Brad's Blog

December 16th, 2013.  We're just about up to speed again after our expansion this Summer/Fall and are shipping out our first batch of Cherry Glider tomorrow. We kept with CCC tradition and didn't make it too sweet.  I wanted to have the cherry evident but not so overpowering that you couldn't finish a glass.  Hopefully we've got the balance right that you'll want more than one glass!  It's been cold and we last visited our trees over Thanksgiving weekend.  We're looking forward to seeing them bud out in the Spring and getting ready for the next planting. We've got about 2,000 additional trees to plant this coming Spring and it seems like its just around the corner.  We hope to have our first "Pommeau" available in the next couple of weeks as well.  We're calling it "Distraction" and it's coming in around 14.5% ABV.  We distilled some cider last Fall and aged it in a rum barrel for one year.  That will be tasty!   The Pearsnickety is about to debut again as we were suprised at how fast it went earlier in the year.  We bougth about 100,000 pounds of pears this Fall and hope to see our local Perry for a bit longer this Perry season.  Maybe I'll even write more than two blog postings in 2014!  You never know.
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I’m the worst. My last post was February, 2012.  It’s now April 2013 and the cider scene is heating up.  Still kind of Luke warm compared to beer but seeing as there was hardly any cider around a couple of years ago I’d have to say we’re on FIRE. We’ve come out with a couple of new products; Mel, or “Pome” Mel was introduced last summer and our Lavender Rosemary infused Cyser was a hit with some.  We use about 50% honey and the rest Granny Smith to make a Cyser that’s light and herbal.  We’re about to launch our Perry. We’re calling that “PearSnickety”.  It should be out in early May.  We use all Colorado Bartlett Pears and it’s on the dry side as is all our stuff. Our “Uvana” is in the tank and will be an annual hybrid of local grapes and apples. This year it’s Riesling Grapes from Palisade and Granny Smith Apples from Eckert. Who knows, maybe next year we’ll do something with red grapes or both!  No Boundaries.

We formed the Rocky Mountain Cider Association and the inaugural members are Blossomwood Cidery in Cedaredge, North Fork Cellars in Hotchkiss, Montana Ciderworks in Sula, Montana and Colorado Cider Company here in the metropolis. Our immediate goal is to develop a little cider festival within the Lakewood Cider Days and eventually become a central point for helping the industry develop in the Rocky Mountain Region. We’ve got some Associate Members who have cidery’s in planning in New Mexico and Montana as well as 3 or 4 in the works here in Colorado.

I also worked quite a bit on the formation of the National Cider Association. We formed the United States Association of Cider Makers during “Cidercon” in Chicago in February. If you are interested you can join at www.ciderassociation.org and help us grow this thing nationally. We hope to develop our annual conference and one day have a national festival a la GABF.  This first year I’m the Board Member “At-large” as the Rocky Mountain region does not really have much going on yet.  Looks like that’s going to change. 

Kathe and I are going over to our farm and plant our first 1,200 cider apple trees in a couple of weeks.  We’ve been avid gardeners all our lives but this is a whole new ball game. Until there are commercial apple growers convinced that these bittersweet apple varieties are worth their time we will have to get things started ourselves. Our hope is that it serves as a source for scion wood locally and a resource for commercial growers to grow these for us.

We have a pretty major expansion in the works and hope to keep growing and seeing more of our cider around.  Thanks everyone who has supported us and those of you who will in the future!

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O.K., so I’m not the most prolific blogger. I noticed that the last post stated “8 months in” which would have made it August.  It’s now February of 2012.  Much has happened and yet it’s only been 6 months since my last confession.  I mean blog. The big news for Colorado Cider Company was being picked up by Elite Brands in October.  We all survived the crazy week that GABF is here in Denver and started distribution in earnest.  We introduced Grasshop-ah, our lemongrassed, dry-hopped cider, to the market and for the holidays we unveiled Ol’ Stumpy.  Grasshop-ah was a direct acknowledgement that people out there are looking for flavor outside of traditional apple.  We get that and came up with this herbal concoction we hope will appeal to those who think apple is too mundane.  The lemon grass gives it a nice citrus flavor and the hop bitterness and nose give it an aroma and mouth-feel that’s quite nice. On the flip side Ol’ Stumpy has about 50% of its juice pedigree from traditional cider apples.  We bought a bunch of juice from a grower in New England who has been growing these traditional tannic cider apples for use in yummy ciders.  We aged some in Oak barrels and blended it together to make Ol’ Stumpy. We have bottled all the 2010 harvest and are aging the 2011 Ol’ Stumpy. So, what’s next?  We have a honey cider, or Cyser, in the tank and are going to launch that sometime in the Spring. We’ve bought some barrels to use in aging Ol’ Stumpy. I think we’ll probably age some of the high-test honey cider in a Rum Barrel and we bought a Brandy Barrel that is slated for aging a Pommeau.  What’s a Pommeau? It’s pairing of apple juice and brandy. We’ve been working with a local distillery and hope to have some aging in the near future.

