At Austin Eastciders, traditional dry cider rules above all. Founder Ed Gibson — a former cider bar owner from the U.K. — arrived in Texas and noticed the dominance of sweet, cloying flavors in the U.S. hard cider market. As the cider world knows well, culinary apples are much more commonplace than the cider apple in the United States — partly because of the loss of cider apple orchards post-Prohibition and also due to the commercial success of the eating apple. Gibson, partnered with Mark King, pioneered a new movement of traditionally inspired cider within the unlikely state of Texas.
Their overall mission? To make America fall in love with cider all over again.
Austin Eastciders sources its cider apple juice from Europe, while also marrying Washington State apples to give the cider its intricate yet sessionable flavors. “Making cider with only culinary apples is like making wine with store-bought grapes,” says CEO Johnny Heiselberg. With the ciders sporting lower sugar content, the complex flavor profiles allow the quality juice to shine, making for a “dry sensory experience.”
Austin Eastciders’ old-world cider mentality has made for a classic yet diversified lineup since its opening in 2013, including the Original, Texas Honey, Hopped and Pineapple. Tradition brings their main inspiration, but Austin Eastciders is still willing to push the envelope, like in the much-anticipated Blood Orange cider that was recently released last month.
Like many, Heiselberg believes America is witnessing a resurgence in the national cider market. “Much like beer we are now seeing the early stages of a craft movement within cider,” he says. “Being craft and nimble gives us the freedom to experiment with new and bold flavors from brisket to blood orange.”
What sets Austin Eastciders apart is the enduring, free-spirited nature of “new” Texas — a climate of strength in collaboration. “It really comes down to our values,” Heiselberg says. “We operate with a ‘we’ mentality; meaning, for instance, we don’t have a head cidermaker.”
The cidery — which employs over 50 people — believes that each person contributes to the process, from tasting panels to frequent “town hall” style lunches. They pride themselves on intentionally hiring from diverse backgrounds and maintaining an open-book management style. This explains their catchy, inclusive tagline: “Cider Y’all!”
The Texas standout shows no signs of stopping. They opened a new 33,000 square-foot facility last summer, with a capacity of producing over 140,000 barrels in one year. “We are thrilled with the enthusiasm for Austin Eastciders across our current geographies of Texas, Oklahoma and the Mid-Atlantic,” says Heiselberg. “Now we’re looking at the possibility of bringing craft cider to new locations.”
Colorado, the Carolinas and the Midwest, to be specific. Their next milestone will be breaking ground on their own tasting room at the original East Austin location, with plans to pour limited edition offerings in addition to the standards.
As for now, Austin Eastciders will continue creating traditionally inspired ciders with their own Texan spirit. Bringing back “The Original Drink of America” for us to enjoy with every occasion.