Michelle Foik, co-owner of Eris Brewery and Cider House, is confidant she can find a cider for just about anyone.
“Eris is a place where you can learn about cider. Here you’re able to explore,” said Foik, suggesting that instead of investing in a six-pack at the store, you can test taste samples under the guidance of a knowledgeable bartender. “If we didn’t have a pub I don’t think we could educate people [as easily].”
As consumer interest and the hard cider market grows, there’s plenty to educate drinkers about on the adult beverage, which isn’t always sparkling and sweet.
Ciders have been around since colonizers brought it from Europe to America and are experiencing a resurgence with Millennials and those seeking a gluten-free alternative to beer.
While Eris also brews beer, the process of making cider is its own operation entirely. Beer is brewed but cider is fermented in a process more akin to wine.
A variety of dessert apples (like the ones you’d find in the grocery — Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Empire, Crispin) are grown and pressed at Peterson Farms in Shelby, Michigan. The pressed juice is transported to Eris and then fermented in the tanks which gets rid of all the sugars.
“Brewing and cider making are related yet separate arts,” said Hayley Shine, known as the “Lady of Liquids” aka head brewer and cider maker. “The subtleties of blending cider present unique challenges, yet beer and cider are fermented in similar fashion.”
Eris is considered a “modern” cider house — distinguished by the use of dessert apples and not specific heirloom cider apples as used by “heritage” cider houses. The modern approach tends to be more innovative, for example often using nontraditional yeast strains from Champagne ale yeast, English ale yeast or Belgium ale yeast.
“Modern cider companies are evolving with the mainstream people,” said Foik. “We’re getting beer geeks coming in that want to try us. So I like that we started as a modern cider company and we are moving on to all of these fun and innovative adjuncts [non-malt fermentable additions] and fruits…
“We use different types of hops, because we dry hop our ciders. Using different hops changes the flavor profile. We’ve also used different tea blends — jasmine pearl, clementine, chai — for our ciders.”
There are six to eight rotating ciders on draft. Customers can choose between 5 oz. or 13.5 oz. pours. Eris is currently not bottling but offers howlers and growlers to go. All ciders range in the 5 to 6.5 ABV at Eris, although some cider makers make extreme ABV ciders.
“Our Pedestrian is like biting into a tart, green apple,” said Foik. “Our Demigoddess is like biting into a ripened apple.”
The Pedestrian cider is dry, crisp and tart. The Demigoddess is slightly sweet and somewhat dry. The Foiken IPC is an India pale cider — the most dry cider offered and a great introductory cider to beer lovers.
“IPA lovers love it. And people just getting into drier ciders enjoy it,” said Foik. “We dry hop it. And it’s unfiltered, almost tart with a sour flavor profile.”
The Van Van Mojo is the number one seller — a blueberry cider with Mosaic hops.
The Tropazacca is fermented with traditional English ale yeast and dry hopped with Citra and Azacca hops.
“Hayley has done this amazing job of being able to have fun with the yeast strains,” said Foik. “Also, having the ability to back-sweeten it just so it’s at a good flavor profile to add amount of fruits to it.”
“It’s all about how you back-sweeten — that means how we bring back a little bit of sweetness to our dry, dry cider that we are fermenting out,” said Foik, describing that the Pedestrian is back-sweetened 10 percent and Demigoddes is back-sweetened 25 percent. “When it comes to blending and measuring how much more apple profile you want changes the idea of every cider.
If exploring ciders in the backdrop of a restored, centuries-old Masonic Temple, at the first all women-owned and -managed brewery and cider house in Illinois isn’t unique enough, there are also a category of “blends” to drink from — blends of house ciders and beers.
ERIS Brewery and Cider House is located at 4240 W. Irving Park Road. For more information call (773) 943-6200 or visit www.erischicago.com