SS 282 – Fermentation Fun with Mark McTavish of 101 Cider

Episode 282 Show Notes

Grant and Heavey talk with Mark McTavish from 101 Cider House about the best ciders out there! They are all-natural with lots of probiotics and zero sugar. Learn about their fermentation process and what makes them special! Plus, they have a new product line that is wilder and gives you all the booze you need, minus the unwanted calories.

[00:51] The 101 Cider House and Pulp Culture

101 Cider House has a product called Black Dog cider, which really put them on the map. It’s a very unique beverage. The idea of adding charcoal to an alcoholic beverage was way off the radar for people and was a brand new concept when they saw it. 

Mark recently launched his Pulp Culture brand. It’s tailored for the folks looking for high-level alcoholic beverages. People that work out and train hard who are looking to get the most they can out of a beverage. 

Mark wanted to pack the beverage full of things that were good for you, that was highly functional, botanical adaptogens, probiotics. He believes that ingredients that are or high value should be in a product like an alcoholic beverage because when we drink alcoholic beverages, we drink several of them.

So if you’re going to sit there and drink four, five, or six of something, why not fill your body up with all sorts of things that give you a great buzz and make sure that you feel good the next day?

[04:44] What is Cider?

Cider, by definition, is nothing more than fermented apple juice. That’s it. Now in this country, it’s a little confusing because when you see “cider” on a jug of apple juice because it’s actually not true. Because when you say cider, it means it’s alcoholic. It’s fermented. The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries on the planet that call something “non alcoholic” a cider. 

 [05:26] The History of Cider Becoming “Non-Alcoholic”

During pre-prohibition times here in America, people didn’t eat apples. Apples were only here on the land in America for one, sole purpose – to be pressed into juice and fermented into alcohol. So that was what cider was, and that’s how they knew it. 

Then when prohibition came along, all these religious factors came into play along with the temperance movement becoming a big thing and then, alcohol was bad. The world moved into a great depression at that time. The farming industry collapsed and the economy was hit really hard.

People wanted alcohol but religious folks didn’t want to allow alcohol. In fact it became so extreme that, if someone were to grow apples, they would be going against the religion. People would have to either decide to leave the religion or stop growing apples. 

So people got creative. They continued to have apples on trees and pressed them into juice to be consumed as non-alcoholic apple juice. They called it sweet cider and hard cider is the only stuff that’s bad. Yet by definition, cider means fermented apple juice. What grapes are to grape juice and what grape juice is to wine is no different than apples to apple juice and cider, same thing.

[07:00] The Evolution of Our Taste Buds

Human beings like most other living organisms on this planet like sugar. It’s just how we’re built. We use sugar for energy. We need glucose and glycogen. We need things that are going to give our body energy. 

However, we’ve grown to another level beyond just getting the energy that we need for sustenance. Now, we’ve come to look at sugar with a smile on our face because so many of usl love to eat candies, pastries, and chocolate bars.

Typically a younger palate prefers the sweet stuff, but as we get older and our palate evolves. We start to like things like broccoli and cucumbers and pickles and salt and vinegar, potato chips. We like things that have acidity, funk, and weirdness. 

It’s not always about sugar. We like things that are savory. We like things that have umami and we like things that are complex. We start to get a bit more complicated as we get older and our palate works in the same way. 

[10:58] The Science of Fermentation

When we talk about fermentation, we’re talking about very simple processes. Yeast eats sugar. The outcome from that is alcohol and carbon dioxide. When done in an open tank, mother nature’s way with all the oxygen present and just alive and breathing is one big organism in a tank. All the CO2 just escapes and what’s left is the apple cider.

It’s now been fully fermented as far as the sugar is concerned, but it’s not really fully fermented. There’s still much more activity that can occur in that vessel because they are still living organisms in there. There’s another component called malic acid which is the apple acid. It comes from the genus Malus, which is the Apple family. 

