Still being relatively new to the cider industry, this was our first dedicated cider trip to Colorado to taste many new-to-us ciders and visit cideries involved with the official Colorado Cider Week and the Pressed Conference put together by Rocky Mountain Cider Association. Even better that it happened over Memorial Day weekend, so we packed up the RV and headed east Here’s how it all played out.
Monday – May 22
We kicked off Colorado Cider Week 2017 at St. Vrain Cidery in Longmont, CO. St. Vrain is a must-visit for all cider drinkers in the area. With 24 ciders from all regions of Colorado on tap, 3 of which were St. Vrain originals, they have a wide variety that will satisfy even the pickiest of cider enthusiasts.
I started the evening with a full 12 oz. pour of St. Vrain’s Heritage Dry. It was the kick-off to the week and I just wanted to start with a simple cider and socialize a little bit before diving into testing. With so many ciders on tap, and only a few hours to sample and record notes, I opted for a flight of eight 4 oz pours. Quick note: I haven’t seen this at a lot of tasting rooms, but St. Vrain has flight boards for four pours and eight pours. It’s definitely convenient not having to carry two separate boards back to the table when you opt for eight.
The nine tastings in the photo are (CCW, starting at top left): St. Vrain: Heritage Dry, St. Vrain: Wild Titan, The Old Mine: Handlebar, Summit Hard Cider: Blueberry Lavender, Summit Hard Cider: Rasbenero, Wild Cider: Lemon Basil, Stem Ciders: Banjo, Stem Ciders: Le Chêne, Climb Hard Cider: Vanilla.
Colorado cider makers and cidery owners/founders were out in force for the opening night!
Tuesday – May 23
For the second night of Colorado Cider Week 2017 we opted for Terroir Tuesday at Arcana, in Boulder, CO. On Terroir Tuesdays, Arcana focuses on a particular wine producer or region, pouring several different bottlings.
On this particular Tuesday, Arcana chose to showcase Shelton Brothers Importers, featuring selections from cideries who grow their own traditional cider apples including Ribela (Spain), L’Hermitiere (France), Peckham’s (New Zealand), Oliver’s (England) and West County (US, MA). Having had several ciders that Shelton Brothers import, I wasn’t about to miss this event.
Just look at all the cider options on that menu! One night really wasn’t enough time here.
Again, wanting to enjoy the evening a little before diving into serious note taking, I opted for the Ciderkin from Argus Cidery (review forthcoming.) From there it was a headfirst dive into the weird and wonderful ciders that Shelton Brothers imports, as well as a few new-to-me selections from Argus’ draft menu. Watch for upcoming reviews of:
- Argus Cidery: Vinho Pearde
- Sandford Orchards: The General (spoiler: This one is a new favorite of mine. If you like dry, funky, English ciders, try to find this and give it a try.)
- Wandering Aengus: Wickson (single varietal)
- Ribela: Besta
- Peckham’s Traditional: Cider with Feijoa
- West County: Baldwin (single varietal)
- Oliver’s: Traditional Cider
Wednesday – May 24
Wednesday was a busy day for us here at Hard Cider Reviews. The day started with a tour of C Squared Cider and a discussion with their Co-Founder Andy Brown. We’ll have a full feature write-up on that chat in the coming months.
Immediately after visiting C Squared, I walked over to Stem Cider for a tour and a lengthy sit-down with Co-Founders Eric Foster and Phil Kao. A more detailed write-up on our discussions is also coming soon.
We had hoped to make one last stop in the RiNo area of Denver at Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery. In addition to wines, they also make a hopped perry that is phenomenal and I wanted to sample some straight from the source. Unfortunately, we were running behind and needed to get to the final event for the evening. Watch for an upcoming review of their hopped perry.
We closed out Wednesday with the Block One deconstruction event at Colorado Cider Company. Block One is their first cider made exclusively from apples grown in their own orchard. It is made from 12 different varieties of apples. The deconstruction tasting included wild fermentation of 10 of those varieties, individually.
Where to begin? First off, Brad Page (Owner / Founder) led an amazing tasting session through the 10 varieties, sprinkling in information you could only get from someone intimately involved in the project. The ten varieties tasted were:
- Major Myth – (believed they were planting Major apples, but in the end they didn’t know exactly what type of apple it was…coining the term Major Myth). This ended in a stuck fermentation, leaving a sweet end product with butterscotch characteristics
- Northern Spy – Very sweet, reminiscent of brown sugar
- Golden Russet – Very sauvignon blanc like
- Kingston Black – Caramel aromas, lightly tannic, dry, light body
- Fox Whelp – Very bitter aroma, sharp tart flavor, very tannic; this was my personal favorite of the single varietals
- Browns – A very unique / distinct sweetness, light astringency
- Wickson Crab – Made up roughly 17% of the final product
- Michelin – Very light floral aroma
- Major & Ellis Bitter – Super funky…think barnyard cow pen meets sweaty 13 year old (I know it sounds terrible, but if you like really funky ciders, this was really good…)
After a day of drinking ciders at C Squared and Stem, followed by a series of nine single varietal tastings, my palate was done for the day. A formal review of Block One is coming (there is a bottle in the fridge for a proper review.) I can say that it was a bouquet of complex aromas and flavors; there are a lot of different characteristics all fighting for your attention. I believe my actual reaction was, “There’s a lot of shit going on in this!”
