When most Americans think of cider, they think of sweet autumnal juice. It is good, but cider can be far better than that. The problem with inert cider, you see, is that it wasn’t allowed to ferment, to fulfill a fruit juice’s highest calling, which is to become booze.
Ethan and Breezee Hennings of Wild Terra Cider in Fargo are making the better kind of cider. The couple fell in love with the arboreal libation while visiting family in Washington, a state rich with apples and thus first to the craft cider scene. They believed the fruity quaff would be a big hit back home, and further that they could fill a taproom with its appreciators.
To fill a taproom, you first need to have a taproom. The Hennings truly are ambitious, because they believed a century-old horse barn that had fallen into decrepitude would become a perfect taproom. And they were right, thanks in no small part to Ethan’s carpentry prowess. Wild Terra’s building today is pretty, and has 80 percent of its original woodwork. Its beige leather couches would be right at home in a hunter’s den, and the slice of log that serves at its bartop is downright woodsy.
“We’re the first and only cidery in town,” said Breezee, “so we wanted Wild Terra to have a warmer, more inviting vibe than other breweries, which tend to feel industrial. Our goal is to show that cider can be a really diverse and fun drink, and to keep ours local to the Midwest. Cider is just as much a craft beverage as beer is, and we’re constantly changing the minds of people who thought they wouldn’t like it.
“There was once a strong tradition of drinking cider in this country. Benjamin Franklin used to make his own. But when the Prohibition came, all the cider apple trees went away. And when it left, people could make beer the next day, but apple trees take years to mature. I think the main reason beer became more popular is that it got a head start!”
Master cidermaker Ethan can do many good things to an apple. He focuses on keeping his cider dry, which makes it far more palatable in any potent quantity, and on experimenting to see just how much his art can achieve. He brews pomegranate and star anise cider, with bold Asian flavors that a beer would be hard-pressed to pull off. His double dry hopped cider tastily encroaches on beer’s territory, and his rhubarb cider would go especially good with vanilla ice cream. Without a strawberry to be found in its brewing process, its crisp, stalky flavor has a gentle astringence which makes you want to click the roof of your mouth after you’ve drank it.
The Hennings prefer their apples to come from the Midwest, but apples simply aren’t meant to be picked here in February. They’ll extend their reach to the Pacific Northwest when need be. They also collect apples from the community to make their annual batch of Trail Magic, a straightforward cider with no sugar or yeast added. The Hennings only need Fargoan sunshine and a little help from their friends to make Trail Magic.
The cider side of Wild Terra is Ethan’s domain. Breezee takes care of the food. She chose to have the taproom’s menu plant-based, as she is a vegetarian, and there is no vent to divert the vapors of grilling meat outside of the building. Breezee is still an ardent believer in cheese, as any Midwesterner ought to be, and her tacos, chevre and beets, chana masala, and other offerings are made with as many locally grown ingredients as possible. (It would be some trick to find all the spices needed to make Indian food growing in the Midwest, of course.)
“I make our kombucha in house, too,” said Breezee. “It’s a fermented, probiotic drink, which all sounds really weird, but essentially it’s a healthy pop. It’s a good nonalcoholic drink to have with brunch, and my kids love it. My most popular flavor is lavender mojito infused with lime and mint, which has a nice pink hue to it.”
Wild Terra Cider is a good place to drink. It is a good place to eat, provided that you’re not too carnivorous. (I am especially given to carnivory, but if you give me chevre and beets I will love you forever.) Wild Terra is also a good place to rent for a bridal shower or anniversary dinner — “it feels like home, but you don’t have to clean up,” as Breezee so welcomingly put it. Go and have a glass of cider as it’s meant to be at 6 12th St N in Fargo, or visit wildterraciderandbrewing.com to find out more.
By David Scheller