growing, and harvesting practices. As our ciders continue to evolve, as do our green thumbs.

Some of our suppliers:
Brown's Orchard Farm, Peter's Orchard - apples
Fruitwood Orchards, Apex Bee Company - honey
Black Locust Hops - cascade and chinhook hops
Sassafras Creek Farm - ginger
Baugher's Orchard - plums & cherries
Bear Mountain Orchards - pears & peaches
Calvert Farms - rhubarb
Quoexin Cranberry Company - cranberries
Zahdraka Farm - strawberries

back to top

20130709-0D4_9327.JPG

press

After harvest the apples are put into cold storage for several days to months, depending on varietal, to achieve maximum ripeness. Once maturity is reached, the apples are ground up into an apple mash of skins, pulp and pit before it is put into a rack & cloth press. Each cheese cloth sheet is loaded with the apple mash and the press then begins to exert pressure on the stack of cloth sacks separating the juice from the solids. In keeping with our rustic tradition we do not add sulfites to our juice or cider at any time, nor do we filter the juice, which therefore goes into the barrel raw and untouched.

Almost all of our pressings are done singularly by apple varietal. This allows us to keep varietals separate so they are able to ferment and age by themselves. Allowing the varietals to ferment on their own allows us to learn about the unique characteristics of each apple and gives us more versatility for blending our final ciders.

prev / back to top


ferment

Fermentation begins as soon as the juice is transferred into the barrels; there it undergoes its initial fermentation. The key to rustic cider is to keep it simple; no sulfites, filtration or pasteurization occurs at any point in our process, in order to not strip out any of the traditional flavors or microbes. Not sulfiting also ensures that the native microflora is maintained, allowing for all of the yeast and bacteria that came in on the fruit, or is dormant in our barrels, to influence the flavor and aromatics of our cider.  

All of our ciders are fermented in oak, and then aged in the same barrel for 6-12 months. Fermentation and aging in the same vessel allows us to age the cider Sur Lie, or on top of the lees. Lees are all of the particles, pectin and dead yeast that fall out during the aging process, creating a floor of sediment at the bottom of each barrel. These lees help the cider obtain natural nutrients which encourage a native malolactic fermentation in our barrels. Malolactic fermentation is when bacteria converts harsh malic acid into soft lactic acid. Aging on the lees also creates a rounder mouthfeel, umami flavor and helps prevent off-flavors from the wild yeast.  

Our fermentation and aging works in sync with the temperature changes of the season. A slow, cool fermentation occurs in late fall and winter which helps preserve aromatics. As the temperatures warm up the malolactic fermentation kicks in during the spring. The summer heat brings the cider to its culmination and thus begins the natural flavors of tartness and funk. After this process is complete the cider will either be blended or left to continue to develop and age. 

prev / back to top


blend

Each barrel of cider is unique, and crafting the master blend is all about sensory analysis and finding balance. It's really more of an art than a science, whereas in art you may use a color wheel, our palette is composed of barrels and varietals.

Tasting for a cider begins with a concept or style, choosing apple varietals that fit the style, and then selecting which of these barrels work in harmony. This can mean selecting anywhere from 2 to 8 different apple varietals in varying proportions to create a distinct profile, be it bright and fruity or tart and earthy. If we are complimenting the cider with other ingredients, such as hops or fruit, the selection of barrels works to find likenesses between the different components.

A large part of our post fermentation blending is due to the youth of cider making in the United States. Compared to historical cider making countries of England, France and Spain, we are just at the beginning of learning about the cider making capabilities in the United States. Traditionally, different apple varietals are all put into the press at the same time, in an attempt to balance acidity, tannins, aromatics and the flavor profile to create a certain harmony. Since our varietals are still so unknown, we have decided to purely have single varietal fermentation, followed by blending after aging, until a stronger understanding is learned from the apple varietals that we have available.

prev / back to top


bottle

We bottle all of our ciders without any sort of pasteurization or sulfites, as well as minimal filtration. We do this to preserve the rustic nature of our ciders and to not strip it of its unique flavor. Our ciders are cloudy because of this, as well as our bottle conditioning process. 

All of MillStone's sparkling ciders are bottle conditioned, meaning we allow the naturally occurring CO2, from fermentation, to carbonate our bottles. We do this by adding either local honey or house made cryo-cider (cold concentrated apple juice) into the cider blend. We then add a dosage of champagne yeast a day or two before bottling for it to re-ferment inside the bottle. This process then leaves a thin layer of dead yeast at the bottom of every bottle.  

After the ciders are bottle conditioned, and aged in bottle for a short period of time, we hand label and wax dip each and every one before sending them out to the market.

Each cider we make is a reflection of the unique blend and agricultural influences of that year created. These blends are one of a kind and can never be recreated. Enjoy!

After the ciders are bottle conditioned, and aged in bottle for a short period of time, we hand label and wax dip each and every one before sending them out to the market.

Each cider we make is a reflection of the unique blend and agricultural influences of the year it was created. These blends are one of a kind and can never be recreated. Enjoy!

prev / back to top