Bishop Cider opened in 2014 and Trinity Cider opened in 2018, so you could look at a calendar and argue that Dallas was due for its third cider maker. But you might not have guessed who that maker would be—or what they’d be offering.
Pegasus City Brewery has quietly rolled out a “Double Dry” cider at its downtown taproom this year. Now armed with a winery license—which is what the Texas government issues for any fruit-based alcohol production, not just grapes—brewer Will Cotten is introducing Dallas to a whole new style of hard cider.
We’ve got to talk about the name “Double Dry” and what it signifies: that the American cider vocabulary is inadequate to reflect more traditional styles from Europe. Double Dry is not a new invention, but rather the name Pegasus City devised to sell Texas locals a classic English tradition that is little-represented in the American market.
Unlike most mass-produced American ciders, Pegasus’ is cloudy and unfiltered rather than clear. Unlike most, it does not primarily taste of carbonation. Unlike most, it is bone-dry—Cotten says he is experimenting with yeast strains but likes the Champagne-like effervescence provided by wine yeasts. And unlike most, it is quite high in alcohol: about 7.5 percent alcohol by volume.
“When I started reading about cider that you would get at an orchard—that really was what I was going for,” Cotten says. “It’s so different from the cider I had experienced being here in Texas. I had never been to an orchard that served it, at least as an adult. It actually made me more interested in [cider] to see this unfiltered, 7.5 percent alcohol, super dry drink. I was like, ‘Man, this sounds much more up my alley than some kind of flavored, sweet, low-alcohol-level thing.’” With no added sugars or flavors, he says, the process and decision-making are much more like standard brewing.
“Basically any cider that’s below 7 percent, unless it’s an apple that doesn’t have a lot of sugar content, it’s got to be diluted in some form,” he explains. “Which is fine. I actually prefer beers most of the time to be low ABV because I enjoy the process of drinking it. I like to have more and not lose my stuff. But my approach to this was, I want to adulterate it as little as possible.”
Pegasus Double Dry reminds me most of Old Rosie, an English cider line that I loved to buy rounds of when I attended university in London, because one pint was enough to get my classmates foolish, and I was a bad influence. (Wikipedia informs me that they’ve recently reformulated Old Rosie to be less alcoholic. You can’t go home again.)
Of course, there is one big obstacle for any would-be cider maker going to market in Texas: the lack of apples. Texas is not apple country. Cotten has unpasteurized juice shipped in from the Pacific Northwest, and the transit process is not always kind to the product. If the juice starts fermenting in the truck, it’s not going in the cider. Although Pegasus City plans to make more cider, and even test limited distribution to local bars, the limiting factor will always be the availability of good apples or juice.
Another possibility, of course, is other fruits. Now that Cotten has talked himself into the idea, he’s spent the last few months contacting area farms about peaches and other local crops.
“Place is really what it’s about, right?” he explains. “The climate, the soil. [Cider] is different from beer in that. I use grains from all over the world, I use malts from all over the world. The barley grown here is somewhat different, but it’s more about style, taste, and preference than it is about the earth itself. Whereas the real wineries, it’s about that place. There are fermentable things grown in Texas, and I would like to explore fermenting more.”
Texas is never going to be a hub for apple cider production. But Dallas now has a range of styles: Bishop’s easy-drinking, sweeter concoctions, often with a variety of added fruit; Trinity’s dryer brews, best spiked with an ounce of spicy Ghost pepper cider; and Pegasus City’s, the most traditional of all. Since it doesn’t compete at all with the pre-existing local brands, Double Dry is already a hit.
“I was a little concerned that there would be a lot of pushback about it,” Cotten says. “But we have not had that. It’s really, really popular.”
“I think people are surprised in a good way,” adds Adrian Cotten, Pegasus City’s co-founder and creative director (and Will’s wife). She reports that Double Dry is currently the downtown taproom’s third- or fourth-best seller. Many customers order it because it’s gluten-free, but both Cottens say curious visitors who’ve never tried a cloudy hard cider are coming back for seconds.
Will is happy with the way his cider is drinking at the moment—he’s on the “sixth or seventh” tweak to the recipe—but will continue experimenting. Don’t be surprised to see another cider variety, or another fruit “wine,” on the tap wall at Pegasus City later this year. Pegasus City Double Dry is expanding the range of drinks it’s possible to serve and drink in Dallas. Cheers to that.