Derek Kellogg, a fourth-generation Slippery Rock farmer, has been interested in preserving food since he was a kid. And seven years ago, when he stumbled upon a patch of fragrant fallen apples in the woods near the family farm, he knew he'd found his ultimate calling: fermenting hard cider.
"I didn't know what I was doing at first, but once I started reading about all the history behind it, I started getting serious," he says. After several years of study — he's particularly influenced by James Crowden's book Ciderland and the work of his hero, British cider-maker Roger Wilkins — Kellogg opened Rebellion Ciderworks in a small barn at the family farm.
"The whole goal of this place is to control the product from start to finish and do it in a traditional way," Kellogg says. The apples, mainly heirloom varieties, are carefully sourced, and then pressed in an antique "rack and cloth" cider press.
Rebellion Ciderworks currently offers three varieties: "Bittersweet Liberty," a bone-dry cider made from four British cider apples; "MacKenna's Premiere," a 100 percent Macintosh cider; and "The Haymaker," a dangerously drinkable cider fermented from an eight-apple blend.
For now, Rebellion Ciderworks distribution is limited to its newly opened tasting room and the nearby North County Brewing Company. Kellogg hopes to expand availability soon: "The big reason I sell cider is so that I can make more."
Kellogg says that apple variety is critical to cider making. To that end, he's planted an orchard of heirloom cider apples on the hillside adjacent to the cider house. "I'll be growing, pressing and fermenting, all within eyesight," he says.
He expects to start producing some fruit this autumn, though the land he's calling "Primordial Hill" will take many years to reach maturity. "I wish I would have planted my first apple tree when I was born. Actually, no, I wish my great-grandpa planted them. But what are you going to do?"