The final frontier: visuals for the state of Montana are often illustrated by snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, lackadaisical bison and burly, bearded men rocking plaid attire at all times. But another image is also cropping up in Montana’s picturesque landscape: apples. With the Bitterroot Valley leading the charge on growing culinary and heirloom apples, Montana has eight registered apple orchards and five cideries, with two more on the way in 2017. In the booming college town of Bozeman — one of the nation’s fastest growing cities — Lockhorn Hard Cider opened its ciderhouse doors (a former cinder block garage next to the family’s 1890s historic home) in February 2014. The family-run cidery focuses mostly on draft-only selections, although the Bone Dry has made it into can, poured with pride behind the bar from antler tap handles.
A specialized draft selection, the Bourbon Reserve cider is fermented until dryness, at 6.9 percent ABV, then aged in bourbon barrels — nearby local favorite Willie’s Distillery has housed this cider in the past. A still sipper, the cider benefits from the time spent in oak, conditioning its potent vanilla, caramel and bourbon aromas to meld with the ripe red apple flavors and buoyant acid. Minor oak tannin rounds out the finish while the fruit keeps it clean and approachable.