Colorado producers are transforming local fruit into sessionable sippers—and winning international awards. Here’s what you should be drinking right now at five Front Range cideries.
4965 Iris Street, Wheat Ridge
Backstory: Since 2017, Jay Kenney has been hunting down heirloom apples from Colorado, Maine, and the Pacific Northwest and crafting sophisticated dry ciders under the Clear Fork label. Named for the Clear Fork of the Gunnison River near Crawford, where one of Kenney’s five orchards stands, the brand eschews flavor additions in favor of all-apple ciders. Kenney also ages his creations in stainless steel tanks or used oak wine barrels from the Infinite Monkey Theorem.
Buzz: Clear Fork’s Wheat Ridge tasting room opened in September. There, you can sample the brand’s five recurring varieties—the all-Colorado fruit Pitts’ Bitter is our favorite—as well as two rotating guest ciders and a kombucha.
1380 Horizon Ave, Unit A, Lafayette, and 2811 Walnut St. #150, RiNo (and Durham, North Carolina)
Backstory: The largest of Colorado’s cideries, Stem has been growing in popularity—and production capacity—since it began making dry ciders in RiNo in 2013. Last year, Stem made more than 200,000 gallons of cider in 20-plus varieties, most sold in cans.
Buzz: Stem’s almost two-year-old Lafayette production facility and eatery, Acreage, features goods from area growers and produce from its own on-site farm. On November 21, chef Eric Lee is debuting a guest-chef dinner party series: Seasonal cooking from Lee and Stowaway Kitchen chef Amy Cohen will be paired with special-release Stem ciders and a private tour of the cider house, farm, and barrel room.
1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 14, North Boulder
Backstory: Owner Michael Belochi and cidermaker Josh Smith embrace flavored sippers at BOCO—Boulder’s first cider house—using juice from Colorado and Washington to produce unpasteurized, sulfite-free ciders in a range of styles. BOCO’s taproom, which opened in July, is its production facility, so you can enjoy pours from 16 taps (12 from BOCO, three from rotating Centennial State producers, and one kombucha) amidst tanks and barrels.
Buzz: Try the Stone’s Throw Hopped Cider, infused with hops picked within 400 yards of BOCO.
12001 East 33rd Ave, Unit D, Aurora
Backstory: Daniel and Talia Haykin opened their small-batch production facility and modern, four-tap tasting room in early 2018. Akin to sparkling apple wines, the brand’s single-varietal offerings are made with nothing more than yeast and rare heirloom apples grown at Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss and Masonville Orchards in Fort Collins.
Buzz: In May, Haykin took home more gold medals than any other cidery at the prestigious Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. This month, look for newly released 2018 vintages of tart, aromatic Ashmead’s Kernel and rich, semi-dry Dabinett.
2650 West 2nd Ave #10, Denver
Backstory: Colorado’s oldest operational hard cider producer, located in Valverde, put out its semi-dry flagship Glider Cider in 2011. Since then, owners Brad and Kathe Page have produced 25 different varieties and planted about 4,000 heirloom apple trees in Hotchkiss.
Buzz: “Cascara” (the dried husks of coffee cherries) lends earthy, peppery notes to the new seasonal blackberry cider, steeped with blackberry juice and lemon zest.
250 South Grand Mesa Dr., Cedaredge
Backstory: For more than 100 years—and at an elevation higher than 6,000 feet—five generations of Kari and Ty Williams’ family have grown apples and stone fruits in Cedaredge, on Colorado’s Western Slope. Patriarch James Howard (Pap) Williams started with 20 acres of apple trees, but today Ty, Kari, and their family work 600 acres, growing more than 100 apple varieties, as well as peaches, cherries, pears, plums, and even wine grapes. The Williams clan bases its vibrant Snow Capped Cider releases on whole fruit and other fresh ingredients, without any added sweeteners or artificial flavors.
Buzz: A new line of Snow Capped fruit ciders debuted this past summer in sessionable 12-ounce cans; look for the bright, gingery plum-lemongrass variety and the Molly’s Rockies Rosé (a collaboration with Molly’s Spirits), which showcases an aged cider made from local apples blended with elderberries. In early December, expect to see 750-milliliter bottles of a higher-end release: Snow Capped’s floral single varietal Blanc Mollet crafted with French cider apples.
4100 Jason St, Denver
Backstory: Waldschänke co-owner and cidermaker Keane Dufresne has been working in craft beer and brewing for the likes of New Terrain Brewing Company and Tommyknocker Brewery for a decade now. But it was his step-mother (and co-owner) Ruth, who grew up in Switzerland drinking her father’s unfiltered cider, who inspired Keane, his wife, Kelley, and father, John, to open a Swiss-style ciderhouse right here in Denver; the doors opened on October 2. Based on recipes from Ruth’s father, George, who produced cider for his local “waldschenke” (forest tavern), Waldschänke Ciders crafts dry, cloudy hard ciders using juice from Talbott Farms on the Western Slope.
Buzz: While its Swiss-style ciders ferment and age, Waldschänke is busy pouring its friends’ ciders from the 16 taps in its cozy Sunnyside taproom. Expect classic and specialty sippers from Erie’s the Old Mine, Fort Collins’ Summit Hard Cider, and Talbott’s Cider Company, among others. Waldschänke’s own ciders should start flowing by Thanksgiving, and in the new year, the Dufresnes will open a coffee shop in the taproom, too, in partnership with Lakewood’s Mad Loon Coffee Roasters.
350 Terry Street #130, Longmont
Backstory: Owners Cindy and Dean Landi opened St. Vrain Cidery in 2016 to quench their thirst for the apple beverage and their longing for a Longmont community-gathering place. Today, St. Vrain’s sprawling tasting room (and production facility) pours Centennial State ciders from 39 taps, as well as a small selection of local wine, mead, and sake. But don’t overlook St. Vrain’s house creations: The artisanal brand has won 23 medals at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition; in 2019 alone, it took home 10 awards, including a gold medal for its refreshingly tart Pink Guava flavor and a silver for its faintly floral Blackberry Botanical.
Buzz: St. Vrain is celebrating its third anniversary (or Halloversary, since the milestone falls around Halloween every year) from October 23–31 with a bevy of taproom events. Come for a prohibition-themed costume contest on October 29, complete with seasonal gingerbread cider tapping. The spicy brew will also be canned for the first time this fall, and available for sale at select Front Range.
39126 Highway 133, Hotchkiss
Backstory: When his first batch of hard cider—totaling 1,500 bottles—sold out in three weeks back in summer 2011, Big B’s head cidermaker Shawn Larson knew he was onto something, well, big. Now Big B’s produces 14 flavors, and hard cider accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the company’s sales. (Big B’s, established in 1973 by Bernie Heidelman and purchased by Jeff Schwartz and family in 2002, also produces organic cold-pressed apple juices and lemonade and operates 18-acre Delicious Orchards.) Open from May through December, North Fork Valley visitors can stop by the orchard to pick their own apples, pears, apricots, cherries, and other fresh produce; shop at the farm store; and taste Big B’s ciders in the taproom.
Buzz: On October 26, Big B’s will host the eighth annual Colorado Hard Cider Fest, which includes tastings from 10 Colorado makers; camping; live bands; and a late-night DJ dance party. The new Single Variety Wine Sap, a cider brewed entirely with Wine Sap apples grown in Paonia, will be released in spring 2020.