Custom cider is coming to Nellcôte (Chicago), thanks to Vander Mill ciders and Nellcôte’s beer director, Stephanie Wheeler. Due to her belief that cider is the hot new up-and-coming beverage, and her adoration for Vander Mill ciders, she leapt on the opportunity to get hands-on when given the chance. The cider is set to debut at a launch party on September 5, and final details are pending. Read on to see what Wheeler has to say about the cider process:
The makings of Nellcôte’s cider
RIA: How did the idea for an exclusive Nellcôte cider come about?
Wheeler: Nellcôte itself, as you may know, has a fairly eccentric and challenging beer list. Ciders are one of the three beers we choose to feature on draft. We try to keep cool, funky, and innovative stuff on tap, and due to the scarcity of that in the cider world thus far a collaboration made sense! I have always been a huge fan of Vander Mill’s ciders and was super excited to get the opportunity to work with them on an exclusive collaboration.
RIA: What has the process been like?
Wheeler: So much fun! It is amazing to work with people so dedicated to their craft. Working with Paul Vander Heide and Joel Brower has been great.
RIA: Where is the cider made, and why did you select this purveyor?
Wheeler: The Brewery is located in Spring Lakes, Michigan. They use exclusively Michigan products, and they stick to their guns without compromising their product. This year there is a shortage of cider apples there, so instead of outsourcing, they will just produce less product. Better to have less product then serve something not to their standards. It shows how dedicated they are to what they create and their fans expect nothing less. We really appreciate that. I should also mention that they donate all the apple compost from the cidery to a local farm to feed there pigs, which we will be roasting and serving at the launch.
RIA: How does cider fit into the mold and the philosophies at Nellcôte?
Wheeler: Chef Jared Van Camp is really dedicated to carrying locally sourced high quality products, and the Vandermill cidery definitely fits in, if not exemplifies that philosophy. Our draft program is designed to have new innovative beers as well as some challenging classics. It is our belief that cider is the new up and coming beverage. In a lot of ways it is the bridge between beer and wine, not falling exclusively into either category. When you think of cider you don’t envision it as an ideal food pairing. This cider breaks down that stereotype, it’s sweet, spicy, and challenging; a beverage to contemplate.
RIA: Are there any other exclusive beverages you’d like to work on for the restaurant in the future?
Wheeler: There are a few little things in the works. I would really like to do something involving different vintages with aging in bourbon and varying wine barrels. I think a truly vintage beer program is unique and it ties in with our phenomenal wine program in a fun way. So stay tuned!
RIA: Tell us about the cider itself.
Wheeler: So the cider itself took about three months to brew. It was seasoned for five days with pink peppercorn for spice and hibiscus for balance and color. The launch has been officially set for Sept. 5th at Old Town Social, but will also be available at Nellcôte that same day. My favorite menu item so far is the pork loin stuffed with Vander Mill apple brandy-cured pork sausage. Our mixologist also got in on the fun and created an apple cider reduction Old Fashioned of sorts. Just so you know, your mouth should be watering about now.