Taking the Long Road
In the northernmost tip of Shelby county, where the highways wind into back roads, the back yards roll away into acres of fields, and the city gives way to wooded wilderness, there sits a cidery and tasting room on Barret road named Long Road Cider Co. The building is tastefully painted white both inside and out, giving it a quaint, but modern, southern look. They have a few tables sitting here and there, an L-shaped bar, and shelves neatly stocked with various vendor products such as beeswax candles, homemade soaps, apple butter, beard oils, cider mustards, homemade dry rubs, and pepper jellies. There is a portion of the building sectioned off; this is where the magic happens, where Scott Patterson, the founder of the cidery, rolls in huge barrels of what will potentially hold gallons of homebrewed, dry cider. Row after row of barrels fill this back room, and an office sits tucked away in the corner. Dez Patterson, a co-owner of the company, and sister-in-law to Scott, peeks her head out of the office and calls out warmly as we walk in. The tasting room greets us with the wonderful aroma of old wood and spiced cider. Since it’s around noon, the natural light cast into the building softens any sharp edges of the atmosphere, giving the cidery a sleepy, country store feel, but looks can be deceiving. As we sit down for an interview with two of the business’s frontmen, their eyes are tired, but sharp, and it becomes apparent that Long Road Cider Co. is the real deal. Their passion for the business, and the cider that is made right there, rolls off every syllable they speak. And every single question is answered with knowledgeable enthusiasm. Scott gave us an inside look at what inspired him to create the Long Road Cider Co.
“I finally had dry cider on a trip to Europe,” says Scott, who is a Memphis native, “and then I realized that maybe I actually liked cider. I had already been homebrewing, so instead of making beer, I went home and tried to make some ciders and kinda got hooked on it.” But getting hooked on making cider was just an understatement. It became such a passion that Scott, along with his brother, Clay, and sister-in-law, Dez, decided to start a cidery. They started off by packaging their product and selling their cider at various bars and restaurants in Memphis, including Flying Saucer, Joe’s Liquors, and Lucchesi’s Beer Garden.
Already having a building with a residential kitchen and front porch, the natural progression of Long Road Cider Co. became opening a tasting room so customers can enjoy ciders on tap, fill up with hearty food, and greet the cold air with steamy breaths of laughter and conversation—or at least that was the concept back in December, when the tasting room first opened. Now, as the summer months lumber forward with traditional heat and humidity, the menu has undergone some changes to compensate for the weather. Scott and his cohorts are going from serving greens and hot stews to salads and sandwiches. But the cidery is constantly undergoing experiments and tweaks to perfect not only the food, but the ciders as well. As far as the process of making ciders, the Pattersons don’t hold back when it comes to trying out new flavors and concoctions. With a yeast and juice base, Scott often adds in hops or natural ingredients to flavor up each barrel with different tastes and levels of dryness and spice, but in regards to having clear cut procedures and recipes to follow, there aren’t any.
“I don’t follow a recipe,” Scott says, “I try not to dictate what the cider is going to become, so I pretty much use no additions; it’s basically just yeast and juice. I’m not one of those vendors that is adding acids and playing with pH’s and things like that. I like to kinda let the yeast, and the bacterias, and the juice of the barrels work their own little magic.” Typically what happens is that if the batch isn’t up to par with what Scott wants the cider to be, flavorings are added to the backend of the cider process to bring out a certain taste or dryness. “It’s a learning process every day,” Scott adds.
Long Road Cider Co. is no stranger to trial and error. Dez talks animatedly about one cider that was made purely out of experimentation that became one of the more popular ciders to serve in the tasting room: “The Queen Mary that we did, which was sea salt and rosemary—I was here for that, and I just held the rosemary and [Scott] was like, ‘Maybe this [much], maybe that much...put another one in, actually.’” This is the process that makes their cider different from store bought ciders. No two batches are exactly the same, and with Scott adamantly pushing quality to the forefront, Long Road Cider Co. will never serve or sell a cider that is syrupy sweet or foul-tasting.
When the company first opened their doors, Long Road Cider Co. had no idea of the type of growth in popularity and business that would ensue. With the addition of the consignment of Joleen’s, a one-woman baker who sells cakes and other desserts out of Long Road Cider Co., tasty southern classics, high-quality, homebrewed cider, and an inviting atmosphere, the business has taken off in a way that has left Scott, Clay, and Dez breathless.
With their success, plans of the future for the company are outlined, but flexible to change due to unforeseen events. Dez looks forward to the future, the goal being to “expand to different locations to carry the cider.” She says, “I mean, we had a Facebook message asking if our ciders were sold in Illinois, and we said, ‘Oh! We didn’t know you guys even knew about us out there!’” They are still testing the waters, but Dez is positive and hopeful about the future: “It’d be awesome to get out that far, so maybe in the future, that’s kinda what we’re looking at—crossing some borders.”
Scott is a bit more cautious, with plans of the future dependent on how well the company does now. He says, “In the immediate [future] though, I’m just trying to fill more barrels than I empty every week.” His ultimate goal is to meet supply with demand.
Long Road Cider Co. may dwell in a country setting, but the Pattersons aren’t moseying about when it comes to their company or their ciders. Their passion for what they do is obvious in the quality of everything they make. Not to mention the long hours that go into both the cider process and the overflowing tasting room nearly every weekend. It is also apparent that their passion has paid off, because business is booming. We’ve visited the tasting room several times, and on any night it’s open, you might see people chatting at the bar, families sitting at the tables, parents tasting cider, and the kids delving into the sweet treats. A few couches and a coffee table are arranged in the corner where a group of young adults will usually sit and talk. The front porch teems with friends sipping cider in refurbished chairs and children running about, playing tag or riding scooters. But in the back, a few cars sit, belonging to the Long Road Cider Co. crew, who were there an hour before the tasting room opened and will be there an hour after they close the doors. And when the building is empty, there in Barretville, Tennessee, on Barret road, in the open, southern air under the hopeful, southern stars, sits Long Road Cider Co., the physical manifestation of the idea of a few young entrepreneurs.