One South Austin cidery is ready to make a big splash with its roster of fermented fruit beverages.
Austin Wine & Cider, which opened quietly at the end of March along the increasingly boozier St. Elmo Road, has been offering a variety of off-the-wall draft ciders made from apples and other fruits. Owner and founder Mike Allgeier is purposely veering from traditional ciders.
“With this place, I’m looking for drinkability with a little bit of funk. We are in South Austin, after all,” he said.
A veteran with a Purple Heart after years in the military, he had traveled extensively through Europe during his time in the service — trying beverages not far from where they were made — and was disappointed to return in the late 1990s to a city with “few local products that I wanted to drink,” he said. “There was a very limited selection of craft beer, no ciders and a small amount of wine. So I started making them myself.”
He’s had a long time and a lot of help to perfect the hobby that friends and family began to urge him to turn into a business. Although he self-taught himself how to homebrew at first, he began reaching out to people in the industry: Austin Homebrew Supply, Real Ale Brewing and Black Star Co-op when it first opened as a revolutionary concept in 2010.
He also got involved with South Austin Brewery — located in the same set of St. Elmo Road warehouses where Allgeier’s Austin Wine & Cider is now.
But unlike his brewery mentors, he didn’t stick with making beer.
“I worked my way into ciders, meads, Texas-grown fruit wines,” he said. “They’re a very similar process to brewing. I liked making the ciders because… I could apply my brewing experience to blend the two worlds.”
Although the ciders now feature apples primarily from Washington and Canada, he tries to use Texas ingredients when he can. Two of the ciders on tap at the Austin Wine & Cider tasting room are made with Texas-grown grapefruit and lime, in addition to the apples: the Puckering Pomelo Cider and the Smashed Lime Cider. They’ll rotate out as Allgeier comes up with new recipes.
“I want to use cool fruits from Texas that aren’t used a whole lot, like fig and kumquat,” he said.
The other two ciders on draft are Austin Wine & Cider mainstays. The She’ll be Apples cider is a good introduction to Allgeier’s particular style because with apples as the solo fruit, it’s as straightforward as he gets. Not too sweet and not too dry, it’s an easy-drinking and balanced expression of what good cider should taste like.
But that’s not the most popular one. The one he pours for visitors most often on weekends, when the tasting room is opened, is the Hefe Apfel Cider, an unfiltered German-style cider that will appeal to beer devotees: Allgeier crafted it to taste like a hefeweizen, albeit without the grains that give the wheat beer such a distinct flavor.
“It has hops and spices and yeast, but everything else is just fermented fruit juice,” he said. “It’s about as close as we can get to a hefeweizen without having any grain product, which is something we can’t have because we’re licensed as a winery. Notice the lovely smell from the hefeweizen yeast.”
In addition to the four ciders on tap, the tasting room in the modest Austin Wine & Cider space offers, on many weekends, live music and game nights with Cards Against Humanity. Right now, it’s the best place to find these ciders, although they’re slowly going on draft in area bars. Allgeier’s goal is to get them into cans one day as well.
“Apple is just good to cook with, to make ciders with, even if you’re flavoring it with something else like blueberry,” he said.
Austin Wine & Cider, at 411 E. St. Elmo Rd. Ste. 2, is opened 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 11 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit the Facebook page.