Cider was once the most popular alcoholic beverage in America. Almost 90 years after Prohibition, a local cider company in East Austin uses ferments from Europe to preserve that original flavor while also branding itself as a uniquely Austin staple.
Austin Eastciders was founded in 2014 by Ed Gibson, a newcomer to Austin who originally ran a cider bar in Bristol, UK. Dissatisfied with America’s overtly sweet cider, Gibson began his own cidery in Austin at a startup locale on Springdale Road, or “innovation station.
By March 2015, Gibson and his partner Mark King ran their Springdale facility at full capacity. Once the workforce increased from eight to 50 people in three years, Johnny Heiselberg was brought in as CEO to help maintain order during such aggressive expansion.
“Ed had a deep knowledge of cider, Mark had a deep understanding of selling alcohol, and I had great experience in organizing,” Heiselberg said. “That’s what helped push our plan forward and why we’re still here, because things definitely weren’t slowing down.”
Even though business was booming, Heiselberg said the company always made sure they embedded themselves within the Austin community, receiving great feedback due to the local people remaining in-tune as consumers and embracing Eastciders’ growth.
“What’s so unique about Austin is that it has so much soul and cooperation with local businesses,” Heiselberg said. “We find such distinct audiences who love to drink as a community but are also self-aware, care about the drink and how it’s made, which is a great place to start.”
Dave Rule, Eastcider’s Marketing VP, said apple orchards used for authentic cider were destroyed during the 20’s, so cider apples had to be imported. Though their cider is made using European apples, the cider defined by teamwork locals put in.
“It’s not about growing those apples in our backyard,” Rule said. “ It’s about making the best product that we can make. We have this awesome, creative community of makers here in Austin, Texas.”
Rule said the best case scenario when it comes to drinking cider is hanging out with friends and enjoying fun experiences. Last year, Eastciders joined up with Do512 to invite young partiers to enjoy their cider.
“We love all the places where you can experience live music here in Austin,” Rule said. “We’re a young company, so how our growth is gonna go in the future is shaped now by local bands and the community.”
Courtney Goforth, the Brand & Marketing manager at Do512, was there to support Eastciders last year, alongside many local rock bands. Goforth said the partnership has been fun and full of mutual respect.
“(Austin Eastciders) rely on us to throw a cool party with cool bands at a cool venue, and we rely on them to have a great product that people really want to drink,” Goforth said. “Eastciders have become something special in our community and are synonymous with having a good time.”
Rule said Austin Eastciders is working on building a new venue this November where their brand and Austin’s live music scene can completely intertwine and guests can have a good time. The venue will also be a complement to “weird” Austin culture.
“We can do a lot more quirky, interesting ferments,” Rule said. “Having the opportunity to engage with local bands and customers in our own brick and mortar would be an amazing thing to have in Austin.”