Starting a cider production facility is a circuitous endeavor. Many years of work go into building a supply line before cider is ever made. Well over a decade ago, Bud and Jennifer Desmul began planting trees and constructing trellises on their orchard in Kalispell.
Years went by. They planted more trees — Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Sweet 16. They constructed more trellises and began harvesting a lot of apples. They began to sell whole apples to local grocery stores and schools and whoever else wanted to buy them.
Eventually, the market they had tapped into was saturated. Still, they kept planting more trees and brainstorming ways they could make sales year-round.
They attended a class about using commercial hard cider production equipment. They also traveled around the West and even ventured up to British Columbia to do market research, gleaning tips from masters of the craft and giving people taste tests back home to see how their product stacked up.
Still, they kept planting. In recent years, they’ve added Medaille d’Or and Spitzenburg, which they said was President Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple. Both are dessert varieties with distinct flavors, which they said they’d balance with more traditional ones to create a diverse array of products.
Finally, the work is paying off in a big way.
The Desmuls have recently broken ground on a new facility that will be home to Big Mountain Cider Works, off Old Reserve Drive in Kalispell. The facility will hold commercial production space with cider presses and brewing and canning equipment. It will also have a taproom, where they will have several varieties of hard cider on tap.
State law restricts beer brewers from serving an individual more than 48 ounces per day, and also restricts hours of operations from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Since hard-cider makers fit better into the wine license category than the one for traditional brewers, they also reap the benefits of longer hours and fewer restrictions. They can serve people more per day and keep their taps flowing later into the evening.
That’s good, because the Desmuls picked out their land with an eye to its beauty. To the north the slopes of Big Mountain are clearly visible even on a day with a low cloud ceiling. There are 360-degree views of the mountains, and relatively little development in the area.
The building is surrounded by the younger of their two orchards, with trees that have been planted over the last few years and acres they plan to plant in the future. They have pear and apple trees, and have also been working on deals with other local growers to other varieties of fruits for special seasonal offerings.
They plan on making a hoppy apricot cider and a cherry cider, and have recipes for dry and sweet ciders.
They hope to have their doors open by June.
Cider, like beer, takes around a month to brew, though there is an extra pasteurization step that doesn’t happen in the traditional brewing process, Bud said. They plan on selling whole apples and pears and freshly pressed cider as well, knowing that whatever they can’t sell they can ferment, store and serve to their customers in a different form.
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.