Despite the lack of tasting notes for Block One, it was still the star of the evening (well, at least for me.) We did some quick checks of our cider list and it turned out that Block One was the 400th different cider that I had sampled! With its depth and intricacies, it was a perfect cider for number 400.
Thursday – May 25
By this point in the week, we needed a little down time. Since we were camping at Cherry Creek State Park, we opted to spend the day catching up on a few work tasks and then invited some of our local pals (including the crew from Zaca, our go-to remedy for recovery post cider tastings.) over to enjoy some cider by the fire.
Friday – May 26
After packing up the RV, we started making our way to Wild Cider’s orchard and cidery in Firestone, CO for the release of their Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Cider. On our way to Wild, we stopped for a lunch break at The Old Mine in Erie, Colorado.
The Old Mine is a great cidery in a historic building in downtown Erie. We sampled all eight offerings on the board, and brought home the varieties we found most interesting. Keep an eye out for upcoming reviews. After lunch, it was on to Wild Cider in Firestone, Colorado.
Wild Cider has a nice wide open space to hang out with friends and enjoy cider with a great view of the front range. If simply sitting around isn’t your thing, you’ll also find “jumbo” Jenga sets, cornhole boards and bags, and an in-ground soccer-billiards “table.”
After the long week, and in preparation for Saturday’s main event, we chose to simply sip cider and relax at Wild; the sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, there were new friends to be made…and of course some simple cider tasting notes were taken.
The main attraction for the night was the Bourbon Barrel Aged Cherry Cider. The cider was a crystal clear, brilliant strawberry red color, with very light carbonation. Initially you are hit with aromas of maraschino cherries and other herbal notes. This cider was toward the sweet end of the spectrum with almost dominant cherry flavors. I, personally, didn’t really get much in the way of bourbon notes from it. It was lightly acidic and lightly tannic, with a long drawn out finish. I rounded out the evening with Wild’s Hazelnut Toffee Cider, Apple Cider, and Bee Hoppy. A full review of the Hazelnut Toffee Cider is upcoming.
In addition to ciders, you can also get a Hot Tin Roof wood fired pizza at Wild Cider’s tasting garden during normal hours. As the evening wore on, an increasing number of attendees found their way to the wood fired oven for a few slices of delicious pizza.
After everything wrapped up, and everyone had gone home, Adam Gorove (Founder/Owner) gave me a tour of their facility and told me more about how Wild Cider came to be. Long story short, Adam got into cider for health reasons. (An apple a day, right?) While we were talking, I took the opportunity to ask him some of the more fun questions I like to ask cidermakers.
What was the first cider you tried, and when did you try it?
Adam: Ace Perry, somewhere between 7 and 9 years ago.
What is your favorite cider that isn’t one of your own?
Adam: I would have to say anything that Lee McAlpine makes up at Montana Ciderworks. Her North Fork Traditional is fantastic.
If you had to commit to just one; English, French, or Spanish ciders?
Adam: I probably need to do more traveling and try more international ciders before I can answer that question.
Saturday – May 27
Saturday was the big day, the grand finale, the culmination of the week…The Pressed Conference. The day began with heavy rain and dark skies. Thankfully the skies cleared and the heavy rain cleared up just in time for the start of the event, which had a decent turnout of vendors, cider lovers and novices alike. Having gotten to meet so many new local cider makers throughout the week, it turned into a great time socializing with new and hopefully lifelong friends.
By the end of the day, we’d gotten in on sharing the #CiderLove with the masses, with Elisabeth helping pour her personal favorite from the week, Wild Cider’s Lemon Basil, which also turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the event with many of the testers raving about it. They all agreed with Elisabeth’s recommendation that it’s the perfect cider for a hot summer day, on is own or mixed in a refreshing cocktail.
But wait… There’s more! Not wanting our fabulous time in Colorado to end too soon, after spending a few more nights camping near Aspen, we hit Big B’s tasting room and roadside cafe on the way home for one final round of local goodness.
While we think we did a pretty good job of packing a lot in 10 days, there are still many more stops on our bucket list of Colorado cideries and tasting rooms. We’ll be back soon, mile-high state.