In the late weeks of summer 2014 a new locally crafted alcoholic beverage emerged on the scene – Loon Juice.
The Minnesota hard cider, produced by Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley, was made in the traditional style and boasted using only one type of apple as its juice source, the honeycrisp.
It began to infiltrate shelves of liquor stores across the state, and while this was new the cider itself had long been a seasonal staple at Four Daughters Winery.
Since 2011, head winemaker Justin Osborne had offered his cider as a seasonal treat in the fall.
“I was looking at how these ciders were made,” Osborne said. “The list of processes was so long and it just didn’t need to be. So, basically I had an experiment, to do it the way I was taught was the right way to ferment something and see how it turned out.”
The cider was placed on tap at the winery during the fall months, and was met with rave reviews.
“We have a very international clientele [at the winery] and there were these repeat European customers who would come in and rave about the cider,” Osborne said. “I guess it was their approval that made me think it wasn’t so bad after all.”
Soon, more and more customers were interested in taking the cider home with them after their trips. But as a winery, the resources were not readily available to them to bottle carbonated beverages. But as requests continued, and as the craft cider movement began to grow, Osborne decided they needed to make it available in stores.
So in August 2014, they did just that.
After seeing successful sales, they decided to expand and create a space dedicated solely to the production of cider.
An 11,000 square foot building is in the process of being built near the tasting room and event center for Four Daughters Winery. In addition, a canning line was acquired and six-packs containing 12 ounce cans were added to the lineup of Loon Juice products.
“We have a format and we have a goal of what we’re trying to be. We aren’t trying to be just a local cidery. Everything that we are doing is geared up for a regional launch, at least across the Midwest and hopefully further,” Osborne said.
But, while they have dreams of regional expansion, their product will be made local.
“If I want to make the best cider, I have to have the best apples,” Osborne said.
The new facility is strictly for production, but for those looking to taste the cider it will still be made at the winery. It can also be found at the new CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, and at over 100 stores and bars across the state.