Brad and Kathe Page, founders of Colorado Cider Company, are celebrating the second anniversary of their tasting room this weekend, and it couldn't come at a better time. "We just put the expansion in," explains Brad, "so we're tripling our capacity. We have seven brands in the market, so things are good."
So good, in fact, that the Pages are having to put draft accounts on hold because they haven't been able to keep up with demand.
Colorado Cider Company's anniversary couldn't come at a more interesting time in the cider world, too. Both the newly formed Rocky Mountain Cider Association and events like Lakewood's annual Cider Days have helped propel this budding craft industry in Colorado. Cider, which has been overlooked by American drinkers in past years, is making a strong comeback -- and growing quickly as a niche spirits industry that sparks curiosity and increasing loyalty.
Brad Page's interest in cider was fostered during his time as a brewer. "I was a brewer from Fort Collins back at the beginning of the microbrew thing, and Kathe and I left to move to South America and launch a brewery there," he explains. "We had always been interested in cider -- we looked for land to grow apples on the Western Slope twenty years ago, but it wasn't right just then. In 2008 I was building houses in Denver, and when things crashed, we started thinking about it again. We went back and bought property in Hotchkiss -- we just planted our trees this year, but in the meantime, we're getting most of our apples from the Hotchkiss area."
The Pages were attracted to the farming and agricultural side of cider-making, and they'd been in the business long enough to feel that they could open a cidery. When they did in April 2011, they were one of the first in Colorado -- technically second only to Blossomwood, the pioneering commercial operation. "Cider sort of occupies an interesting place between wine and beer," explains Brad. "Culturally, the British drink the most cider in the world and they look at it from a consumption standpoint as more like beer; we're the only country that doesn't see cider immediately as an alcoholic beverage. It was the same for a time in the U.S.; cider had the same meaning in this country until Prohibition. The temperance people tried to get it away from alcohol and back to the purity of apple juice with no alcohol."
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The cider at Colorado Cider Company has a lot of parallels to beer, even though it occupies a fuzzy space between beer and wine. The Pages currently make seven ciders with very different flavor profiles: the flagship Glider Cider, a dry Glider Cider, a botanical-packed Grasshop-ah, a limited-edition heritage cider called Ol' Stumpy, a honey-laced Pome Mel, the all-pear Pearsnickety and the Uvana, a wondrous blend of Colorado wine grapes and apples.
Brad enjoys the educational aspect of cider, too. "There are a lot of beer people who are open to all kinds of things; then there are people who go on beer tours and just say they want IPA," he says. "A lot of beer people have a preconceived notion about the limitations of cider, when really there is a huge range of ciders and complexity of flavor."
And the fact that cider isn't tied-down by the kind of definitions that wine and beer are held to gives the company a lot of creative license -- even with the many cider purists who do exist.
Denver residents can join in the cider revolution this Sunday, October 20, at the tasting room's second anniversary party, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m. at 2650 West Second Avenue in Denver. Attendees can try the full range of Colorado Cider Company creations, from the pure to the inventive; the party will also feature a bluegrass duo and the Quiero Arepas food truck. For more information, check out the official website and Colorado Cider Facebook page.