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Move over beer, cider is the latest craft craze to sweep Minnesota

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For years now the craft beer movement has been growing, but now its quieter cousin is starting to make some noise.

The Star Tribune reports that Minnesota is in the midst of a "new wave" 0f craft cider producers who are trying to do for apples what craft breweries have done for hops.

Several new producers have sprang up in the past year, with start-ups including Wyndfall Cider, Keepsake Cidery, and the Urban Forage Winery and Cider House entering the market.

Demand is growing, with the Faribault Daily News reporting that apple growers have been donating less of their excess crop to those in need this year because of the boom in the cider industry.

Minnesota's Department of Agriculture surveyed the state's 9 hard cider producers and found that they expected cider production to double in 2014 compared to 2013, and quintuple over the next five years.

But in spite of the abundance of apples grown in Minnesota, the cider industry is still a fledgling one not least because it can be challenging for local companies to find cider-variety apples.

The Star Tribune reports that the sharp, bittersweet-tasting apples that are commonly used to make cider in England and France do not cope very well with the Minnesota winters.

But producers are experimenting with these tarter apples nonetheless, with Sweetland Orchard in Webster, Minnesota, telling the Tribune it has tried Kingston Black, Chisel Jersey and Yarlington Mil varieties.

Taprooms, bars and restaurants have been tapping into the cider craze too, with HeavyTable noting Twin Cities venues like the the Town Hall Brewery have increased their cider lines, while the Sociable Cider Werks in Northeast Minneapolis is having increasing success with its experimental cider brews.

What about the honeycrisp?

As for the honeycrisp, it still has a role to play. In September, Minnesota's largest vineyard, the Four Daughters Vineyard & Winery, becoming the first producer nationwide to sell hard cider in 5kg mini-kegs.

According to the Drinks Report, the Spring Valley-based vineyard makes its Loon Juice cider with honeycrisp apples, in spite of views from some in the industry that grocery store apples do not lend themselves to cider.

Winemaker Justin Osborne told the Star Tribune that Irish visitors to his winery told him the Loon Juice cider tasted more like French or English cider than American versions.

“I don’t really know what that means, but they were pretty accomplished cider drinkers so we thought maybe we had something going here,” Osborne said.

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