As part of our cider maker series, we highlight some of the smaller or more unique US cider makers.
We are always excited when we find out about unique local cider options. So a few Sundays ago, we packed up the boys and went North to visit North Shore Cider Company (est. 2017) in Evanston, IL (across the street from Chicago).
Chris Collins, a former bond analyst at Fitch, was a home brewer and entered into the world of cider making when his wife asked him to make cider for her. The first cider he made was, according to his wife, too sweet. But rather than be discouraged, Chirs was hooked and began work to produce dry and off-dry ciders finally making this his full-time job in 2016.
Chris sources apple juices from Earth First Farms (Berrien Center, MI) to produce ciders on site at 707 Howard Street. The four medium-bodies ciders currently on tap start with the same blend of Jonathan, Empire, Mutsu, Red Delicious, Rome and Ida Red apples and are carbonated with CO2. This mixture of sweet (dessert) and tart (culinary) apples is what you may typically find in US ciders. Side Note: Due to the high sweetness of the Red Delicious juice and the low acidity (i.e., unbalanced) is not usually found in most “hard” ciders. However, in North Shore’s ciders, the Red Delicious, Mutsu and Rome (also sweet apples) are balanced out by the addition of the Ida Red, Empire and Jonathan.
The Beacon Blend and Split Personality are a nod to Chris’ home brewing experiences. The Beacon Blend (which Chris recommend for brunch and session drinking) uses Belgian ale yeast to ferment the juice. The resulting light apple aroma cider has apple flavors mingled with notes of spice and tropical fruit (a feature often found in Belgian Ale).
The Split Personality, Chris’ favorite for after work or with dinner, adds cascade hops, which is very popular with home brewers. The cascade hops sit with the Beacon Blend for ~1 week. The hops transform the cider, adding slightly bitter citrus flavors (like grapefruit) and a bit more heft (body).
Au Naturel is fermented using the wild yeast present on the apple. The sulfite-free cider has a funky and yeasty nose (almost farmhouse like – or as Sean calls it “Hay”) with grassy flavors and a lingering apple finish.
The Bone Dry cider is fermented with champagne yeast – which is a common yeast used in cider. The yeast usually has a neutral flavor, which allows the cider to shine through, and the yeast tends to ferment the cider to dryness (and often increases the alcohol content). The Bone Dry still has a touch of sweetness along with peach and slightly toasty flavors that blend well with the apple.
Chris’ production volume this season was 3000 gallons and he plans to double that amount next season. Also for this season, Chris is working on an oaked cider that he intends to add to the current line-up.
While North Shore has been open for a couple of weeks, they are having their grand opening event March 18 from 12 – 8 pm. If you are in the Chicagoland area make sure to stop by North Shore (707 Howard Street, Evanston, IL) for complimentary hors ‘d oeuvres and glasses of cider ($5).