Dining and Drink

A Wisconsin cider maker puts his cause over profits

Restoration Cider Co. benefits the streams

Paul Asper, founder and co-owner of Restoration Cider Co., discovered a way to unite his passions for fly-fishing and cider making when he and his wife traveled to northern Spain and stumbled upon the centuries-old tradition of cider making that was “true to the apple.” 

“They have this amazing culinary tradition in that part of Spain, and they drink cider all the time,” Asper says. “Everybody drinks cider. It’s in every bar, every restaurant. They have this special cider glass they pour the drink [into] in a special way. It’s just a beautiful tradition and a beautiful cider. We were inspired by that.”

Restoration Cider Co. produces dry, crisp and tart ciders inspired by traditional Spanish techniques. In devotion to Asper’s passions, 5 percent of the cider profits will go to Wisconsin stream restoration.

Before visiting Spain, Asper in 2006 and 2008 was deployed to Iraq, and there he witnessed war firsthand.

“That was a bit hard to deal with. I remember when I came back I just felt like there was this black cloud over the whole world; it just felt like a darker place,” Asper says.

Asper was given a fly-fishing rod and reel as a gift from a friend, and as he learned to fly-fish he fell in love with the serenity and splendor of Wisconsin’s streams.

“It was so beautiful out there, and it just kind of helped me remember how beautiful the world is. Sounds kind of cheesy, but yes, that’s exactly it. I felt like myself again,” Asper says.

The sport also helped Asper find a new way to look at life. He stood in the flowing waters of the stream, breathed in the crisp, fresh air and appreciated the beauty around him. Asper hopes this feeling of appreciation for nature is translated in Restoration Cider Co.’s products.

“[In Spain] they pressed the apple and let it ferment on its own for its funky, super dry, acidic, vinegar flavor. [It was] barnyard-y, kind of like a sour beer. It was just amazing,” Asper says, adding that he aims to make clean, dry, easy-drinking cider as close to the Spanish form as he can.

Originally, each cider was named after a stream in Wisconsin: Sugar River, Starkweather, Primrose and Badger Mill.

This was confusing for some customers, who thought Primrose should taste like Primrose and Sugar River should be very sweet. So some tweaking was needed, Asper says.

So far, Asper says he hasn’t profited from his company, but he has been able to donate to stream restoration.

To raise money for stream restoration, Asper has auctioned off cider as well as guided fishing trips where he is the fishing guide, he says. “In that way, they’ve earned several thousand dollars each year, Asper says, adding that so far, Restoration Cider Co. has donated to Clean Wisconsin and the River Alliance of Wisconsin.

Asper hopes to add a tap house where visitors can come to revel in a rustic atmosphere. He imagines the tap house having fly-fishing paraphernalia and pictures of streams that they’ve helped restore. Customers could come and sample the ciders and also learn about maintaining Wisconsin streams.

“Streams are always under threat by agricultural issues. Most of them were ruined from terrible agricultural practices that started 100 years ago, and those streams, little by little, are being fixed up by people who love them as much as I do. We want to use the Restoration Cider Co. brand as sort of a soapbox to talk about stream water quality issues,” Asper says.

He says he loves them so much, he doesn’t want them to disappear.

Catch these flavors

Classic Dry
New American-style cider made with a combination of six apple varieties. A sip of this cider sets your taste buds on edge with its tartness.

Classic Apple Semi-Dry
Semi-dry and has no added sugars. Instead, it’s sweetened with just a smidgen of fresh apple cider after fermentation. 

Normandy Pear
Using “Classic Dry” as a base, this variety is sweetened with a Poire de Gris and Poire D’Epine juice imported from Normandy.

Door County Cherry
Another “Classic Dry” base cider sweetened with tart Door County cherry juice. Far from over-powering, the cherry juice adds an unexpected zing. 

Samantha Loomis is a former editorial intern for Madison Magazine and a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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