Drink: Mad Moon Hard Cider

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Peter and Sally Moon

Crazy or crafty?The couple behind Mad Moon Hard Cider likes to think they're a little bit of both.

From a nondescript storage facility turned small office park, Mad Moon owners Peter and Sally Moon are doubling down on the bet they made almost two years ago: to be the first local cidery in Columbus.

After literally knocking down a wall at their North Linden facility to keep up with production demands, Mad Moon now boasts an additional 1,250 square feet that are already brimming with fermenting juice. The finished cider will soon take over tap handles across town and as far as Athens and Bellefontaine.

Leveraging all Ohio apples in their hand-pressed, -flavored and -bottled operation, the Moons were inspired by trips to visit their daughter in cider-happy Seattle, as well as to cideries such as Reverend Nat's in Portland, Oregon, and Left Foot Charley in Traverse City, Michigan.

They acted upon a hunch and a hope that Central Ohio's craft beer scene might be ready for the West Coast cider trend and debuted two original varieties in October of 2014; the cidery now offers five.

Mad Moon's cider production is a painstaking process but one that Peter says "keeps you in touch with the apples."

Only four machines break up the sea of cider, each taking up no more than a few feet of space. First is the hopper, a workhorse grinder they had built to break down the loads of apples they primarily source from Grobe Fruit Farm in Elyria.

Next is the hydraulic press, used for "racking" and "cheesing," a term to describe the look of the pulp after it's been stacked seven or eight levels high and squeezed by 20 tons of pressure under a plate that only Peter has enough muscle to fit on the machine.

After tank fermentation and flavoring, the final product is either kegged or sent to the four-top bottler and then on to the capper, a retrofitted drill Peter designed himself.

The Moons turn all of this into a monthly party for friends, family and unsuspecting volunteers, including their college-aged son and his friends, who blast music and compete based on speed and strength for bragging rights (and, of course, samples).

In a short time, the Moons have built a following and joined a community, taking inspiration and advice from not just other cider houses but also local craft breweries.

"Cider is at the stage craft beer was roughly 10-15 years ago," says Peter, who identifies two main challenges: cost and mainstream competitors who've given cider a misleading reputation. "People will say they don't like cider because the ones they've tried are too sweet," he says, noting that many of the large-scale competitors use a concentrate base, as well as artificial flavorings.

In contrast, the Moons use natural additives such as Sally's homemade caramel-a labor of love given that each batch of Unglued Caramel Apple cider requires an astonishing 20 gallons.

Mad Moon is sold at select bars and markets across town including Whole Foods at Easton, Weiland's, Lucky's Market, Grain and Grape, Aficionados and others. Want a closer look at the method behind the Moons' madness? You can check out the cidery firsthand by joining Columbus Brew Adventures' monthly Craft and Draft Tour.

Three to Try

Mad Moon currently offers five varieties, all delicious on their own and even more versatile as a base for your favorite cocktails. Below are three to check out:

Hop Wired: ?One of Mad Moon's first two offerings, Hop Wired is a gateway for beer drinkers but also lures cider enthusiasts. Great for mojitos and sangria.

Unglued Caramel Apple: ?The other original, this cider is flavored with homemade caramel to achieve balanced richness rather than cloying sweetness. Offers a distinctive twist on a margarita.

Bad Blood Orange?: Organic blood orange juice imparts a refreshing citrus finish to this cider, which is currently only available on tap. Marries well with either sparkling wine or hefeweizen for a "Madmosa."