An evolution in craft beverages

I’m not exactly sure what happened. It was a few months ago when I first noticed some construction happening near Heebs grocery store on Main. Then one thing lead to another, and … I don’t know how to feel about this, I feel like I have stepped out on my wife. In the past couple of weeks, I have been to a non-brewery more times than I have been to one of our wonderful beer brewing establishments. I feel like I have some explaining to do, I am a beer drinker with an open mind. I enjoy coffee and the occasional whiskey so I figured trying cider could be fun, and it was.

Glen Deal is the owner of Lockhorn Cider House on 21 S. Wallace. Deal had been brewing cider for a few years before he had the courage and confidence to open his own brewery. Deal and his wife now live in Bozeman after living in Eagle River, Alaska. I asked Deal “Why cider, and what does it offer the craft beer drinker?” He explained to me that cider offers novel flavors and helps perpetuate the craft movement found within adult beverages by being accessible to the masses. Cider can be everything from quite sweet and low alcohol (~2-3 percent) to dry and high (~8-10 percent) AVB. Deal chooses to brew a dry cider with no added, well, anything; other than the occasional infusion of flavors like ginger or hops. Deal is a principled person who believes in purity and avoids any unnatural additions to his brews. As we were chatting he actually received a phone call and learned they passed their organic certification.

There I was, outside with my best friend and a pint of “Traditional” in my hand. I remember it well, my friend asked me if I was enjoying my cider. A simple question that had such profound meaning to me in that moment. I have identified myself as a craft beer drinker for so long that hearing the word “cider,” in an environment very reminiscent of a West Coast brewery, completely threw me for a loop. Yes, I was drinking cider, and, I was definitely enjoying myself. How was I going to explain this to my peripheral friends? I mean, I am looked up to in beer circles and have definitely been known to turn my nose up to the thought of apple wine.

Deal believes strongly that if he can serve a pure product to his customers, he is doing them the most good. His cider is not only organic, but also contains few so sulfites considered to be sulfite free. Sulfites are sometimes used to arrest the fermentation process when the desired alcohol level has been reached, but they are also often used as a preservative. The trouble with sulfites are that many people have sensitivities to the molecule.

Tart, crisp, refreshingly fizzy with a subtle apple aroma. That was how I described the “Traditional” cider to my friend. She was working through the sampler flight where you get to try all of the flavors; that evening she imbibed on the “Traditional,” “Currant,”  “Ginger” and “Hops” all with their own distinct and engaging flavor profile. She wasn’t too keen on the hops but we agreed to disagree on that one. She was most excited about the opportunity to spend an evening with a friend partaking in the rituals I often take for granted. You see, I am lucky enough to tolerate gluten which buys me a ticket into beer breweries. Unfortunately, she is not so lucky. I am thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a craft beverage with her, which she can do because cider is naturally gluten free.

I don’t know why I was so resistant in the past to this world of craft beverages. I guess I was blinded by the slew of hard cider bottles and their accompanying commercials that tend to market to people who have never taken the time to develop a taste for beer. I suppose I resented cider for reasons that Deal and his cider house have nothing to do with. Lockhorn cider house is a lovely place to sit and enjoy a craft beverage with a friend. And to be honest, that is about 75 percent of why I enjoy the craft beer scene in the first place. Lockhorn Cider is open Monday – Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 12 p.m. – 2 a.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.