If the term “hard cider” elicits memories of the overly sweet and syrupy drinks that might have contributed to some of your most notable hangovers, then think again. You can easily stumble upon craft breweries and craft cocktail bars in Houston, but what about craft ciders? Is there such a thing?
Of course there is! However, most American cideries (where ciders are made) are concentrated in the Northeast and Northwest, and you can only find a handful of them in the entire state of Texas. Sure, there are plenty of wineries and even breweries that might experiment with a cider or two for variety, but we’re talking about businesses fully dedicated to producing hard cider.
In 2014, Andrea Permann was visiting Sonoma, California with friends. Amid the irony of being in wine country but not being much of a wine drinker, Andrea found something new to her: a wonderful alcoholic cider made from pears. She was surprised at how refreshing it was, and that it lacked any sort of lingering aftertaste.
She loved it so much, in fact, that she joked with her friends, saying: “When I retire, I’m going to open my own cidery. I’m going to be swimming in pools of cider.”
Just one year later, Permann was nine months pregnant when her husband suddenly passed away at the age of 36. After her daughter was born, and in the midst of grieving, Andrea reconsidered her dream of one day opening a cidery. That dream would take shape as Houston’s first fully dedicated cidery.
“I wanted to take something so sad and so negative and just change the story somehow,” explains Permann. “I want to show my daughter that this horrible thing happened, but this is what I did to overcome it. It doesn’t have to end there. It doesn’t have to have a completely tragic ending."
Reflecting on that decision, Permann admits that "starting a cidery was pretty crazy—I’m an accountant, and not even in the beverage industry—but that’s what life is all about. Sometimes you have a plan, then somebody else has a different plan for you. Starting this cidery was just my way of doing something physical in his honor," Permann says of her late husband. "He’s not in the physical world anymore, but his memory is still here.”
Permann eventually decided to call her new venture The Permann’s Cider Company, and set out to travel the United States and even Mexico to taste an estimated 300 ciders before selecting her favorite recipe. The longtime Houstonian opened her distribution center downtown and began selling her ciders in December 2016.
“I knew there was a gap in the market that had to be filled," she says. "Maybe you’re not a wine drinker—I wasn’t—and maybe you like beer, but you drink it because that’s all there is. And then with Houston having the hot and humid weather, I knew people needed a refreshing alcoholic drink without it being a wine cooler or something super sugary.”
Permann’s foundation is the “Classic Cody,” named after her husband. At 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), Classic Cody is a clean and simple apple cider; fermented apples are the sole ingredient. With just a hint of bubbles and a crisp taste, it’s more similar to an apple-flavored sparkling wine than the mainstream hard ciders you may be familiar with.
Her second variety is called “Fresh Valentine,” as Valentine was Cody’s nickname. The Classic Cody recipe serves as its base, but with an added hint of passion fruit. Fresh Valentine begins with a prosecco-like profile, ending with a fruity—yet not too sweet—finish. It’s truly the perfect, refreshing drink to combat the sweltering Houston summer. Fresh Valentine is 6.5 percent ABV, so that helps too, of course.
Permann also plans to make a pear cider using local Texas pears as a tribute to the first cider she fell in love with. But for now, her mind is occupied with big plans for Permann’s future—namely, relocating to a bigger space within downtown to combine in-house cider production with a tap room that will be open to the public. She anticipates the tap room will open in spring 2018.
“We’ll produce the craft cider in-house and we’ll have a tap room where people can go and experience tastings,” Permann says. “We’re not only going to have our ciders, but also other ciders [from different companies]—all high-quality ciders. I think cider is almost like tea; there’s so many different flavors and so many different kinds, so you can have something dedicated to it and people won’t get bored. They’ll always have something new because all ciders are different, just like all apples are different. One cider will never taste exactly the same as the next batch,” much like how each generation of grapes creates a distinct flavor in winemaking.
“It’s a celebration of life in all phases,” says Permann. “That’s what I want the tap room to represent. I want local artists and musicians to come along, I want to have painting classes or pottery classes, something that lifts your spirits. Everything is going to be very colorful, very vivid. I just want to add some color to everyday life.”
For now, as we anxiously await the tap room’s completion, Permann’s ciders are exclusively available in Houston at nearly 40 locations around town, including six locations of Total Wine & More and at bars such as Lucky’s Pub, Brooklyn Athletic Club, Cedar Creek, Bovine & Barley, Moon Tower, Last Concert Café, Christian’s Tailgate, and many more.
Ed. Note: For sake of clarification, Leprechaun is no longer distributing its ciders in Houston, and its ciders were never produced here. When Permann's opens its cidery and tap room downtown, it will officially be the city's first cidery.