Rough Cut Hard Cider opens near Apple Barrel
The space adjoining the Apple Barrel Country Market on U.S. 2 is in the midst of transition from housing just Glacier Sun Winery to being the first space in the Flathead Valley that serves wine, cider, beer, kombucha and cold-brewed coffee all made on site.
Nikki and Jaden Berends, who took over ownership of the winery and the space it is housed in earlier this year, are overseeing the transition. The couple has home-brewed cider, and initially planned on using the new space to take their hobby to a commercial level.
However, since the location is so big, they began renting parts of the production area out to others who needed a space to make their own products.
“We’re trying to make it a nice little venue,” Nikki said.
First came Dark Side Fermenters, a local kombucha brewer who used the production space to brew, then began stocking a keg of kombucha they sell on tap in the winery.
After that it was Open Road Coffee, a local roaster that also rents back space to brew cold-brew coffee that is also served on a nitro tap in the winery.
After that, the Berendses finally got their commercial cider brewing equipment, including two 275-gallon fermentation tanks, up and running along with a few whisky barrels from Glacier Distilling Company in Coram, which they use to impart a whisky flavor to some of their products.
The secret to letting so many people make so many different things in the same space?
“Everything is on wheels,” Nikki said on a recent tour of the property. “Over all, it has gone surprisingly smooth.”
Large, commercial-scale fermentation tanks, racks holding kegs that are both empty and filled with cider, wine barrels and other supplies are all built on rolling racks.
The inevitable result to the whole operation is that a trip into the space next to the Apple Barrel is likely to give customers a glimpse into all the work that is done there.
When Sacred Waters Brewing Company joins the fray, there will be even more for customers to observe and drink. Sacred Waters representatives have said previously they plan on opening in the fall.
Nikki said it wasn’t their plan to buy the winery, though they’ve known they would like to open a commercial cider production facility and tap room since they moved to the Flathead five years ago from Minnesota.
She said that though the combo wasn’t part of the plans, they were pleased with the way it had gone so far.
“It was shortly after we moved here that we were looking for a new hobby,” Nikki said. “It’s worked out really well.”
Her husband Jaden, who also serves as the head brewer for Rough Cut, agreed. He said the quick turnaround for hard cider contrasted well with the longer times needed to make decent wine, and he enjoyed pulling people in more frequently to try his experimental seasonal offerings.
“By fall, we hope to be bottling or canning,” Jaden said.
So far, his most popular batches have been a huckleberry cider and another one with rhubarb. In the future he plans to start using pressed apples from the Flathead Valley rather than juice from Washington apples as he does now, and wants to continue experimenting with wine and cider blends. He also wants to experiment with adding hops to cider once Sacred Waters is open and running on site.
“He loves to play with different flavors,” Nikki said.
Jaden still works a construction job during the week to help finance the new venture, and brews at night and works in the taproom on the weekends. Nikki works at the facility full time.
They said the summer had been great for business with all the tourists, but they worried about the booms and busts that come with the ebb and flow of tourists that businesses throughout the Flathead Valley deal with.
“In the summer it is basically all tourists, and in the winter it slows down a lot,” Nikki said.
They hoped they could capitalize on their location and appeal to people that commute between Columbia Falls and Kalispell each day, and also on their proximity to Glacier Park International Airport, just 2.8 miles north on U.S. 2.
Rough Cut Hard Cider is located at 3250 U.S. 2 E. It is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. More information can be found on the company’s Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/roughcuthardcider.