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Imagine it’s a hot Colorado day and adults are looking for alcoholic beverages to help beat the heat. Many seek out beer, seltzers and cocktails. But, for Georgetown’s Sam Al-Jassim and many …
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Imagine it’s a hot Colorado day and adults are looking for alcoholic beverages to help beat the heat. Many seek out beer, seltzers and cocktails.
But, for Georgetown’s Sam Al-Jassim and many others, the answer is cider.
This fruit wine has grown in popularity in the United States and Colorado over the last 10 years, and cideries, taprooms and tasterooms have recently opened across the Denver metro area.
Unfortunately, the sugary national brands have given cider a bit of a bad reputation, but locals are working to correct that, saying there’s something for everyone.
“We have seen people who don’t like cider try it and come back,” Al-Jassim, a manager at Clear Creek Cidery & Eatery in Idaho Springs, said. “I feel like there’s a cider for everybody.”
At its core
Like wine, the drink has a range of dryness and sweetness, with some falling at either end and some in the middle, bar manager Blaise Scott-Miller described. The industry also offers a variety of flavors — anything from mojito to blueberry lavender.
Idaho Springs’ cidery hopes to introduce its own line of ciders later this year, but in the meantime, it has nine Colorado ciders on-tap and 14 in cans.
For beer-drinkers who are reluctant to try cider, Al-Jassim said he recommends Colorado Cider Company’s Grasshopp-ah, which has more of a hops taste.
Cider’s gluten-free profile is one reason it’s become so popular. Bartender A.J. Sena said she prefers cider because it typically has less sugar than beer and is lower in alcohol content than liquor.
Thus, she posited, it’s healthier overall than other alcoholic drinks.
Plus, there’s a lot of craftsmanship in the cider industry, she added, commenting, “The art behind it is intriguing for a lot of people.”
Scott-Miller said he fell in love with the drink because he started working at the cidery and enjoys dry ciders in particular. Now, he said, he would choose it over beer for reasons of taste and health.
Longmont’s Deb Evangelista and Sarah Holloway, who stopped by the cidery last week after visiting the hot springs, sampled a flight of ciders and a glass during their dinner.
Evangelista said she appreciated cider’s gluten-free nature, commenting, “It’s nice (for those with allergies) to have that alternative.”
A blooming industry
Cider is made from fermented fruit — primarily apples — and is most popular in Britain and other parts of Europe. Brad Page, owner of Denver-based Colorado Cider Company and board member of the Colorado Cider Guild, said it used to be a common drink in the United States but fell out of favor before Prohibition.
However, as the craft beverage movement began in earnest, Page said it was only a matter of time until ciders saw a revival.
When Colorado Cider Company opened in 2011, it was the first commercial cidery in the area. Then, between 2013 and 2018, the industry exploded, and now, Page estimated there were probably 18 across Colorado.
Recently, though, the industry has taken two major hits. The first is the pandemic, which restricted capacities and forced many cideries to survive on to-go orders. The other is the rise of hard seltzer, which Page said breweries can mass-produce at relatively low cost.
While Page was unsure whether the metro area will see more cideries in the near future, he said the existing ones are definitely growing.
Luke Furey, operations manager at Golden-based Colorado + 49 Cidery & Pub, was more optimistic. He believes more cideries will pop up in Colorado over the next five years as they gain more national popularity.
Of course, cider-makers aren’t advocating that Coloradans completely abandon beer. After all, there’s no reason why drinks have to be mutually exclusive, as there’s plenty of local craftsmanship to go around.
Page pointed out that the British — the world’s biggest cider drinkers — often drink beer and cider in the same sitting. Plus, Clear Creek and some other cideries keep beer on tap, offer flights of beer and/or cider, and can make beer-cider mixes.
So, whether people are die-hard fans, casual drinkers or uninitiated, Al-Jassim and his colleagues only ask that they keep an open mind and explore what local cideries have to offer.
“If I was going to drink something, it’d be a cider for sure,” Al-Jassim said.
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