Apple of Our Eye

Colorado craft ciders are ripe for the picking

Photography: Annette Slade Photography

Photography: Annette Slade Photography

If you believe in second chances, you’ll like what the craft cider industry is doing to put new life into Colorado apples. Our state used to grow a lot of eating apples and actually competed with the Pacific Northwest in production of the fruit. Over time, however, the industry dwindled, but some of the trees remained.

And those apples are now being put to good use for Colorado craft ciders, which could just be the state’s next big fermentation trend.

“It’s amazing how the cider industry is reviving awareness about Colorado apples,” says Doug Caskey, executive director at the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.

In June 2015, the Colorado Cider Company won a prestigious Colorado Governor’s Cup award for its Grasshop-ah Cider. Brad Page, CEO and founder of the company, says the cider was created for Colorado beer lovers who like hopped-up IPAs. A brewer by training, Page created a softly hopped and citrusy lemongrass hard cider that has been very well received.

The beauty of concocting the beverage is that it’s more forgiving than wine-making. A good cider can be made from lots of apple varieties—edible and otherwise. Branch Out Cider owners Aaron Fodge and Matt Fater collect unwanted fruit from 500 apple trees owned by 200 Fort Collins residents. In 2014, their cider was selected as the Governor’s Cup winner.

Kim Erlandsen owns the first apple tree from which Fodge and Fater collected their cider fruit.

“We have a beautiful apple tree, but they aren’t good to eat, unless you are a squirrel,” says Erlandson, who was happy the apples could be put to good use. “It’s a win-win for all of us.”

Fodge says they underestimated the social aspect of apple picking.

“There is such great support for urban agriculture,” he says. “And, every year we know that 200 people are counting on us. At first, it’s all about the initial satisfaction that their yards will be cleaned up, but in time they become a part of the company.”

Fodge’s greatest satisfaction came from an elderly neighbor who told him about the beautiful Winesap apples her family planted in the yard when she was 10 years old. She had since moved away, so Fodge asked where she had lived. She described a house Forge knew all too well: his current house.,

Branch Out Cider’s supply chain: 200 community orchard members offer up 500 apple trees and 25,000 pounds of apples to make 1,000 gallons of hard cider.
Denver Cider Tasting Rooms

More like wine and less like apple soda pop, Colorado cider is dry, tart and a refreshing change from beer or wine. Here are a two tasting rooms to add to your summer sipping list.

Colorado Cider Company: With its large selection of ciders, this company likes to play with flavors, including chardonnay barrel aging, botanicals, pears, cherries and Colorado wine grapes. The Denver tasting room is open weekend afternoons.

Stem Cider: Co-owners Erik Foster and Phil Kao grew up in Michigan’s apple country where they learned to make cider. They specialize in oak and bourbon barrel aging for smoky, bold flavors. Try the Stem Cider Malice at the tap room, open most afternoons.

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