Imagine it’s a hot Colorado day and adults are looking for alcoholic beverages to help beat the heat. Many seek out beer, seltzers and cocktails. But, for Sam Al-Jassim and many others, the answer …
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Want to sample local cider? Here are the sweet details on some Denver-area cideries.
Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery
Location: 1446 Miner St., Idaho Springs
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day
Offers: Nine Colorado ciders on tap, 14 in cans; full bar and full kitchen
Founded: Restaurant and bar opened Feb. 22, 2019; in-house fermentation is forthcoming
Clear Fork Cider (tasting room)
Location: 4965 Iris St., Wheat Ridge
Hours: 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays
Offers: Exclusive small-batch Clear Fork ciders along with others; snacks
Founded: Initial location in downtown Denver opened about five years ago; moved to current location in July 2019 and opened tasting room that September
Distribution: Some local restaurants and liquor stores
Events: May 1 was launch day for new ciders; participating in Lakewood’s Cider Days Oct. 2-3 at Belmar Park
Colorado + 49 Cidery & Pub
Location: 1100 Arapahoe St., Golden Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day
Offers: In-house dry-mediums to semi-sweet ciders; 29 taps with about half ciders and half non-Colorado beers; full kitchen with all gluten-free menu items
Founded: June 25, 2018
Distribution: Growlers to-go at Golden location only
Events: Anniversary celebration on June 25 with staff members’ “tap takeover” to introduce new ciders
Colorado Cider Company (tasting room)
Location: 2650 W. 2nd Ave. No. 10, Denver
Hours: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Offers: Variety of in-house ciders
Distribution: Wide-ranging at Denver-area restaurants and liquor stores
Events: Participating in Lakewood’s Cider Days Oct. 2-3 at Belmar Park
Locust Cider (Belmar taproom)
Location: 7260 W. Alaska Drive, Unit A, Lakewood
Hours: 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m. Sundays
Offers: 16 Locust Ciders on tap and others in cans; wines; small-plate food menu and snacks
Founded: Seattle-based Locust Cider opened its first Colorado location in Boulder in 2019; taprooms in Fort Collins and Belmar opened fall 2020
Distribution: Wide-ranging at restaurants and liquor stores; taproom locations also offer ciders to-go
Imagine it’s a hot Colorado day and adults are looking for alcoholic beverages to help beat the heat. Many seek out beer, seltzers and cocktails.
But, for Sam Al-Jassim and many others, the answer is cider.
This fruit wine has grown in popularity in the United States and Colorado over the last 10 years, and cideries, taprooms and tasterooms have recently opened across the Denver metro area.
Unfortunately, the sugary national brands have given cider a bit of a bad reputation, but locals are working to correct that, saying there’s something for everyone.
“We have seen people who don’t like cider try it and come back,” Al-Jassim, a manager at Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery in Idaho Springs, said. “I feel like there’s a cider for everybody.”
Like wine, the drink has a range of dryness and sweetness, with some falling at either end and some in the middle. The industry also offers a variety of flavors — anything from Locust Cider’s mojito to Colorado + 49 Cidery & Pub’s blueberry lavender.
Luke Furey, operations manager at Golden-based Colorado + 49, described how he thinks of cider as a happy medium between beer and hard seltzer, saying it’s the perfect crisp and cool drink to enjoy on a hot day.
Of course, there’s no reason why drinks have to be mutually exclusive as there’s plenty of local craftsmanship to go around.
Brad Page, owner of Denver-based Colorado Cider Company, pointed out that the British — the world’s biggest cider drinkers — often drink beer and cider in the same sitting. And some local cideries, like Clear Creek and Colorado + 49, keep beer on tap, offer flights of beer and/or cider, and can make beer-cider mixes.
And, for those who don’t drink, local cideries also offer a variety of food options.
So, whether people are diehard fans, casual drinkers or uninitiated, Page and his colleagues only ask that they keep an open mind and explore the world of flavor local cideries have to offer.
Cider is made from fermented fruit — primarily apples — and is most popular in Britain and other parts of Europe. Page, a Colorado Cider Guild board member, said it used to be a common drink in the United States but fell out of favor shortly before Prohibition.
However, as the craft beverage movement began in earnest, Page said it was only a matter of time until ciders saw a revival.
When Colorado Cider Company opened in 2011, it was the first commercial cidery in the area. Now, there are probably 18 across Colorado, Page estimated.
Cider’s gluten-free profile is one reason it’s become so popular. It also has less sugar than beer, in most cases, and is lower in alcohol content than liquor. Thus, it’s healthier overall than other alcoholic drinks, industry members posited.
While the industry’s growth seemingly exploded between 2013 and 2018, Page said two things have hindered it recently.
The first is the pandemic, which restricted capacities and forced many cideries to survive on to-go orders. The other is the rise of hard seltzer, which breweries can mass-produce much cheaper than cideries can make their products.
However, the overall movement toward craft beverages in general is helping, Page said, as many Coloradans want to support smaller producers and enjoy better quality drinks.
While Page was unsure whether the metro area will see more cideries in the near future, he said the existing ones are definitely growing.
Furey was more optimistic, believing that more cideries will pop up over the next five years and that they could eventually be on par with breweries as they gain more national popularity.
The success of Seattle-based Locust Cider’s new Belmar taproom also seems to indicate the cidery market is relatively untapped.
Despite opening last fall — among increasing COVID-19 restrictions and poor weather — business has far exceeded expectations, manager Sarah Mutch stated. She and Eric Smith, vice president of Locust Cider-Rocky Mountains, said they can’t keg the place fast enough sometimes.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Mutch said.
Unlike breweries, local cideries don’t have as much geographic competition. Both Furey and Mutch pointed out that their locations are the only cideries in Golden and Lakewood, respectively.
Additionally, while some cideries like Wheat Ridge’s Clear Fork Cider distribute to local restaurants and liquor stores, others like Colorado + 49 only offer theirs on-site.
Although the market is growing, it’s still relatively small so everyone knows and helps each other, Smith said. The better the industry does as a whole, the better for each cidery.
For Rob Bayless, Clear Fork’s director of operations, the industry is as much about the drink itself as it is about the people who enjoy it.
Bayless described how he takes pride in crafting cider, explaining everything from visiting local orchards to hand-pressing the apples to letting the juice ferment for several months.
“When you go to make it, it always feels like alchemy,” he said. “You start with a sweet juice, and six months later, it can end up as a completely changed product. … It’s magical to see that transformation.”
Along with the taste, people can also connect with the story behind the ciders, Bayless continued. Cider-making is very much tied to Colorado’s agricultural and orchard-industry roots.
Whether people have similarly deep ties or are relatively new to Colorado, he said, “I think people can relate to that history and that story … There’s a lot of (Colorado) pride around that.”
Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-567-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.
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