                On the global cider front (it’s a small world) big news was made a couple of weeks ago when SAB/Miller/Molson/Coors bought Crispin Cider.  Crispin had bought Fox Barrel a while back and has been flooding the market with Cider.  We had a Cidermakers conference in Chicago in February and there was much discussion as to what GlobalBeerCo will do to the cider market here in the USA.  Most of us think it will be good for everyone as it will put cider on the radar.  There is some fear that they’ll commoditize cider and make it difficult for the small guys.  I think as long as there are cidermakers out there connected to the orchards and making flavorful ciders the appreciation will grow. The key for those of us interested in cider as a craft product is to try and get more real cider fruit grown.  It’s a slow process but there are more and more people planting traditional cider apple trees out there. 

                We opened our tasting room in November and while Friday afternoon is kind of slow we’ve seen some good traffic on Saturdays. With the days growing longer we’ll probably extend our hours and maybe even open on Sundays. With warm weather we can open the dock doors and have a beautiful view of the electrical supply warehouse across the parking lot.  We hope to see you here!

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A mere 4 months after getting Glider Cider into the market I've found my way onto the blog page.  What to write about cider? For most people there's not much to say as their awareness is so limited the most common question we have at festivals is: "Is there alcohol in it"? Don't get me wrong, we get our share of cider fans, and while we take pains to point out that our ciders "aren't sweet", most people's reference is Woodchuck. I think the American Craft Cider Makers are battling the perception that ciders are somehow soda pop, Mike's Hard Lemonade, or should be sweetened with Blueberries. Hopefully we will contribute to the perception of what ciders are and can be.

I started in the Micro-Brewing business in 1988 as the assistant brewer at the Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver. I remember well the reaction people had to the beer with hop flavor. (almost imperceptible to today's hopping rates) My friend Russell Schehrer was all about "warm and flat is where it's at". Traditional English Ales were lower alcohol, served at "cellar" temperature and were subtle in their balance between malt and hops. Subtle but incredibly flavorful compared to what was seen as "beer" in those days.  Boulder Beer was around but still not available in too many places, the Boiler Room in the old Tivoli Building had Redhook and Thomas Kemper on tap and Old Chicago had a selection of beer that was huge for the day.

I was fortunate to be able to become a partner and founding Brewmaster at CooperSmith's in Ft. Collins the following year. We opened in November of 1989 and Odell's opened down the street two weeks later.  All the sudden Fort Collins had two breweries and the flood gates opened. We put on the first Colorado Brewer's Festival that following Summer (1990) after I had attended the Oregon Brewer's Festival in 1989.  We had 9 craft breweries, Coors and AB. We all just wanted people to learn about craft beer.  I know it's hard to believe but we all were just trying to get people to find out about this great renewal in American Brewing.  Wynkoop and CooperSmith's started making cider that year as well and it was just another product that fit into the whole scene.  As we were breweries we had to get permission from the ATF to make "cider" and they just required that we use 25% malt sugar to qualify as "beer".  They also prohibited us from selling it off premise.

My wife Kathe and I researched making cider as a business, visited the western slope, and found out that, in those days, if you wanted to have any carbonation and sell it on draft like they drink it in England, you'd have to pay the same tax rate as champagne (cider being defined as a wine) which killed the deal. Fast forward to 1998 and the law was modified to create a sub category in the wine regulations and the Craft Cider Industry was given a little more leeway to grow. About that time we had moved to Argentina to open a brewery and after opening a Brewpub in Buenos Aires and fleeing the collapse of their economy we moved back to Denver.  We were out of the business until last year when we decided it was finally time to try the Craft Cider thing.

Traditional Cider is made with apple varieties that have been selected over the years for their contribution to flavor after fermentation.  These apples have great tannin, woody flavors and are not eating apples. Unfortunately those apples are hard to come by in the U.S.A.  Prohibition made those apples undesirable and most apple farmers pulled up trees that didn't produce something for the dessert market. The common varieties for the grocery store have become a commodity and are not the best apples for making cider. Once you ferment the juice there's not a whole lot of flavor left over and the task for cider makers in the U.S. is to find apples that can contribute flavor to hard cider. We're working on lining up apples from Colorado and wherever we can afford to find quality fruit for our ciders. Just like people's perception of beer 20 years ago cider is a work in progress here in the States and we are excited to be a part of its resurgence. We're doing our best to get the word out and introduce our "Glider" cider to the Front Range. We're working on a couple of specialty ciders and talking to some distributors who will help us get wider availability.  I'll try and talk about our plans, new releases and whatever crosses my addled brain in postings to come.

Cheers!