When we visited Anna Maria Island last year there was a small barbecue place next door to our condo. While lunch there we learned they had two locations and the other was actually in Northfield, Minnesota! We swore to ourselves that we’d visit them sometime after we returned. It took us half the year to remember to stop at Smoqehouse and since it was one of the hottest days on the year we determined that a cidery would be the best place to quench our thirst. Next stop Keepsake Cidery!
Cider was somewhat of a gateway into my craft beer journey but I really haven’t had much of it since I started this blog. That’s partly due to the lack of cideries that are available in the area. Lately I’ve seen a lot more open and Keepsake was on my radar for a couple of reasons. My father and I hunt for mushrooms near Dundas so I’ve been monitoring their progress every spring for the past couple of years and I had just read an article in The Growler about them. It did a really good job at piquing my interest especially how they are focused on using 100% local ingredients, that they’ve got their own orchard, and they are trying to create more complex ciders than your typical variety.
I’ve always longed for a true farm brewery in Minnesota. There are a couple that exist but they don’t have any taprooms and that was another reason I was attracted to Keepsake. The pastoral landscape and the wilderness near the Cannon River make for a lovely drive, especially when there is a drink at the end of it. Once you turn on their driveway you see a hint of the orchard through the trees and shortly after you round the corner it opens up on their orchard. After parking on the grass next to some of their apple trees we stepped out into the sweltering summer afternoon and instantly knew that the patio was out of the question. On a ninety degree day without any breeze you don’t want to be sitting outside, especially with a newborn!
The taproom is small and cozy. A long bar stretches across one side of the room and a handful of tables make up the remainder. The patio is larger than the interior and contains plenty of picnic tables tucked in the shade. Our seating options are limited when you’ve got a baby in a carrier so we took a spot near the patio door. I’ve been to a lot of taprooms across the state and I came to the strangest realization while visiting Keepsake. There is no question this is a tasting room for a cidery. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something that’s so familiar yet so different about it. Take a look at the photos and tell me I’m wrong!
We coordinated our efforts and each ordered a flight of three ciders. I helped myself to a Harelson apple slice (picked that morning) and then I took the two slate flight boards to our table. Chalk was used to identify each taster: Wild, Organic Wild, Heartwood 2017, Currant Aronia 2018, Chestnut Single Varietal, and Orchard Reserve. The Wild tasted almost like a sour beer with citrus, tropical fruit, and floral flavors. The Organic Wild had notes of pine, lilac, and pineapple. Heartwood 2018 was barrel aged, tart and bright with a dose of smoke. Currant Aronia 2018, Samantha’s favorite, was very sweet with a lovely black currant aroma and flavor. Their Chestnut Single Varietal had notes of smoke and leather, and the Orchard Reserve was effervescent, tart, and dry. All of the ciders were surprisingly complex! If you’re unsure of what to order you’ve got the choice between a flight of dry ciders, “not dry” ciders, or a la carte if you’re looking to mix and match.
This is a family run operation and it turned out my wife knew the owner! She recognized her as a coworker and chatted a bit. Her kids were running around the tasting room and outside throughout our entire visit. They live on the farmhouse right on the property and I can’t imagine a better childhood then growing up on an apple orchard next to the Cannon River Wilderness Area. I remember the adventures I had in a windbreak next to an industrial park, so it’s easy for me to imagine the adventures that they’ll have. We talked a lot about how much work the cidery was, how she juggles it with another job, and their plans to get to the point where they can grow all of their own apples. It’s clear that both her and her husband work very hard and they are trying to build something special.
During our visit there was a steady stream of people coming in and getting a flight. Almost every person was a first timer and I listened to the staff educate each one on the ciders and make recommendations for the hesitant. They were also a handful of people that ordered some food from their menu. We returned another time and had a couple of their sandwiches which are really quite excellent. If you haven’t been down to the Northfield area then this summer is the perfect time. There are three breweries within 3 miles of each other, a distillery, and a cidery. It’s a perfect pocket of craft. Make a weekend out of it!