Cider Tripping at the GABF
By Ronald Sansone
So you are one of the lucky ones, headed to The Great American Beer Festival in Denver this October. Over 800 of America’s best breweries gathered in a convention center for three days to pour beer for you sounds like a pretty amazing opportunity but I need to tell you about another delicious thing that you can take advantage of while you are in Denver – it’s CIDER! Fermented, fruity, alcoholic and refreshing…I know a lot of beer drinkers quickly brush off the thought of cider, perhaps after an early encounter with mainstream cloying oversweet ciders, but I think some of the current cider options may change your opinions.
If you are in Denver, there are a few cidermakers I believe you should visit and they are all near breweries, so just add them to your list and pop in for a cider between beers, it will help clear your palate and you can experience some unique ciders. Please check taproom hours before you go!
Ciders Near Beers
Colorado Cider Co. (2650 West 2nd Ave. #10) is located a short distance from Wit’s End Brewing and produces a wide range of ciders worth exploring. Recent bottle releases featured cherries and brett and also Block One, their first cider with apples grown on their Colorado orchard. If you are looking for an interesting hoppy cider, check out Grasshop-Ah, made with lemongrass and hops. The Taproom always has a few unique ciders on draft leaning toward funky and fruity along with their flagship ciders.
Stem Ciders is over in RiNo, or River North (2811 Walnut St.) not far from notable breweries Crooked Stave, Epic Brewing, and Our Mutual Friend. Stem Ciders has been around since 2014 and makes some delicious dry ciders and their taproom features music, great pairing nights and frequent firkins. Favorites here include the Crabby Neighbor, made from slow fermented tart crab apples and granny smith. Also, their red zinfandel barrel-aged La Chene.
Not far from Stem Ciders, C Squared Ciders shares space and a tasting room with Denver’s home for Lager – Bierstadt Lagerhaus also in RiNo (2875 Blake Street) along with solid food selections like Adult Grilled Cheese, The Big Ass Pretzel and the hallertau HopCorn. Two nice ciders here are the Ella, which is dry hopped with Azacca andf Ella hops; and Lila, a cider made with locally grown lavender and honey, along with blue juniper and rose hips.
Also located in RiNo, not too far from Stem and C Squared is The Infinite Monkey Theorem (3200 Larimer St.) which produces a crushable dry hopped pear cider in an urban winery operated by one mad scientist working out of a back alley producing top notch, well-respected deliciously accessible wines that they sometimes put in cans. Yes, wine in a can. If you are looking to drink wine while in town for GABF the casual urban environment is a great place to check out.
Cider plus Bar
One of my favorite Denver cider destinations isn’t in Denver – every time I am in town I take a short ride out to Longmont, home of Oskar Blues Brewery, Left Hand Brewing and not far from Avery Brewing to visit one of my favorite cider spots; St. Vrain Cidery (350 Terry St., Suite 130, Longmont) They are not only a cidery producing their own award winning ciders, but also a taproom featuring 24 draft lines of Colorado ciders! The tap offerings range from dry to sweet and are infused with everything from vanilla to blueberry to hops.
If one liquid refreshment festival isn’t enough for your weekend, there are a few cider events going on during GABF as well! On Saturday, Oct. 7, Stem Ciders will feature their Cidergrass festival which is a celebration of craft cider, the harvest, and Colorado’s best bluegrass music. Also on that day, The Rocky Mountain Cider Association is hosting their Hard Cider Tasting at Lakewood Cider Days – Celebrating Lakewood’s agricultural heritage with an entertaining mix of live performances, activities and tasty harvest treats. Both promise to be unique apple drinking experiences.
Denver has an amazing amount of fantastic beers of every style, and GABF weekend elevates it to epic proportions. The cider scene in Denver is also thriving and if you are seeking non-beer options for a break while you are in town hopefully these suggestions will help guide you toward some new enjoyable cider experiences.