Cider Houses Rule
Thursday night finds my lovely wife Lindz and I on the front porch of our century-old Victorian, and the cool breeze, accomplice to the afternoon storm, gently swaying the yellow and purple hanging basket flowers. Across the street, an American flag flutters over an impeccably manicured lawn. Even as I settle in contentedly, I know something is absent and I find my mind lackadaisically strolling the one-way road to liquid refreshment.
Beer feels like settling, and going out for wine may very well lead to a three-day weekend. I need the same elixir that kept President John Adams going until age 91; I need hard cider! Time to head to my personal garden of Eden, better known around this orchard as Colorado Common Hard Cider.
As I slide through the open doorway, my eyes take a moment to adjust to the soft light cast through the brown glass of the upturned cider bottle chandelier; the white beams escape through the cracks to reach as far as their fade allows. To the right, next to the partition that separates the work from the fun, a group of four takes advantage of Colorado Common’s large selection of board games. As the Parcheesi pieces move, the smiles and soft banter remind me of long-ago summer family game nights. Opposite the corner overflowing with games hangs a cork dart board, ready to evoke playful competition among friends, old and new alike. Through the large garage door opening at the back of the warehouse, the fresh Rocky Mountain air rolls in like waves on a white sand beach.
Two empty seats at the corner of the horseshoe bar look comfortable and provide a commanding view of the cider tap handles that protrude from the bar. From behind the taps pops a smiling and friendly Katie (Murray), who I would later learn runs Colorado Common with her husband, Matthew Bonno. Always the full-experiencers, we order two Flights of all four. Each comes with four 4-ounce glasses of different ciders, served on a wooden mountain tray. We press Katie with questions between sips, ending with, “Where do your apples come from?” Steadfast in her knowledge, Katie explains where Colorado Common sources their Washington apples and the journey that positioned the company where it is today. Once my questions are satisfied, I secretly hope that Katie will finish with,
“How do you like them apples?”
Well, Matt Damon, I apparently love them apples because all four ciders were spectacular. Beyond being delicious, cider has played an important role in American history. Our early settlers found the New England soil loved their old English apple seeds and joyfully produced an abundance of the fruit. To prolong the fruit’s perishable life, the settlers created cider, and it promptly became a life staple and a safer alternative to the questionable water supplies of the time. Even children enjoyed Ciderkin, a watered-down version with less alcohol. It seems America has always loved its cider!
Of the four ciders we savored, the two that stood out for their quality and uniqueness were the Original Hopped Apple Cider and the Boxing Brothers Pecan Cider. The Original Hopped Apple Cider was dry and crisp, culminating with just enough citrus to get your attention. The flavor reminded me of the Müller-Thurgau white wine that I grew so fond of while living in Deutschland, explaining why it lingered in the fringes of my memory long after leaving. Opposite in flavor and finish, the Boxing Brothers Pecan Cider was special in its own way. This apple cider is aged in a bourbon barrel that produces a sweet robust flavor with after-tones of Maker’s Mark. The remarkable finish hangs around like a good friend who stays until he knows you’re ready. First time in? Go with the flight and enjoy your delicious descent into hard brewed bliss.
David Troudt, general manager of The Ice Cave Cider House in Monument, assures customers that the art of brewing is not dead, but alive and well. “It seems there’s a growing sense that craft brewing is fading… we use the word craft with a clear conscience. We are small, local, and family. We built this bar and those tables. We drive to the orchards and speak with our suppliers personally. We bring back the juice, fill the fermenters, measure, stir, pitch, rack, blend, sample, keg, and serve the cider. We tend our own bar because we enjoy the experience of sharing our craft with you.”
When you’re looking to celebrate Colorado grown and Colorado made, swing by this cider house for a true art that’s brewed with love. The Ice Cave Cider House embraces their customers as passionately as their trade: every month a patron is selected for Go Cider Me, a program to spread the love and buy a stranger a drink.
At Front Range BBQ in Old Colorado City, guests can savor ribs while enjoying those crisp Colorado apples with Colorado Cider Company’s flagship Glider Cider. Glider Cider offers a hint of tartness and semi-dry finish to appeal to customers looking for something different than the mass-market usual. For a whole new taste, try Starcut Cider’s Squishy, featuring tart Michigan cherries.
In Pueblo, Brues Alehouse offers cider from both Washington and Colorado. C Squared Ciders from Denver focuses on natural ingredients without added sugars or preservatives, combining extensive craft brewing experience with cider techniques to expand their art. Their Rotator is available at Brues, but their other options include Ginger, with fresh ginger root, and Nona, with delicate honey aromas.
If you’re looking for another way to enjoy Colorado Cider’s Glider Cider, head to Fifty Burger in Salida. Along with cider and beer from across Colorado, Fifty Burgers offers made in-house options with local ingredients and brisket, chicken, turkey, and fish. Glider Cider makes another appearance at Tennessee Pass Café in Leadville, who serves, in addition to Colorado buffalo and trout, microbrews from Fort Collins to Durango and all points in between. Tennessee Pass Café serves the original and cherry versions of Glider.
Moving further west, the orchards at Big B’s in Hotchkiss are open from May to December. In addition to fresh picked apples, Big B’s offers up local cherries, pears, and apricots. When in season, visitors can pick their own—plus
nectarines, plums, and peaches. Find Big B’s at Treeline Kitchen in Leadville, then try Treeline’s Colorado cornbread or balsamic roasted lamb. Treeline also features liquor from around Colorado—like Deerhammer in Buena Vista and Breckenridge Distillery—in their house cocktails.
With the Front Range cider movement in full fermentation, getting remarkable cider does not have to be hard! At the next thirst calling, skip the beer and head over to the nearest cidery to join their family of apple aficionados.