Days before the official grand opening of the Ash & Elm Cider tasting room at 2104 E. Washington St., CEO and founder Andréa Homoya is handling a thousand details. Licenses and permits, tables and chairs, glasses, a wonky HVAC system. After over two years of dreaming and planning, Ash & Elm, the state’s only dedicated cidery, will be open to the public June 25, and she wants to make sure everything is as close to perfect as possible.
Ash & Elm is the only cidery listed in Indiana by the United States Association of Cider Makers. While several wineries and the state’s only meadery make cider, it is a sideline business and not the focus of their lines. Andréa said that she and husband Aaron, who have been home brewing for a while, thought about opening their own brewery, but then realized that the market for craft beer in Indianapolis was getting crowded. “We had become fans of cider, and we saw the cider market growing, so we decided to open a cidery instead.”
Aaron, an electrical engineer by trade, is the Chief Fermentation Officer, responsible for recipes, research, and creating the ciders that will be available at Ash & Elm. They will be producing four house ciders for now — semi-sweet, dry, cherry, and hopped — and offering a selection of seasonal ciders. They will also offer a small selection good quality bar food. The ciders will only be available in their tasting room, which is located in the Neidhammer Building, with Neidhammer Coffee Company sharing space. The building itself was saved from destruction and completely renovated into a modern, exposed brick and high ceilinged space in the fast-growing near-east Washington Street corridor. Later, as time and finances permit, the Homoyas will be able to offer Ash & Elm cider on tap to local restaurants and bars, but for now they are focusing on their tasting room business.
The Homoyas are also interested in boosting education about cider in Indiana, which Andrea noted has a long history in the state that is in danger of extinction. Up until the Civil War, cider was one of the most popular beverages available. However, with an influx of German and Irish immigrants who preferred beer, the art of commercial cider making was nearly lost. The recent interest in craft alcoholic beverages has lead to a rediscovery of cider. “It is a part of Indiana’s heritage, which we want to preserve,” Andréa said. Currently, they purchase apple juice from Michigan and northern Indiana, but are working with local orchards to source the main ingredients for seasonal ciders down the line. “We’d love to offer a Tuttle Orchard, or Anderson Orchard, cider made just with local apples. That will happen in time.”
Cider in the non-boozy form, popular at autumn festivals, is the pressing from apples. “Hard” cider takes cider a step further, introducing fermentation due to natural yeasts in the apples, or added yeasts. Ciders are also blended and other flavors can be added. Cider can have fairly high alcohol-by-volume (ABV) numbers, so first-time cider drinkers should go slow. “It tastes cool and refreshing, but it definitely has a kick,” Andréa said.
The varieties of apples available shape the ciders Andrea and Aaron can make. “Cider apples are different,” Andréa explained. “They tend to be more bitter, dry, sharper . . . they are varieties like Northern Spy, Jonagolds . . . these are apples that aren’t as commonly grown anymore. However, there are orchards that are beginning to grow more varieties specifically for the cider market.”
Andréa noted that take-home refillable growlers will be available after July 1, when state law changes to allow growler sales for wineries, cideries, and meaderies. The tasting room will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at first, but will expand as demand grows. Visit www.ashandelmcider.com or their Facebook page for the latest news.
The Ash & Elm grand opening will be June 25 from 3-8 p.m. Yelp! is coordinating the event, and registering RSVPs (visit www.yelp.com and search in Events). Grand opening visitors will get a tour of the production facility, samples, and a free glass.