Malic acid being apple acid is eaten by the lactic acid bacteria, which is put through a malic lactic fermentation. Malic acid gets converted to lactic acid. Lactic acid, which people may be familiar with from working out. The reason you burn out so quickly is that you have lactic acid building up in your muscles. But lactic acid is also present in dairy like cheese, yogurt, and some probiotic supplements. You’ll see a lot of different strains of lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is just a Latin name for lactic acid bacteria. 

In nature, when apples fall off a tree and are crushed into juice and are left to ferment, the acid that was already in them from Mother Nature gets together with the bacteria and ferments to become lactic acid. Lactic acid is what creates the probiotic content. 

The Lactobacillus are live cultures. It’s what feeds your gut and feeds your immune system and makes you feel good and healthy. That all comes from the apple because of this bacterial fermentation. 

[13:27] Why They Make What They Make – and How!

Most cider companies only go through one fermentation process. The primary fermentation is used just to get the one thing they thought everyone wanted – alcohol. But 101 Cider House cares to get a product that has alcohol in it but also has a full spectrum of benefits that Mother Nature would have included in a fermented beverage.

With fermentation, it takes about three months so you have to hang around for a bit. You’re sitting around checking it day by day, tasting, smelling, watching, and listening because there’s pellicles forming on the top of the juice bubbling and popping. It’s the most interesting thing to watch and listen to and just admire the fermentation process. 

It can look like blueberry crumble on top of your apple juice. It’s pretty to look at, but that’s a layer that keeps all the oxygen and all the other living sort of activity underneath it. It’s like a protective layer for the juice and even forms its own layer. It doesn’t need the top of a tank to be closed off, because it forms its own skin in a way, this pellicle on top. This creates an opportunity for the juice then to breathe. And again, it’s micro-oxygenation that happens. Oxygen comes through that layer of the pellicle.

This could look concerning to most winemakers who’d think they’d want to skim off the top and get rid of that. But you want it on there so it can breathe. Then that living organism underneath which might be thousands of gallons of juice is one living organism. It’s evolving in its own amazing way over the course of 90 days. After 90 days it’s done because there’s no more active fermentation happening. All the acid has been converted. All the sugar has been eaten.

That evolution of the product is to a point where it’s shelf-stable. They don’t need to refrigerate their product. It’s 100% shelf-stable. But it is raw and living and full of 6 billion probiotics, which is six times greater than the average kombucha on a shelf.

[16:22] Their Product is Amazingly Probiotic, Natural, 0-Sugar Alcohol!

101 Cider House doesn’t add anything. They never talk about adding or flavoring or anything like that – even to ferment. It’s all spontaneous. They don’t add any yeast. This is just cold-pressed juice like you got at the juice bar down the street or made at home and then left it on your countertop for three months.

[16:42] Where They Make What They Make

Mark explains there’s nothing special about their location. It’s just like any other concrete jungle in LA. But no matter where you go if you’re making sourdough bread or you’re fermenting cider like they do, you’re going to end up with cultures of bacteria and yeast that just jump into the walls and into the ceiling and they’re all over the floor. 

No matter how much you clean, they’re always there. They don’t even clean their tanks. They empty them and start the next batch. They leave all the microorganisms present in the tanks so that they kick off the next batch. That’s their starter. 

By nature of the process, you could follow the exact same process, no matter where you live. You could even start with the exact same juice if they shipped it out there. But you would end up with a different result in some way. 

The yeast and the bacteria drive the process. That’s very different from something like wine as an example. Because when people talk about terroir, they’re talking about the grape variety, where the vineyards located, how the grapes were grown, and who was the maker, and what were all the steps along the way. 

[18:24] It’s More Than Just Profitability

One thing they don’t tell you is that in the wine world they press the juice from the grapes, and then they kill it. They add sulfites to stabilize it and kill it and then they pitch their own yeast they’ve worked with before because they know it will give them a predictable outcome. They want consistency. They want uniformity. They want profitability.

101 Cider is not interested in that as far as business goes. Of course, they want to be profitable, but they also want to make something authentic, and something that represents its true natural form. And that is pretty much the most amazing thing you can be doing. Iif they’re the only ones doing that, Mark doesn’t care how profitable it is but that’s what he wants to be doing. Then it’s up to him to find other ways to be profitable.

