Cider may be indelibly written into American history, but no matter how many pints John Adams drank with breakfast, it’s a beverage that confuses us. Cider, to everyone but Americans, implies the presence of alcohol; here, unless we preface it with “hard,” we picture the hot, spiced variety that warms us up after a romp through fallen leaves. Even then, the hard ciders sold on American shelves differ vastly from sweet and mass-produced to bracingly dry and hand-crafted.
So, the drink requires a bit of education. Luckily, Virginia lays claim to eight cider makers that not only make complex, artisanal cider, but that also dedicate themselves to preaching its colonial-turned-modern word. And from November 9 through the 17, they’ll get a stage to do so. Virginia’s first Cider Week, an event made possible by grant money from the Virginia Wine Board and the colossal organizational efforts of board member and Foggy Ridge Cider owner Diane Flynt, is only the second in the nation to exist.
A gubernatorial proclamation, made at a launch party at Brookville Restaurant two weeks ago, came from Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, who impressed us with the fact that our state’s 20,000 acres of apple trees make it the sixth largest producer in the country, generating $33 million in sales. And that’s even before the apples get pressed and fermented into drinkable form.
If Flynt, the first of the bushel to market her cider in 2006, is the movement’s grande dame, the guys behind Potter’s Craft Cider, Tim Edmond and Dan Potter, are its newest poster children. The 27-year-old friends from Princeton quit conventional careers to make livings as cider makers in 2011, and now have bottles and kegs of their Farmhouse Dry Cider in more than 50 retailers and restaurants across the state. And with a young, moving-and-shaking network around them, the duo has added the stamp of cool to this local libation that’s as akin to fine wine as it is to craft beer.
Cider Week’s your chance to meet the cider makers behind Albemarle Ciderworks, Bold Rock Cider, Castle Hill Cider, Foggy Ridge Cider, and Potter’s Craft Cider, to taste their cider, and to discover just how versatile a partner it is with both dinners out (from MAS Tapas to Keswick Hall) and dinners at home (from macaroni and cheese to Thanksgiving meal). So, get out there and taste the history. You’re bound to like dem apples quite a bit.
Here are our picks for Virginia Cider Week. Visit ciderweekva.com for a full schedule and for a list of where to find your favorite ciders:
Friday, November 9, 4:30-6:30pm at Feast! ($15)
Get the party started with a cider and artisan food tasting and a welcome from scholar in residence Gary Nabhan. Purchase tickets in advance at Feast!, or or by calling 244-7800.
Saturday, November 10, noon-2pm at Fifth Season (Free)
Fancy making cider at home? Learn how-tos straight from the experts, buy your own kit, and put all those apples you picked to good use.
Sunday, November 11, 5-8pm at Albermarle Ciderworks ($65)
Dine on delights from chefs Jason Alley of Richmond’s Pasture and Comfort restaurants, Lee Gregory from The Roosevelt, and Angelo Vangelopoulos from the Ivy Inn while sipping cider, listening to apple experts Tom Buford and Gary Nabhan, and supporting event beneficiary Southern Foodways Alliance. Purchase tickets at hill.holler @gmail.com.
Monday, November 12, 7pm at The Whiskey Jar ($55)
Savor the season with a fall menu that includes quail in cider glaze, wild rice, housemade sausage dressing, Hoppin’ John-stuffed pumpkins, and, of course, cider to wash it all down. Call 202-1549 for reservations.
Tuesday, November 13, 6-8pm at Market Street Wineshop Downtown (Free)
Taste them all, pick a favorite, and stock up for the holidays.
Wednesday, November 14, 5-7pm at The Local (Free)
Enjoy cider while you meet and mingle with the people who make it.
Saturday, November 17, 2pm to 6pm at Castle Hill Cider ($20)
Usher Cider Week out with a bang at the final hoorah, where there’ll be cider makers, edible treats, live music, and plenty of cider. Limited reservations available. Purchase tickets at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 296-0047.
An apple cocktail a day…
While cider’s delicious straight-up, it also makes a perfect cocktail component. Belly up to one of these bars during Cider Week for one (or all) of these special cider-based cocktails. Visit Cider Week’s Facebook page for latecomers’ concoctions and to vote on your favorite!
Beer Run’s “Eve’s Black Heart”
Albemarle Ciderworks Royal Pippin, Victory Donnybrook Dry Irish Stout, Laird’s Applejack Brandy
Horse & Hound’s “The Hound”
Bold Rock Virginia Draft Hard Cider, Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer, Maker’s Mark, lime
MAS Tapas’ “ChichicapaBangBang”
Single Village Mezcal, Potter’s Craft Farmhouse Dry Cider, salted apple, prickly pear purée
Whiskey Jar’s “Cider Press”
Foggy Ridge Handmade Cider, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, St-Germain, brown sugar simple syrup, fresh apple
Zinc’s “The Sandy Potter” (above)
Potter’s Craft Farmhouse Dry Cider, Jack Daniels, Cointreau, Fee Brothers Bitters, lime, orange, housemade non-fermented apple cider, orange twist