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The Taphouse at Retreat 21 in Marysville, Ohio serves a distinct line of ciders made onsite, focusing on the highest quality ingredients and fresh-pressed regional apples.

Behind the scenes you’ll find Garrett Huber, our Cidermaker. A sought-after craft cider consultant, Garrett brings his expertise to the taphouse and delivers a lineup of fruitforward, delicious ciders. 

Garrett carefully selects the perfect apples and experiments with fermentation techniques, yeast strains and aging processes to craft our diverse range of ciders. He’s also building a Cider Club for Retreat 21 that will include curating special releases exclusive to club members, organizing tasting events, and fostering a community of cider lovers.

We pressed Garrett for some details on life as a Cidermaker; read on to learn more!

You changed your career course from finance to cider making. What led you down the cider making path?

Garrett: It all began in college, a period marked by exploratory ventures into the realms of brewing and gourmet beverages. My initial foray into this world was through home brewing beer with my dad. This experience wasn’t just about mixing hops and barley; it was an introduction to the meticulous craft of creating something unique and enjoyable from basic ingredients. The process was fascinating, both scientifically and creatively. It planted the seed of curiosity about the wider possibilities in beverage making.

In essence, my shift from finance to cider making was not a sudden leap but a series of deliberate steps, fueled by a growing passion for craft beverages and the art of fermentation. Each phase of my journey – from homebrewing to coffee connoisseurship, from academic studies in enology to practical winery experience, contributed to a comprehensive skill set and a deep appreciation for the craft. 

Ultimately, it was a blend of curiosity, education, and hands-on experience that led me to find my true calling in the world of cider making.

Garrett Huber, Cidermaker at Retreat 21 Cider Co.

What appealed to you about working with Retreat 21 Cider Co.?

Garrett: What makes working at Retreat 21 Cider Co. so appealing is the emphasis on creating and serving exceptional heirloom ciders, coupled with offering a unique farm experience to our guests. 

The use of heirloom apples, rich in history and flavor, allows us to craft ciders that are complex and distinctive. It’s the process of transforming these unique varieties into fine cider that fuels my creativity and passion. 

Being able to serve these creations directly to guests enhances the overall farm experience, connecting them to the story behind each cider. This direct interaction not only brings immense satisfaction but also fosters a sense of community around our products.

What classifies a drink as a cider?

Garrett: Cider, at its core, is a beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. This simple definition encapsulates a world of varieties and flavors, all stemming from the type of apples used and the fermentation process.

Can any apple make a good cider?

Garrett: While it’s true that you can make cider from any apple, not every apple will yield a good cider. This distinction is crucial in the cidermaking world, where the choice of apple can make or break the quality and flavor profile of the final product. 

As cider makers, we don’t just pick any apple off the tree; we meticulously categorize them into four distinct groups: sharps, sweets, bittersharps, and bittersweets. Each category brings its own unique characteristics to the cider, influencing everything from acidity and sweetness to tannin levels and mouthfeel.

The process of selecting and blending the right apples goes beyond just these categories, however. We delve deeper into the realm of flavor intensity, a factor that’s a bit more complex than it might initially appear. An apple’s flavor intensity can significantly impact the cider’s overall taste experience. For instance, a sharp apple might offer a crisp, acidic edge, while a bittersweet apple could provide a rich, complex depth. 

This intricate balancing act of flavors is what transforms a simple apple juice into a sophisticated cider. It’s not just about using any apple but about understanding and harnessing the unique qualities of each variety to create a cider blend that is not just good, but exceptional.

What regional apples do you get excited about featuring in Retreat 21 Ciders?

Garrett:  At Retreat 21 Cider Co., we get particularly excited about featuring regional apples that not only embody the essence of our local environment but also bring exceptional flavors to our ciders. 

Two varieties that stand out in this regard are the Harrison and GoldRush apples. The Harrison apple, a historical gem, is renowned for its rich, sweet, and slightly spicy flavor profile. Originating from the Northeastern United States, this apple was once thought to be lost to history but has seen a resurgence, much to the delight of cider connoisseurs. It imparts a depth and complexity to our ciders that is both rare and highly sought after.

The GoldRush apple, on the other hand, is a modern marvel known for its striking balance of tartness and sweetness. This apple is a relatively new variety, developed in the Midwest, and has quickly gained popularity among cider makers. Its robust flavor, coupled with a crisp and aromatic finish, makes it a perfect candidate for crafting ciders that are both bold and refreshingly drinkable. The GoldRush brings a lively, zesty character to our cider lineup,

Best job perk as a Cidermaker?

Garrett: The best job perk, hands down, is the opportunity to connect directly with our consumers and share the unique story behind each cider. 

There’s something profoundly satisfying about witnessing the moment a customer tastes our cider and seeing their eyes light up as they experience the layers of flavor we’ve carefully crafted. 

Each cider we produce is not just a beverage; it’s a narrative of our regional heritage, the specific apple varieties we use, and our meticulous fermentation process. Being able to convey this story and engage in conversations with our customers, receiving their feedback, and seeing their appreciation for the craft, enriches my work immensely. It’s this personal connection and storytelling that transform our ciders from mere drinks to embodiments of our passion and dedication.

What are you ordering when you go to The Taphouse at Retreat 21? 

Garrett: When I visit The Taphouse at Retreat 21, my go-to order is always the Original Blend, with its fruity and bubbly profile that leans on the drier side. It pairs exceptionally well with a sharp, aged cheddar, creating a delightful balance of flavors that enhances both the cider and the cheese.

Thanks for sharing all the juicy details of cidermaking, Garrett! Ciders will be on tap at the Taphouse beginning in May!