The Leadbetter family—father Gig, mother Ann, and daughters Kate and Molly—opened their cider taproom about three weeks ago, but Meriwether Cider Company already has a solid base of regulars. On a rainy Thursday afternoon, strangers and friends sat around the bar-top, which is made of hundreds of small tree rings varnished with shiny epoxy.
The taproom—which took over Crooked Fence's former spot at 5242 W. Chinden Blvd.—has a rustic feel, with its stained concrete floor, walls painted in a rusty red and folk music playing from the overhead speakers. It's a laid-back atmosphere where dogs and outside food are allowed in, bands occasionally take over a corner of the room and the Leadbetters' shared history of wildland firefighting is on display—old Forest Service tools serve as decor and tap handles are made from hatchet stems.
Meriwether has six ciders on tap, which are also available in bottles at various retail outlets around town (see Beerguzzler, this page). At the taproom, Boise Weekly bellied up to the bar to try some of Meriwether's ciders.
Strong Arm Semi-Sweet: ABV 6.9 percent
Tasting less like apple cider and more like white wine, the Strong Arm Semi-Sweet is a good introduction to craft cider. It is more reminiscent of a pleasant Pinot Grigio than the sickly sweet taste of Angry Orchard. Equal parts soft and bubbly, Strong Arm lacks the dry sensation of sipping on wine and instead leaves a slightly sour aftertaste.
Blackberry Boom: ABV 6.9 percent
Calling to mind a craft soda, Blackberry Boom pours a deep tulip red and is sweetened with blackberry concentrate after the fermentation of apple juice from Idaho, Oregon and Washington growers. With such a strong flavor, this cider makes a good substitute for an evening cocktail.
Hop Shot: ABV 6.9 percent
Hopped cider doesn't carry the same bitter characteristics as hoppy beer, like Indian Pale Ale, because the hops are never boiled, as they are in the beer brewing process. The bitter sensation is instead replaced with a floral, earthy flavor. The Hop Shot is the most beery of Meriwether's creations, making it a good bridge into the world of cider.
LongDrop Cider Co. shares a production facility with Crooked Fence Brewing.
LongDrop Cider Co.
The impetus for LongDrop Cider Co. was simple: owner Chris Blanchard lost his job. The former Boise State University professor taught in the Community and Regional Planning program, but the program was cut, leaving Blanchard looking for his next opportunity. He found cider. Blanchard partnered with Crooked Fence Brewing to get his cidery off the ground a year ago. With the help of Crooked Fence's brewing equipment and cannery, LongDrop Cider's production ballooned.
LongDrop shares a production facility and taproom at Crooked Flats (3705 State Highway 16 in Eagle), but its products are available in cans and 22-ounce bottles at grocery stores across Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, and at growler stations around the Treasure Valley.
Blanchard said Angry Orchard—the Budweiser of the cider world—has 70 percent of the market share when it comes to hard ciders but, already, LongDrop Cider's products have made the Top 20 list for distributor Hayden Beverage.
Semi-Sweet: ABV 5.5 percent
LongDrop's flagship cider couldn't taste any more like a bite into an apple. It's made from a blend of Granny Smith, Golden, Fuji, Gala and Red apples, all grown in the Yakima and Wenatchee valleys of Washington. Those varieties are considered dessert apples in the cider world, but only a few hundred acres of cider apples exist in the United States.
Vanilla Honey: ABV 6 percent
Blanchard makes the vanilla extract himself, slicing apart vanilla beans and soaking them in Idaho vodka. The honey comes from a local apiary and the result is a delicious treat, with vanilla flavor blooming in the mouth and honey taking the edge off of the apple's tartness.
Over Yonder: ABV 6.9 percent
LongDrop's newest cider is made from heirloom Jonathan apples from a 106-year-old orchard in Fruitland, and which came to Blanchard with the help of a mobile juicer unit from Montana. Over Yonder has the same deep golden glow as pure apple juice, and despite nothing being added to the fermented apple cider, it carries a vinegary smell and a caramel, whiskey-barrel taste.