What makes Stoic Cider different? Interesting apples! Kanin and Tierney Routson, the owners, creators, promoters, fermenters, foragers, and sales team, hunt down interesting apples: crabapples, cider apples and other rare, heirloom varieties.
When the apples are found, whether on the streets of Flagstaff, in Prescott or on historic farms in Oregon, they buy the entire crop, maybe thousands of pounds, and call in their friend Ryle and his handy portable apple press. Ryle loads the apple juice into 300-gallon, 1,800-pound totes and hauls it to a commercial freezer, where it’s frozen solid. This happens, of course, in the fall harvest season. Come winter a semi-truck loaded with these frozen totes hauls the load to a commercial freezer in Phoenix for holding.
Stoic Cider itself has a very small fermentation facility. Kanin and Tierney order up a couple of frozen-juice totes at a time, defrost them, stirring regularly, and wait for them to reach a consistent 50 degrees. That’s when they “pitch” the yeast. Stoic Cider is fermented with specific wine yeast that allows the apple flavors to dominate. Sulfites are added to discourage other microbes from taking over the batch. Of special concern are lactobacilli, “which,” Tierney says, “taste delicious in yogurt and pickles but like a wet dog in cider.”
Within 24 hours the batch is bubbling and frothing. It ferments for three weeks at 60 degrees in a climate-controlled walk-in cooler. This is the primary fermentation. The brew is stirred daily so the yeast doesn’t get upset and throw out a sulfurous distress signal. After three weeks the sugars are consumed, the brew settles, dead yeast cells sink to the bottom (called the ‘lees’) and the batch is “racked,” siphoned off to clarify. The result at this point is a dry base cider.
Now the cider masters go to work to create unique flavors by blending the base cider with interesting nuances. Kanin and Tierney forage wild prickly pear, gather local peaches, source Merlot wine from a small vintner, and pick hops on their parents’ farm to add distinctive flavors.
Tierney tells this story: “A couple of years ago we had crabapple juice that was super acid, etch-your-teeth, eye-twitching-tart acid. What do you do with that? We fermented it out and put it in tequila barrels for two years. The flavors mellowed to magically delicious.” That product is called Tequila Barrel. The label reads “Thousands of tiny crabapples pack this cider with a tart flavor explosion. Aged in tequila barrels, the cider’s tropical fruit notes blend smoothly with the deep caramel barrel character.”
The Dry Season is a lovely variety. It’s 100% single-origin apples, sourced from a third-generation farm in Hood River, Oregon. Kanin and Tierney buy the full harvest of these old trees, ferment it out, then blend it with 5% fresh apple juice. This creates an “off-dry” flavor, with a slight sweetness that opens and enhances the flavor. The bottle description reads: “The Dry Season is inspired by the arid Southwest climate. This is a single varietal cider made from 100% Newtown Pippin apples. Cold fermentation preserves a tart, fruit-forward character. Long maturation develops balance and complexity. Pairs well with good food and good friends. Enjoy!”
This creative and exciting approach to cider-making has won Stoic Cider high acclaim, including gold, silver and bronze medals at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (glintcap.org).
This interview made me very thirsty, and I’m happy to say I had a chance to enjoy a perfect pairing of full-bodied Golden Russet and Mexican Red Posole. The description reads “Enjoy the good life with this Golden Russet cider. A premier 18th-century American cider apple: organically farmed, cold fermented, slowly matured. The apple’s timeless character yields rich golden cider with complex layers of depth and flavor.”
You can celebrate the apples and try Stoic Cider yourself in restaurants, bars, and liquor stores in Prescott, Flagstaff, Sedona, Cottonwood, Phoenix and Tucson, and it will soon be even more accessible. Kanin and Tierney are moving on a downtown-Prescott location to house their brewing location and a tasting room. They’re excited to be able to tell the whole apple story. Watch for that in late 2024.
Meanwhile, as I write, I’m sipping a little Javelina Rosé. Think “… Newtown Pippin apples blended with Merlot wine. This blend of apple and grape wines is delicate and balanced (like a Javelina) and a perfect complement to a sunny patio (unlike a Javelina). Raspberry colored and lightly sweet, this fruity rosé pairs well with a stubborn personality and a thick skull. Tasting notes of tart cranberry, grape skin, green apple, and cherry.”
For more information contact Tierney at stoiccider.com.
Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott's leading creative food activist and teacher. Photos by Gary Beverly.