MONKTON, Md. - Curt Sherrer has always had a finger in making alcohol. He studied wine making and viticulture at U.C. Davis. He graduated with a degree in fermentation science. Sherrer then went on to make wine in Maryland and Virginia for 10 years.
In 2003, Sherrer acquired an old grist mill in Monkton. After restoring the mill, he wanted to revive one of the building's old functions.
"All the old little farms had their orchards and every farm made their hard cider," Sherrer said.
More than just making cider, he went back to the same process that would have been used 150 years ago when the mill was fully operational.
"The concept was, let's try to make the hard cider like they did 150 years ago, which sort of parallels how they make wine," he said. "It's small barrel fermentation, it's sitting in the barrel for months and months and months and one of the fortunate things we discovered is that we don't have to add preservatives. You don't have to filter it. You don't have to fine it, pasteurize it, so it's a very rustic product."
Ian Mansfield is MillStone's cellar master. He said no other cider company is doing things the way they are.
"We like to say bone dry, which means there's 0 percent residual sugar, there's no sweetness into our cider. We ferment all of the sugars completely," he said. "So it's not going to be sweet like a lot of the cider out there today. It's going to be dry. It's going to be tart."
The American farmhouse cider highlights the apple's natural flavors, so the crew at MillStone is very picky about their apples.
"When you want to make the highest quality anything, it's all about your raw products that your using. For us it's all the apple. We're constantly working to get even higher quality ingredients, but in the main it's all about the apples," Sherrer said.
MillStone sources all of their products locally, within 150 miles of the mill - right down to the paper used for the labels.
Caiti Sullivan is the event coordinator. Her interests in fermentation and food got her started with MillStone. She said she enjoys being able to share their mission with the public.
"Our product is living. It's a real taste of the local produce of the area and it's handcrafted. It's a very rustic, natural and delicious cider," she said. "And I think that's something really special that you can't get any other place."
The staff at MillStone is extremely passionate about what they're doing and it shows in the product. Sherrer said he's excited for the future of cider.
"We are like Napa in the 60s, we're like craft brew in the 80s. We have a long journey ahead of us," he said.
MillStone's tasting room is open Fridays 6-10 p.m. with a happy hour from 6-8, Saturdays 12-6 p.m. and Sundays 12-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, the staff also offer free tours.