Cider Season

Colorado Hard Ciders Make for Inspired Sips

With the fan base for the fermented drink growing, a new festival debuts in Snowmass this September to spotlight some of the country’s best craft cideries.

Photography by Todd Hartley July 26, 2018 Published in the Midsummer/Fall 2018 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Here in Aspen, we like to think of ourselves as hip to the latest trends. But when it comes to hard cider, we’ve been behind the times.

It’s no secret that alcoholic cider has become a thing in the world of adult beverages. Flavor profiles have expanded well beyond the sugary, mass-produced varieties that used to be the only option, and craft cideries are popping up all over.

Except locally, that is. Colorado has some 21 cideries, but none of them is in Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, or Glenwood Springs. What gives?

Seeking to raise awareness, Snowmass will host the inaugural Cidermass festival September 8 on the Mall (1–4 p.m., $25 in advance, $30 day of); it’ll be an afternoon bridge between that morning’s Snowmass Balloon Festival and the evening’s Septemberfest. Expected to draw 20 to 30 vendors sampling their finest ciders, the event aims to help the Roaring Fork Valley get wise to the appeal of this lighter, gluten-free alternative to beer.

“I was in New Zealand and Ireland, and everyone was drinking cider,” says Reed Lewis, owner of Daly

Bottle Shop in Snowmass Village and the mastermind behind Cidermass.

Having witnessed the popularity of other tasting events in the village, he saw an opportunity to share his enthusiasm during the already-popular balloon fest weekend.

“There are so many great ciders out there, and we’ve seen it explode in liquor stores the last couple of years,” he adds. “I thought it would be a fun event—a way for people to try a lot of different ciders and for the cideries to get their product out to the public.” 

Fortunately for us, despite the dearth of craft cider makers in the valley, Colorado’s nearby Western Slope has a burgeoning scene, befitting an area long known for producing excellent fruit. Palisade, Hotchkiss, and Cedaredge each have top-notch cideries that distribute their products locally.

“People are realizing that it’s good,” says Shawn Larson, head cider maker for Big B’s in Hotchkiss. “I think that there’s probably room for a lot of boutique-style cideries, where people can just sample cider at those locations.” Whether that translates into more local products on liquor store shelves, Larson notes, remains to be seen.

Big B’s offers more than a dozen year-round and seasonal ciders in stores and at its taproom in Paonia. Snow Capped Cider, which grows its fruit on the south slopes of Grand Mesa in the little town of Cedaredge, crafts a line of store-available ciders in flavors like habanero lime, “jalapearño,” and peach.

And three-year-old Talbott’s Cider Company, an offshoot of a family farm dating to 1907, has products available in select Western Slope stores and at the company’s new taproom in Palisade, which opened in June.

“The cider business is booming,” says Talbott’s head cider maker, Christopher Leader, who started the company with his cousin, Charles Talbott. “Now is a good time to jump in, so we just kind of went for it.”

With any luck, it won’t be too long before someone around here does the same. 


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