It’s a hot late July day and Jesse Oberman is standing in the cherry tree in my garden.
Oberman, 29, is looking for all kinds of garden fruit for his Next Friend Cider. Hoping to use some forgotten or neglected fruit that would otherwise be wasted, he wants all kinds of apples, cherries, pears, stone fruits, etc.
Except it turns out he doesn’t want my cherries. They are a few days too ripe for his needs – some are sweet (overripe), others have been visited by insects. This is one of the few times Oberman has had to turn down fruit offered to him – something he doesn’t like to do, given his desire to cut down on food waste.
Without the COVID-19 pandemic, Next Friend probably wouldn’t exist. After spending time in the UK to complete his sommelier training and work harvesting at wineries every year since 2016, he and his partner were looking to move to France and start producing their own wines. But as coronavirus cases increased dramatically in France, they thought coming back to Winnipeg was the safe bet and brought it home.
“I didn’t really know what to do. At the time, I felt lost – I thought we were going to live in France forever and be winemakers, ”Oberman says. “We had an aligned space, we had fruit – we were going to make wine. ”
Oberman and his partner eventually settled in Fort Garry, where he noticed an abundance of apple trees in the neighborhood. “All of our neighbors were talking about how they would remove (the fruit), shovel it in the compost, feed the deer, the wasp situation,” he says.
It wasn’t long before the idea of making cider started fermenting in his mind.
The first two versions of Next Friend were a “pet nat” (sparkling wine or, in this case, a bubble cider that occurs naturally through fermentation in the bottle) and a sparkling cider made from Kerr apples from a single tree. There were a few hundred 750ml bottles of the first and less than 100 of the last, and both sold out in a flash. Considering the amount of fruit that Oberman has carried this year, he should have a lot more inventory to sell.
Before leaving for the UK, Oberman also ran a wine import agency called Élevage Selections, which specializes in these “natural” wines made without additives, pesticides or other chemicals, fermented using natural yeasts and not. filtered. Next Friend ciders are made with just as little intervention. “All that’s in my cider is apple juice,” he says. “I don’t pasteurize, I don’t rehydrate, I don’t add sugar, yeast, or nutrients. The conversation is more about what I don’t do. ”
As the idea for Next Friend became clearer, Oberman reached out to Adam Carson, co-owner of local craft beer producer Low Life Barrel House, which currently brews under the Barn Hammer roof on Wall Street but is slated to open in its own space. on Daly Street North this fall. Low Life specializes in more experimental beers, many of which are aged in oak fillings and pick up traces of brettanomyces (or “brett”) – a strain of yeast that lends a slightly funky, earthy note to beer and wine. (which is tasty in moderation).
Carson and Oberman’s visions for beverage-making are well aligned, and it wasn’t long before they, along with Barn Hammer owner Tyler Birch and co-owner of Low Life, made plans. In an effort to make wine-based products from grapes sourced from Ontario, Low Life hired Oberman as an assistant brewer to help him with the wine projects on the agenda while learning how to making beer and allowing him to make his Next Friend ciders under Barn Hammer’s Roof too.
One of the most important parts of Next Friend’s operating principles is to donate a portion of sales to a different environmental or food safety group each year. This year’s recipient is Direct Farm Manitoba and its Manitoba Community Food Currency Program. “They give food to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford, say, groceries at a farmers market,” Oberman explains. “Now they have access not only to food, but to good local food. This supports local farmers and people who cannot always afford to eat healthy. ”
At the end of August, the cherries are still in my tree, curled up and drooping. Oberman will be happy to know that some birds liked them, which means that they are not entirely lost.
I am contacting Oberman by phone for an update; unsurprisingly, when I call him, he’s in someone’s garden picking apples. It has harvested nearly 2,000 kilograms of fruit so far this year – mostly apples but also cherries, saskatoon berries, plums, currants and Virginia cherries, most of which are already fermenting. He believes he will have a lot more Next Friend Cider to sell when things are bottled up and ready to release next year.
He hopes to bottle his next release, an apple-pear blend called Side Eye, next week, and expects to have just north of 200 bottles to sell in late September once it’s fully bottled.
In the meantime, he still wants your fruit. His schedule is now quite busy in terms of picking, but anyone looking to unload fruit can pick up and contact Oberman to arrange a pickup or drop-off. Oberman will pay the market value for anyone picking the fruits themselves; to get in touch, visit nextfriendcider.com, message Oberman on Instagram (@nextfriendcider) or email [email protected] “Unless it’s Kerr apples,” he says of the apple variety native to Manitoba. “I’ll travel far for those. ”
The 2020 Kerr Next Friend Cider is long gone – Oberman was only able to produce around 100 bottles of this product, made from apples from a single tree. I managed to grab a bottle when it came out earlier this summer and cracked it for inspiration while writing this piece. It’s slightly cloudy, dry, has nice green apple skin and chalky flavors, and brings in plenty of racy acidity – enough to cheer me up on a rainy weekend to end the story.
Even if you’re not sure your fruit is suitable for Oberman’s needs, he’s happy to talk -uit that doesn’t taste good to eat could potentially be useful for cider. (Except for my cherries, it seems.)
“I don’t really say no to fruit,” he said with an exhausted laugh. “Anything that looks bad to eat, I’m probably in it. ”
Wines of the week
Erath 2019 Pinot Noir (Oregon, US – $ 29.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Bright cherry, floral, raspberry, earth and blueberry notes on the nose of this Oregon pinot noir are appealing, with hints of leather as well. It’s dry, light and juicy, with an abundance of berry and cherry flavors and an intriguing orange peel note that accompanies the fresh acidity. Chill for 15 minutes and enjoy on a hot day, if there is any left. 4/5
Quarisa 2016 Ms. Q Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Australia – $ 17.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
Black cherry, tar, earth, iron and cocoa are the most present on the nose of this Australian shiraz. On the palate, it’s more or less the same, with a touch of sweetness on the fruit that is balanced by peppery tannins and a long finish. An older vintage, but still holding up relatively well. Drink now. 3/5
Bodegas Castaño GSM (Yecla, Spain – $ 19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)
This blend of Grenache / Monastrell / Syrah from southeastern Spain offers aromas of herbs, blackberry, plum, cherry and violet. It is dense, full-bodied and mellow, with clean flavors of blackberry, plum and blueberry, secondary notes of black cherry and licorice, supple tannins and a long fruity finish. Four months in oak barrels seems fair. Great value. 4/5
Twitter : @bensigurdson
I am Sigurdson
Literary editor, drink writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the books section of Free Press and also writes on wine, beer and spirits.
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