Great cider is being made across the country and there are great people just starting to scratch the surface of owning a full-fledge cider business. When it comes to Zach & Allison Ritterspach, they are taking their rich experience from the food and beverage industry, and a love for cider and cidermaking, to the next level. They have created a Kickstarter for their new Ohio-based cidery that will give individuals an opportunity to try great cider while also being a part of their business. One of the perks of supporting at a certain tier includes naming an apple tree in their orchard!
We sat down with the team and got to learn more about their history, their vision, and their plans with making the best cider possible in their neck of the woods.
Our cidery is located in Auburn Corners, just outside of Chagrin Falls, OH. We had originally visited the property thinking we might possibly move there, but when we stepped out of the car we pretty much knew right then we had found our cidery. It’s a beautiful little 2 acre parcel with a small farmhouse, which we are renovating for our tasting room and small scale production facility, including a small orchard and garden out front. Within a few years we plan on expanding our operation with a new barn in the back for cider production, as well as an outdoor bar and kitchen built into the existing shed. We’re starting small and focusing our efforts on delivering a tasting room experience, but we’d like to be hitting retail as soon as possible.
That’s a good question with a very long answer, which I will try to keep brief. When we met on our first date it was kind of a merging of worlds and complimentary interests. I had worked in food and beverage for nearly two decades, including my current position as a cellarman with the Great Lakes Brewing Co. Allison had just moved back from NYC where she had built a career working in or managing some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world, including Per Se, Untitled, and the Breslin. Early in our relationship, she was managing a restaurant and had Etienne DuPont on her tap list. For me it was love at first sip. Before that I had only had Original Sin, Woodchuck, Sam Smith’s and the like. It definitely opened doors. She bought me a copy of Andy Brennan’s “Uncultivated” for Christmas that year, and the whole thing just kind of took off from there. There aren’t many cideries in Ohio at the moment, so we saw an opening to bring that kind of eye opening experience to our community.
We named our cidery Northwest Territory after the Great Lakes Region of the late 1700’s, when Johnny Appleseed was planting his orchards all across Ohio, and cider was the most commonly consumed beverage on the continent. We both have a passion for 18th century American history, so it seemed more than appropriate.
We created a Kickstarter to keep as much equity in our business as possible, but more importantly, we saw it as a way to engage with the community and open the doors for our fellow cider lovers to be a part of our story. We have all kinds of rewards available as a way to say thanks for supporting us, from stickers and posters, to apparel, all the way up to catered private picnics, but my favorite is probably naming rights to one of the trees in the orchard that we’re planting. Each tree comes with a beautiful wooden plaque with the chosen name and a thank you to the people who sponsored it. It’s a cool way for our community, friends, and backers to have a permanent place in what we’re building.
We like dry, champagne-like ciders and that will be the bulk of what we produce, though we will be offering off-dry, fruited, and botanical ciders as well. I think the most fun is the wild foraged ciders: acidic, funky, perfect expressions of the locations the apples were harvested from. There isn’t much of that in Ohio at the moment, and I’m hoping we can deliver that kind of mind blowing moment (like the one I had with that glass of Etienne DuPont) to someone who might not yet be aware of the limitless potential of really great cider.
We hope that the experience of visiting our tasting room is very much like the taverns of 18th century America: warm, inviting, hospitable, the kind of place where neighbors and friends can gather to share the news of the day over a glass of cider. While the space will be inspired by the Colonial Era, we have no intention of making it a stuffy museum, and you can expect to see a good deal of modern elements as well. We will be serving small plates, boards, and other shareables – all modern interpretations of classic colonial American fare to accompany our ciders.
We drink it a lot! I have 7 years of experience working in a brewery. Allison is a trained sommelier. We just bottled our test batches from the ‘21 crop this past week, which marks our third year of making cider from wild apples. We’ve put in some long trips learning about the craft across the eastern US, but some of our favorites have been Castle Hill and Blue Bee in VA, Left Foot Charley and Tandem in Michigan, Portersfield in Maine, South Hill and Bellwether in the Finger Lakes, and Bent Ladder here in Ohio.
Allison & Zach are halfway on their Kickstarter journey. If you would like to help them make their dream a reality, you can support their Kickstarter today. They have 7 days left!