[19:27] What Ingredients Do You See on the Label?

Mark breaks it all down for us. Beer, wine, spirits all have different regulations. People looking at them and guiding them and telling them what they can or can’t put on a label in the beer world. They can put ingredients on the label, but they don’t have to. They’re governed in a different way than say something like wine. Because 101 Cider is wine by definition, they are licensed in this country and regulated as wine. In the wine world in this country, you’ve never actually had the opportunity, even as a producer to put ingredients or nutrition facts on a label. You’ve never seen nutrition facts or ingredients on a label of any bottle of wine you’ve ever consumed because it’s illegal in this country. 

Mark doesn’t believe in forcing our product to be what it is today. They didn’t force it to be in any way. They didn’t use sulfites or sore baits or pasteurization or sterile filtration. They don’t add anything. They don’t take anything away. This is literally what you could make at home on your own.

With 101 Cider, there is a secondary fermentation that you can do in the can or in the bottle. So when you were drinking their products back in the day, all those products were actually bottle conditioned, which Mark describes as a really difficult process, but people didn’t appreciate it. They didn’t want to pay a champagne price for the product. Instead, they wanted to pay a beer price. So they had to find ways to grow in the right way so now they condition it in the tank and package it. 

[25:33] How Mark Got Into Fitness and Business

Mark has been training since he was 14 years old. When he came out of college, he had been bartending for four years. When he left college, he went right into owning his own business. He opened a craft beer bar in Canada which was the first one in the country back in 2003. 

But he was looking for something better, something more authentic, something that’s made right here. He researched his local area in Canada and found about 20 different breweries that existed that were making beer locally. A lot of the big guys didn’t want him to open but he got his license finally.

Mark’s two passions are fitness and beverage. He got into the equipment business which was successful and  grew to open about 300 fitness clubs across Canada. He went to small towns and approached people also passionate about fitness and offered to buy all the equipment and he’d build out the whole facility. This is how he made money. He worked with all the different high schools in the different regions across the province as well. Mark was teaching fitness to kids and more so teaching fitness to the teachers that teach the kids. He was doing a lot of youth fitness as well in the schools. After 10 years of doing that, he felt like he had covered all his bases. Soon he was chasing the love of his life down to California. They got married in 2012 and Mark became a U.S. immigrant.

[33:36] Drinking Alcohol the Healthy Way

Most people are only lifting at probably 5-10% of what they could actually lift because that’s what the brain says just does it. You can lift so much more than you think you can. You can even think better than you actually do. 

Mark is all about breaking through these barriers and pushing himself beyond the limits. Becoming an immigrant was just another example of that. In his final few years of being in the fitness industry, he was going to all the trade shows and big conferences speaking to groups of people. They would go out at night  sometimes for drinks. These people are all weight lifters, exercise enthusiasts, personal trainers in small towns that think they’re the fittest person on the planet. But the philosophy with every one of those beverage selections was there was nothing good in any of them. 

This was his aha moment. Why not get more out of your beverage? Can’t there be a way to get a fermented product of some kind that’s more natural and has a bunch of good stuff in it? Because fermentation is a natural science, yet every single product that we consume for the past 100 years in this country that’s alcoholic is so technically driven and so sterile and processed that you couldn’t even really call them fermented beverages. They’re just alcoholic beverages. 

People want to go out with their friends to have some fun. If it happens once a week, that’s one-seventh of your year, that’s about 10% or 15%, rather, of your year that you’re dedicated to being unhealthy. You claim you’re such a healthy individual, yet you’re going to give 15% of your life to something that’s entirely unhealthy and does nothing good for you. Mark didn’t think that that was a good way to go. He wanted to do something better than that. 

[44:30] The Birth of Pulp Culture

Pulp culture was created to cater to a different market. With 101 Cider, it’s a very clean, well-crafted product. It’s great for the beer drinker, great for the cider drinker. It’s something that’s familiar enough to either of them.



101 Cider House

Pulp Culture


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