What started as a passion project in the basement of Jason Dayton’s house has quickly turned into something much more. Lionheart Cider, a new craft cider business based in Minneapolis, Minnesota was the creation of a senior entrepreneurship program at the University of Minnesota.
Although the cidery has only been open for a little under a year they are noticing great success, Dayton says. The first can of Lionheart Cider was sold July 14, 2015 and since then, they have sold over 150,000 cans of cider, he says.
“The novelty of buying your own pint of cider at the store still hasn’t worn out,” Dayton says. “We’re now in most stores around town and have just introduced cider on draft to the Twin Cities area.”
Lionheart Cider currently produces their cider with Bruce Nissen, founder of Crispin Cider. Right now all cider is produced in Stevenson, Washington as Dayton and his team wait for their new facility to be built in Minnesota.
Dayton says there is a notable difference in the types of apples you can grow in the Midwest compared to the Pacific Northwest. As of now Lionheart uses apples from the Yakima Valley, but will switch to Minnesotan crops once their facility is built.
The Original is the only cider the company produces currently. Granny Smith, Fuji, Red Delicious and Honeycrisp apples meld together to create a semi-dry cider. There is an extra sense of pride in Dayton’s voice as he mentions the addition of the Honeycrisp apple. “Do you know the story behind the Honeycrisp?” he asks.
The Honeycrisp apple was created on the University of Minnesota’s campus. Patented in 1988 the apple has become a huge hit among Minnesotans and cider-drinkers alike. “Yeah, we may not have the greatest apple selection here in Minnesota, but we make up for it with our creativity,” Dayton says.
The Lionheart Cider team plans to expand on their product this summer when they create a new draft-only cider. Dayton says it is all about progression; the business is gaining more momentum than he would have thought and he is excited to see what’s in store next.
“The craft cider industry is like the craft beer industry 10 years ago. It’s new and exciting and people are starting to catch on,” Dayton says.
Lionheart is only available for purchase within Minnesota right now, but Dayton says they will expand to other states as soon as possible. After all, it’s all about progression. And, for a cidery that hasn’t even had its one-year anniversary yet, it seems Lionheart is doing quite well.