American soil has been fostering the growth of exceptional apples for centuries, but it’s undeniable that certain regions have gained more acclaim for their apple-producing abilities than others. Austin, Texas-based Argus Cidery urges us to look beyond the Pacific Northwest and the Hudson River Valley for a satisfying sipper, convincing us that a worthy apple sometimes comes equipped with a bit of southern flair.
The first cidery of its state, Argus Cidery bravely forged the cider production scene in 2010 as a solution to the Texas heat. “We needed an alternative to beer, something that is easy and would be suitable for the extremely hot weather we have down here,” explains Wes Mickel, Argus cidermaker and co-owner.
“There’s a huge beer scene in Austin, very adventurous palates here,” says Mickel, who aspires to offer hard-to-find Spanish styles that are characteristic of the South and would fit right in in Texas. “Even right now this far into the cider movement, there’s still a lot of education that needs to happen.”
Argus Cidery therefore found its advantageous niche in taking the ever-evolving beer scene to heart by providing devout beer drinkers with something new. “The inspiration was to make ciders with apples that weren’t coming from the northern parts of the country,” says Mickel, noting the surplus of apples in Texas that tend to go to waste. “It was great to find a plausible solution for this excess fruit.”
While introducing cider to the South has been a rewarding process, Mickel says that beating the heat isn’t always easy. “We’ve adapted due to droughts and growing conditions,” says Mickel.
Argus has consequently sourced apples from Arkansas, one of the original largest apple-producing states in the nation. An Arkansas native, Mickel values the opportunity to use apples from his home state. This strategic spirit has proved beneficial for the cidery, but the craft producer has also had to face cider’s innate reputation of being overly sweet. “The biggest pitfall we had from day one was offering these dry ciders when the market only knew cider to be sweet,” he says.
Thus, in an effort to appeal to an array of palates, Argus Cidery started their Fermentables line last year, which features the Ciderkin and Ginger Perry, both non-cask-conditioned and weighing in at a drinkable 4.5 percent ABV each. The cidery also offers their “sparkling pineapple wine” Tepache year round for the sweet yet curious palate, as well as a variety of oak-barreled sparkling and still batches.
“It’s great to be able to interface other styles to (customers),” says Mickel, who enjoys meeting and advising his apple-loving patrons face-to-face in the cidery’s tasting room, open on Saturdays.
“It’s a balance between being way too out there and funky and having fruit flavors,” he says. Funky or not, it seems Argus Cidery has helped to set the stage for cider-inspired success in the South.