Attention craft beverage lovers, there’s a new game in town! The game is crisp, fruity and fun, and it comes straight from the heartland of good ole’ Virginia, dating back to the days of Thomas Jefferson. The game is cider and we’ve got to say, it’s pretty darn refreshing.
In 2012, Virginia became the first state to proclaim a “Cider Week.” Since then, the Virginia craft beverage industry has seen a steady rise in cideries and cider makers throughout the state. With Virginia being one of the largest producers of apples (in quantity and variety) and a leading producer of wine and craft beer, it’s kind of a no brainer. Today, Virginia cideries are located in almost every city and charming small town in Virginia, appealing to a growing consumer base and producing several variations of cider from a diverse portfolio of apple varieties. Cider offers a crisp, refreshing, and sometimes sweet option for those looking for an alternative beverage of choice.
This summer, the Virginia Wine Marketing Office was kind enough to send us a few Virginia ciders for sampling (and enjoying). While we are traditionally wine drinkers we loved tasting each of these unique ciders and picking apart the differences in flavor, acidity and structure.
The Harrison from Blue Bee Cider
The Harrison from Blue Bee Cider is the second in their Heirloom Series. Harrison dates back to the early 1800s-1900s and was the leading cider apple in the Mid-Atlantic and Eastern U.S. at that time. This beautiful golden colored cider is tannic and full-bodied with notes of golden raisins and orange zest. We enjoyed this bottle on a hot summer evening and it was the perfect solution to the brutal humidity. Blue Bee Cider recommends pairing the Harrison with savory pies, cheddar cheeses or pork tenderloin.
Blue Bee Cider is located in the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood in Richmond. It is one of the first cideries in RVA and the first urban cidery to open its doors in Virginia. They began production in 2012 and they pride themselves on making ciders from rare and heirloom apples known for their tannin, acidity and flavor.
The tasting room is open Monday-Friday from 1pm-9pm, Saturday from 12pm-10pm and Sunday from 12pm-8pm. Food trucks frequent the establishment on Saturdays, but you’re welcome to bring your own food or order delivery from one of the great restaurants in Scott’s Addition.
The Royal Pippin Cider from Albemarle Cider Works
The Albemarle Pippin is typically known for being a dessert and culinary apple. That said, it also makes a fabulous single varietal cider. Different from the Harrison, the Royal Pippin has more fruit forward notes of pineapple and grape, with an acidity that we loved and that classic apple taste. Albemarle Cider Works recommends pairing this with a roasted chicken over winter root vegetables (yum!) or lemony scallops and poached salmon.
Albemarle Cider Works opened in July 2009 after almost a decade of growing fruit trees in North Garden, VA. The first year, Albemarle Cider Works fermented and bottled three distinctive ciders which were very well received: Jupiter’s Legacy and Ragged Mountain comprised their blended offerings, and Royal Pippin became their first single varietal. Since then, they have introduced other single varietals and blends including the first “Special Reserve,” Virginia Hewe’s Crab.
The tasting room is located just south of Charlottesville, VA and is open everyday from 11am-5pm (through December– see website for winter hours). The tasting room features live music, a selection of local fare and a great opportunity to sit back, relax and experience an introduction to cider.
The Serious Cider from Foggy Ridge Cider
The Serious Cider is a seriously a good cider. The Serious is comprised of traditional English cider apples and tart American favorites. Together, this combination forms a crisp, light and food-friendly cider. It’s a perfect afternoon picnic accompaniment, excellent with cheeses (think creamy brie or a tangy goat), fruit and a charcuterie platter! And if that’s not enough to intrigue you, the Serious Cider won a Gold Medal in the 2008 National Women’s Wine Competition.
Foggy Ridge Cider began in 1997 with a cider apple orchard in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. Founder Diane Flynt “grows ingredients”—bitter and acidic apples like Hewe’s Crab, Harrison, Tremlett’s Bitter, Ashmead’s Kernel and Dabinett, all full of complex flavor. The Foggy Ridge crew crafts traditional cider apples into fine cider using all the skill and expertise of modern fermentation.
Foggy Ridge Cider is located in Dugspur, VA, a rural community surrounded by dirt roads, wildlife and the perfect place for taking in a starry night. The Foggy Ridge Cider tasting room is open for the season every Saturday from 11 to 5 and Sundays from 12 to 5. And if you can’t visit, you can have the cider delivered straight to your door!
The Farmhouse Dry from Potter’s Craft Cider
The Farmhouse Dry is slightly different than each of the ciders above, and in a good way! Although it’s still crisp, tart and exceptionally dry (which we love), it also has more tropical and stone fruit notes than the others. A pronounced fruit aroma of peach and melon forms an interesting and refreshing beverage. We’d liken this to the Viognier of cider. The Farmhouse Dry pairs well with pork, duck, wild game and aged cheeses.
Potter’s Craft Cider is located in Free Union, VA, just outside of Charlottesville. College buddies, Tim Edmond and Dan Potter, were tired of their desk jobs and brought their love of brewing to the cider scene. The duo renovated a horse farm and planted their first orchard in 2012. They haven’t looked back since.
While Potter’s Craft Cider is currently working on their (AWESOME) Airstream trailer tasting room, they have a Charlottesville tasting room open in collaboration with Bridge PAI. You can taste their ciders on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as at special pop up events!
We are looking forward to future visits to Blue Bee Cider, Albemarle Cider Works, Foggy Ridge Cider and Potter’s Craft Cider to check out the tasting rooms and sample their other varieties in person.
Cheers to another great addition to the Virginia craft beverage scene!