By Brooklynn Johnson
Photo courtesy of Texas Keeper Cider
It started with three friends. Brandon Wilde and Lindsey Peebles can trace the story of their friendship all the way back to elementary school. Nick Doughty completed the friendship trio in high-school, and the rest is history.
“We brought our first fruit down in March of 2014,” says Doughty, co-founder and cidermaker at Texas Keeper in Austin, Texas. Texas Keeper started in 2013 and specializes in making craft hard ciders. It was named as tribute to the Hick’s Texas Keeper apple variety, which originated in Texas and is believed to be extinct as of the 1880s.
“Brandon was a pretty avid homebrewer and he has a great talent, and he does a lot of the sales work and business side work for the cidery,” says Doughty. “Lindsey does the legal stuff and marketing.” Doughty brings his background of winemaking to the table. He eventually went to Lincoln University in New Zealand to study winemaking, and he has bounced around building an impressive resume at wineries in New Zealand, Northern California and Oregon.
And how does one make the jump from wine to cider? “My father is actually English and I grew up going to England,” Doughty says. His interest was initially peaked while getting a taste of the scrumptious cider scene in Somerset, England while spending time there with family, and it developed later on.
“Lincoln University had a winery on site and had all of the equipment to process apples, and New Zealand grows some fantastic apples.” Doughty says, noting that he and Lindsey even spent a few seasons picking apples in New Zealand.
And now Doughty, Peebles and Wilde own and operate their own cidery right along the Bear and Onion creeks in southern Texas.
“The person who owns the property is actually an old high school friend of ours,” Doughty says. The cidery sits on their friend’s 20-acre ranch. If that’s not a lesson to keep in touch with old high school friends, who knows what is.
“Cider is great because there are so few rules on what you can do right now, it’s pretty wide open, so you can do a little bit of experimentation,” Doughty says.
It’s a mindset like this that allows for creative and unique cider products such as Texas Keeper’s Grafter series. This line focuses on mixing heirloom apples with wine grapes. Their single variety 2014 Grafter Rosé is the first in the series, and is made with cider from Rome Beauty apples and a bit of red wine. The Grafters Blanc is next in the series, and is set to be released next month.
“We’re using Blanc du Bois grapes sourced from our friends down at Haak Vineyards in South Texas and we’ll blend those grapes with Texas grown Winesap apples from the Panhandle,” Doughty says.
Next on the radar: a tasting room. And thoughts of expanding aren’t too far away either. “We eventually hope to be available in most of the big cities in Texas, and there might be a couple spots nationally,” says Doughty. “We are looking to grow slowly, and organically.”
Next month Texas Keeper will release their Heirloom cider, made up of three different old Heirloom varietals including Rhode Island Greening, Ben Davis and Rome Beauty.
For now Texas Keeper cider self-distributed and is available in select bars and stores in Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth, so keep an eye out if strolling through that neck of the woods.