Reed Jaskula has been brewing beer for years, but lately he’s been on a craft cider kick. A brewer at Ohio City-based Platform Beer since opening day, Jaskula will leave that outfit to launch Urban Apple, a Flats-based cidery and cider house that crafts and serves housemade apple-based brews. His partners in the venture include Paul Benner and Justin Carson of Platform.
“I love brewing beer, but I didn’t want to go out and start another brewery,” Jaskula explains. “I’ve been making cider for five years now and there isn’t much around here. It’s the next big trend in craft drinking.”
Urban Apple will set up shop in the old Tenk Machine & Tool building on Center Street in the Flats. Jaskula currently is in the build-out and licensing phase of the operation. He hopes to begin making cider by this year’s apple season, which runs August through October. Visitors to the cider house will be able to enjoy various styles of housemade cider (and perhaps mead) in the middle of the production facility.
“It will be industrial but nicer,” he says of the cider house. “I want people to see the production side of things, with stacks of barrels everywhere.”
Of the cider-making process, Jaskula says there are similarities and differences to beer brewing.
“There is a lot more post-fermentation work involved,” he says of cider making. “There’s crushing and pressing instead of grinding and boiling. Then there’s the cellaring.”
Each batch of cider is barrel-aged for three to six months. “Like wine, cider only gets better with age.”
Jaskula will craft various styles of hard cider, but will largely stay away from the sweeter English pub-style ciders.
“I’m not trying to make a Woodchuck here. I’m trying to set the standard for what craft cider in Cleveland could be.”
Instead, drinkers will see dryer ciders, funky farmhouse-style ciders, and sour Spanish style versions.
“I’ll be taking the knowledge that I’ve picked up from brewing beer and applying it to cider making,” he says, referring to the use of various strains of yeast and bacteria to produce a wide range of flavor profiles.
He’ll also blend in various seasonal fruits like blueberries, pears and strawberries.
Part of the challenge when making cider is sourcing the fruit, he explains. The apples most local orchards are growing are for eating, which are very different from the ones used in making cider.
“The best apples for making cider would taste horrible – all tart and bitter,” he says. “We’re working with a local orchard to grow more of the apples that we’d rather have. Farmers want to know what types of things to grow to get into the market, and they’re more than willing to get those planted for you.”
He says he can achieve desired flavors by blending different varieties of apples.
Of the craft cider movement, Jaskula notes, “It’s probably one of the largest growing craft industries in the U.S. It’s growing about 60 to 80 percent per year.”