The biggest misconception about hard cider is that it's just sweet, boozy apple juice for adults. “Truly, cider-making is wine-making,” says Talia Haykin, owner and CEO of Haykin Family Cider. “Many ciders function as a gluten-free alternative to beer with similar flavors.”
She adds that the ciders Haykin produces are just as diverse as wine, with light, bright and refreshing profiles similar to white wine, and rich, tannic and deep ciders that are reminiscent of reds. “People think that ciders are all light and fruity, but they have so much more depth than they are expecting," she says.
These ten Colorado-made ciders are ideal for the season and showcase how diverse the category can be. From a bourbon-barrel-aged option to one made with local hops and others flavored with additions like peaches and pumpkin, here's what you should be sipping this fall:
Haykin Family Cider
“Snowdrift is as tannic as a red wine,” Haykin notes. “Just as some red wines can be earthy and enigmatic, so is Snowdrift. Its deeper, richer notes make it a great pairing for when the leaves are changing and there is a bit of a chill in the air.” For this cider, a combination of Washington-grown Snowdrift Crabapples and Colorado-grown Gala apples are used, and like all the ciders made by Haykin, it is produced with no sugar or other flavorings, so you experience the pure essence of the apples.
Waldschänke Ciders & Coffee
Waldschänke Ciders & Coffee may be Swiss-inspired, but Hot Fuzz has true Colorado flare thanks to the addition of peaches and chile peppers. The sweetness of the peaches is balanced with the warming heat of habanero, creating a peppery cider with subdued spice. It’s classified as an off-dry cider, which means it falls between dry and sweet. The cidery defines "off-dry" as beginning slightly sweet, then drying out the palate.
Trunk & Twig
This option is made by aging a sour cider for six months in oak bourbon barrels from local distillers. BOCO Cider owner Michael Belochi says it has been a best seller for a long time. “It includes a healthy splash of very expensive dark, high-quality Vermont maple syrup and has a very layered, unique taste profile,” he notes, describing it as “a cider version of comfort food." As with all the ciders at this Boulder producer, it’s not filtered, pasteurized or made with sulfites.
Fenceline Cider in Mancos is dedicated to upcycling local apples in southwest Colorado to create award-winning ciders. It was also named Colorado Cider Producer of the Year at the New York International Cider Competition this year. Catkin is said to be the cider for beer lovers, made with a blend of local traditional IPA hops, including Cascade and Cashmere. The result is a dry cider with floral aromas and tasting notes of citrus, lemongrass, honeydew and ripe strawberries.
Chai Hard Cider
Locust Cider was founded in Washington but now has taprooms at Belmar in Lakewood as well as Old Town Fort Collins. This is the second year that it has offered Chai Hard Cider as a limited seasonal release. The off-dry cider is a blend of Washington apples, hints of vanilla and Chai spices. Other seasonal favorites are the semi-sweet Cold Brew Coffee Hard Cider, made with coffee and hazelnut, and the semi-sweet Dark Maple, with dates, maple and brown sugar.
Audrey and Daniel Reagan originally wanted to open a brewery, but with so many beer options already on the scene, they began considering other ideas. Audrey also has gluten intolerance, so the couple decided to open a cidery instead, debuting Wild Cider in Longmont in 2019. An autumn favorite is Hard Pumpkin, with flavors of fall spices and natural pumpkin flavor. Its Spiced Apple Pie, with orange, nutmeg and cinnamon, is also a fall go-to.
Colorado Cider Company
This one isn’t actually a cider; it’s a perry, which means instead of apples, it’s made with pears. To make it, the cidery utilized Colorado-grown Bartlett pears from Grand Valley. The result is an extra-pale dry perry with sweet pear flavor. It recently earned Colorado Cider Company an award at the largest cider competition in the world, the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, where it took third place in the Modern Perry category.
To make Pommeau, which is a popular aperitif in northern France, Stem Ciders blended its fresh apple cider with apple brandy. “It’s very apple-forward, but also has so many other fun notes after barrel aging,” says Patrick Combs, director of liquids, who adds that there are notes of candied citrus, marzipan, hazelnut and coffee. The alcohol content is much higher than that of your average cider, coming in at 18 percent ABV.
St. Vrain Cidery
St. Vrain teamed up with its Longmont neighbors, Dry Land Distillers, for this unfiltered pommeau. To make it, Dry Land distilled the cidery’s Dry Chokeberry cider before it was blended with Colorado apple juice to make a sweet, small-batch apple brandy that’s 18.5 percent ABV.