A passionate Chef walks the busy street market touching, smelling and inspecting the local produce for inspiration for today’s menu. He finds heirloom tomatoes, yellow beets and, smoked duck. Ooh La La “Todays salad.”
This is exactly what came to mind when I met kyle Sherrer from Millstone Cellars, the award-winning cidery and meadery from Monkton, Maryland. Kyle is a young, creative, and ambition bloke who is putting Maryland cider on the map.
Baby Ginger, Wildflower, Cranberry, Blueberry and Tulip Poplur Honey. local Chinook Hops, sour cherries and I thought I heard him mention gooseberries? I hate to compare them to a craft brewer but this is certainly how the craft breweries went from pale ales in the early 90s to wild fermented ales and the exotic potions of today’s brews.
The difference is the cider makers of today have already taken that craft approach and are concocting basically whatever the hell they want. Kyle and his father, along with 100 hundred other cider makers are combining tradition with artistic ingenuity, redefining what a cider should or shouldn’t be.
Millstone Cellars sits in a refurbished 1840s grist mill located in Monkton, MD. Millstone currently distributes to Washington, DC and Maryland.
Their tasting room is available for free tours and tastings every sat, 12 6pm.
I asked Kyle to reminisce the old days how he and his father started on this fermentation journey. This is what he had to say:
We got started with my father being in the wine industry (went to UC Davis for viticulture and winemaking, winemaker in MD and VA during 80’s & 90’s) and I had just graduated from college with a degree in finance and saw this as an opportunity to get into a creative business that had growth potential. Saw cider(and mead) as a way of exploring wine styles while remarkably old where it seems forgotten which allowed us to recreate them with some of our own idea’s and stylistic contributions in the process.
Kyle also shared with me the near future plans of Millstone Cellars.
Working on our fall line up now. Harvest, our still semi sweet aromatic style cider recreation from last year was just bottled and we are now getting ready to blend farmgate, our still bone-dry style cider focusing on the tart and tannic apples and has a nice oaky finish. Seasonal ciders on the way are cherrykriek tart cherry cider, hopvine dry cascade hopped cider, and a session (8% alc.) plum mead. Working on some cool projects to work on some new styles for next year involving wild yeast ferments, skin contact, perry, and brettanomyces.
Did he say brett? For those who are not familiar with brettanomyces. see this link I have decided to write my posts a little different from the previously traditional reviews. My main focus is to profile the cider makers and tell their story. Then dive into a variety of their ciders. This way I can compare their ciders and give a fresh perspective, plus it’s just fun.
Ciderberry is the first of three I tried this week. This is what Kyle had to say about Ciderberry:
Ciderberry is a sour dry cider that we made using 10% red raspberry from Agriberry in V.A. We liken it to a framboise style lambic but without the sweetness that you find in your average lindermans. The red raspberries fermented and aged for about 6 months before we blended it into our cider.
Cidderbery, a blush color, somewhat cloudy medium bodied cider consisting of Red Raspberries, Rome Beauty, and Stayman Winesap apples. Tart raspberry, tangerine, sweet apple. light spice, oak and subtle vanilla make up the complex bouquet.
This was a dry, clean cider with an intense raspberry profile. I was reminded of a Flanders Red Ale, a drink for the sour lovers. I found notes of light apple, pink grapefruit, Mineola and oak aged characters, but not over the top. So you non-oaky folks out there won’t be discouraged. The tart berries obviously steal the show.
Next up Is Millstone’s Gingeroot. A straw-champagne colored semi-sweet cider constructed with Baby Ginger, Blueberry Honey, Mcintosh , and Summer Rambo apples. Gingeroot starts with an aroma of crystalized ginger, lemon, sweet dessert apples and dried flowers.
Now this is the difference between dried and fresh ginger, The baby ginger must give it a sweeter and less sharp taste. Ginger and lemon dominates the front and hides behind the tart middle palette then comes back stronger in the finish. A lingering long dry finish leaves the palate refreshed.
Bringing in the rear of this threesome is Millstone’s Winesap. Stayman Winesap, Tulip Poplur Honey and York Imperial are the main stars in this off-dry cider.
Aromas of sweet apple peel, tart apple sauce, floral, honeysuckle, quince. and star fruit makes for a complex nose.
Medium to full-bodied. Roasted apple, apple peel, and bitter apple seed makes up the front palette. Acidity dominates the front and middle but finishes in balanced fashion. Tart apple follows through the end. Bitterness is higher than other ciders. a hop head’s delight. The finish was clean and quick.
I will say it now. Keep your eyes out for this young MD cider and mead producer. They are a force to be reckoned with and they will help change the misconceived idea of what a cider is and should be.