I grew up in Michigan until I was around 7 years old, and continued to visit family up there for years and years afterward. I don’t have a lot of memories of Michigan, being that I was a kid and didn’t pay attention to surroundings nearly as much as I did to people. But there is one thing I can remember: the cider mills. I can remember our family going to the cider mill in the fall to enjoy fresh pressed cider and hot donuts. When weather turns cooler and leaves begin to fall, I still crave some cider and those delicious donuts. It’s one of those memories that makes autumn one of my favorite times of the year.
Well it’s not autumn, and this isn’t about that kind of cider.
This summer Jeff and I finally looked beyond beer and started to embrace hard cider. It all started with the American Homebrewers Association rally in May, held at Colorado Cider Company. We love the AHA and wouldn’t miss a rally, though we were a bit skeptical of it being at a cidery. As it turns out, the AHA is pretty forward thinking in making this less-than-obvious choice. Cider’s popularity is growing in leaps and bounds both with homebrewers and with drinkers. Perhaps its due to the increasing trend towards gluten-free food and drink, but cider sales have increased tremendously over the past few years. Reports show that sales of cider from large producers jumped 90% in 2012, and increased another 89% in 2013. While total sales are still small compared to beer and other alcoholic beverages, cider is now the fastest growing alcoholic beverage category in the U.S. The same increase has been felt at Colorado Cider Company, who told us that their 2013 sales were up 150% over 2012, and they’ve now tripled production to 75,000 gallons annually. Yes, in the cider industry business is good.
Things are tasting pretty good as well, as we learned during our visit to Colorado Cider Company for the AHA rally. Opened in November 2011, Colorado Cider makes popular local favorite Glider Cider, as well as several other delicious variations. We got to sample almost all of them and were impressed by the variety and amazing flavors offered. The Grasshop-Ah has a lemongrass and hop kick that they claim makes it the perfect gateway cider for beer lovers, and we couldn’t agree more, as it was delicious. Their Pome Mel was an amazing dry cider with aromas of rosemary and lavender that was divine. Probably our favorite was the Ol’ Stumpy, a strong and earthy cider aged in Chardonnay barrels. Ol’ Stumpy was amazing, and with a cool name to boot.
Colorado Cider Company really changed our impression of cider, but it was another local cider company that won us over for good. Shortly after the AHA rally we payed a visit to Stem Ciders, another craft cider company that had recently opened in Denver. While Stem Ciders didn’t offer as many varieties of cider as Colorado Cider Company, what they did offer blew us away. Our favorites were the Malice, a deliciously dry and tart cider, and the Le Chene, a cider aged in red zinfandel barrels that drank much more like a fine wine than an apple cider. We also tried the Banjo, which was aged in bourbon barrels and had a very mellow bourbon flavor. Finally, since they were out of their popular dry-hopped Remedy cider, we tried the guest tap: Pearsnickety pear cider from Colorado Cider Company. Ironically this was the only cider we didn’t try while at the AHA rally. Unfortunately the pear wasn’t our favorite, as the pear flavor makes it taste very different, and a bit funky. I’m sure it’s an acquired taste. Still, everything made by Stem Cider was amazing and we highly recommend giving them a try.
Bonus tip: If you’re lucky enough to be at Stem Ciders (or anywhere else) when the Street Frites food truck is there – you have to try those amazing frites! Sure, frites are just fancy fries, but OHMYGOD do they make the best in town. Trust us on this, or just check out their menu, which is so crazy decadent that you know it has to be good. Stalk them on Facebook if you want to see where they’re serving.
If you’re still not convinced that cider is your thing, maybe you should try a cider cocktail? Angry Balls is a pretty popular drink now, combining 1 bottle Angry Orchard Crisp Apple cider with 1.5 ounces Fireball cinnamon whiskey. Don’t let the name scare you, it’s delicious! If you prefer beer to whiskey, you can also try an Adam’s Apple, which combines 1/2 a glass Samuel Adams Boston Lager topped with 1/2 a glass of Angry Orchard Crisp Apple. And if those two drinks still don’t float your boat, check out the Angry Orchard cocktail page on Pinterest for even more creative drink ideas. Yum!
Colorado Cider Company is located at 2650 W 2nd Ave #10, Denver, CO 80219. The Stem Cider Tap Room is at 2811 Walnut St Suite 150, Denver CO 80205.