Family startup Crush Craft Cider Co. joins the Valley’s growing list of cideries.
“Making cider is actually more similar to winemaking than brewing,” Crush Craft Cider Co. head cidermaker Jared Thorn says, admiring the fermentation vats at the company’s warehouse co-op space in Tempe. “But beer drinkers, those are our people. We make a draft-style cider, with a spectrum of styles… a lot like beer.” To that end, Crush Craft – a three-man operation that includes Thorn, his brother Eric Thorn (operations manager) and cousin Jackson Thorn (sales) – has released around two dozen styles of spritzy, refreshing apple wine in the company’s brief two-year history, from the dry, traditional Hazy Apple to the semisweet seasonal Apple Pie à La Mode. The Thorns walk us through their orchard.
Working with reverse-osmosis filtered water and apple concentrate from a supplier in the Midwest (“about 95 percent of cideries use concentrate,” Jared stipulates), the Thorns kick-start the fermentation process using Renaissance Yeast to create their base cider, which they’ve playfully dubbed PLG (“pure liquid gold”).
In a mixing tun called a brite tank, the Thorns mingle their PLG with natural fruit juice, herbs and spices, achieving a uniform 7 percent ABV – about the same as an IPA. “We never add granulated sugar or unnatural sweeteners,” Eric says. Where Apple Pie à La Mode is concerned, that means ground cinnamon and Madagascar vanilla bean.
Led by national brands like Angry Orchard, hard cider stormed into the market in the mid-2010s, creating a niche for local craft producers like Crush Craft (one of only three cider-only outfits in Arizona). In the coming years, the Thorns hope to move into a combined production-taphouse space. “That’s the dream,” Jared says.
Crush Craft Cider Co.
Find canned Crush Craft at Kings Beer & Wine and Arcadia Premium in Phoenix, or on tap at O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery, The Whining Pig and other locally minded beer bars.
Beer of the Month
Walter Station Brewery Hazing Arizona
New England IPA/6.4% ABV/52 IBU
A hazy IPA in winter? With this wild desert flower, you bet. Brewed with “frightening amounts” of citra and Amarillo hops, the beer is so unabashedly juice-forward, Walter Station brewers half-humoredly challenged customers to blind taste-test it next to a glass of orange juice. It was an instant hit upon its release last summer – in part for the drinkability of the beer, in part because of the irresistible Raising Arizona-themed labeling. Try it as a shandy with a shot of sparkling wine – because come winter, do we not love a weekend mimosa?