Bubbly beverages make inroads in Texas

The first thing tasters should know about Argus Cidery's hard cider is that it is different from the nonalcoholic drink many people associate with fall.

"... It's going to be very dry," owner Wes Mickel said. "When you taste it, think of it more like you're tasting a sparkling wine over a cider."

Those who try a second or third taste will discover a chilled, bubbly beverage designed to stand up to the Texas heat or be consumed any time of year.

Argus Cidery was founded in 2010. Today, it operates out of its Pauls Valley Road headquarters in Hays County.

Mickel and his two partners—his brother Jeff and friend Jules Peterson—have worked with eight apple varietals from Texas orchards to create the cider.

Texas is about as far south as one can grow apples, he said, and growers stick to popular varietals such as Golden Delicious, Grannysmith and Pink Lady.

Harvesttime is during July and August; this year's drought made harvesttime rough on everyone, but the cidery was still able to get some good fruit from its growers, he said.

Argus Cidery uses a process that is similar to winemaking: Press the fruit, ferment the juices and age them in barrels.

Making the cider takes anywhere from 10 months to three years, he said.

"Apples are extremely versatile," he said. "They are really dynamic if you give them time to develop."

Argus is a small-production cidery; it released its Idalou Brut in just 366 cases.

For the company's winter release, it is working on its first apple wine. It is a departure for the cidery; the style is more popular in Europe than in the U.S.

"It's something we are really interested in. Here in the states, you don't really find [it]," he said. "It is coming out around Christmastime."

Visiting the cidery

Argus Cidery is open for tastings on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Owner Wes Mickel asks visitors to make reservations atwww.arguscidery.com so he knows how many people to expect.

Visitors can sample the ciders for $10 and can purchase a cheese plate to go with it for an additional $10.50.

Visitors can also request the picnic option for $20 per person with their reservations. Each weekend, the cidery creates a menu based on a featured cookbook.

A recent weekend's menu included: Heartland wedge salad, potato chips with charred onions and blue cheese dip, applewood smoked trout with horseradish, creme fraiche and watercress, and espresso ginger sandwich cookies.

Ciders available to taste

  • Idalou Brut, 2012 Sparkling hard cider
  • Lady Goldsmith, 2011 Sparking hard cider
  • High Plains Reserve 2011 Still hard cider
  • Baxter's Reserve, 2011 Still hard cider

Where to buy Idalou Brut

  • Central Market Westgate, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd.
  • Live Oak Market, 4410 Manchaca Road
  • Spec's, 4970 W. Hwy. 290
  • Stanley's Farmhouse Pizza, 13187 Fitzhugh Road
  • Whip In, 1950 S. I-35
  • Whole Foods Market Arbor Trails, 4301 W. William Cannon Drive

Argus Cidery, 12345 Pauls Valley Road, Ste. 2, 512-288-0801, www.arguscidery.com, Twitter: @arguscidery, Hours: Sat. noon–4 p.m. by reservation