When it comes to making fermented beverages, BottleHouse’s Jason Kallicragas favors the unusual. Some of his most cherished apple cider varietals—the Northern Spy, the Esopus Spitzenburg, the infamously difficult to grow but just plain “perfect” Kingston Black—have been cultivated for centuries, though you’d never find them in the grocery store. While he greatly enjoys making cider with these immortal apples, Jason lately has been turning his attention toward enhancing the flavor of more familiar fruit through techniques that have fallen out of fashion over the past few generations.
His latest interest is in orange wine, ordinarily created by maintaining contact between white wine grape seeds, skins, and juice for a prolonged period of time during fermentation. Th is allows the wine to take on a distinct amber hue and, per Jason, develop “funky farmyard flavors.” What might happen, Jason wondered, if he used this process with not only wine grapes but apple cider as well?
Last fall, Jason partnered with M Cellars to attempt to answer this question, hand-picking 400 pounds of Pinot Gris and 50 pounds of Pinot Noir grapes from the Geneva winery’s vineyard with the assistance of BottleHouse owner Brian Benchek. The grapes were sustainably farmed, M Cellars’ owner Matt Meineke said, yielding a high-quality fruit with which to work.
Jason mashed his bounty by hand with a hop filter before macerating the grapes—along with their seeds and stems. He mixed them with juice from an assortment of apple varietals including Gala, McIntosh, Fuji, and Golden Supreme, all grown on Quarry Hill Farm. BottleHouse currently culls their cider apples exclusively from Ohio farms, and Quarry Hill is one of their largest producers. According to Jason, the apples supplied for the wine/cider hybrid aren’t “necessarily cider-specific varieties, but they have great sugar and acidity.” Achieving balance is important when creating any cider, he tells me, particularly when one is adding unexpected elements like wine.
Once combined, the wine/cider hybrid underwent three months of natural malolactic fermentation in American Oak barrels. The end result is a dry, full-bodied drink with sneaky sweetness and rich cellar floor minerality. The rustic and refreshing wine/cider hybrid has been released under BottleHouse’s new Gnarly Pippin Cider House brand and is available on tap at their Lakewood, Cleveland Heights, and Van Aken District locations.
BottleHouse Brewery & Meadery is located at 13368 Madison Ave. in Lakewood, 2050 Lee Rd. in Cleveland Heights, and 3401 Tuttle Rd. in Shaker Heights. Hours vary by location. For more information, visit BottleHouse.co.