Cider Week Virginia runs from November 10 through the 19, 2017. The special celebration began in 2012 and each year features special tastings, pairings, dinners, events, and workshops across Virginia. This year there are eleven cideries participating and I was lucky enough to be invited to a media tasting with five of the cideries back in October.
You might hear the term “cider” and think of the sweet, non-alcoholic apple cider you buy at grocery stores and farmers’ markets in Fall. Sure, you can find fermented hard cider that tastes like this, but more traditional cider in the style that the colonists drank is dry and probably more similar to champagne.
At the tasting I visited, I was impressed to see how varied and diverse the cider industry is. Dry and sweet doesn’t even come close to covering all the varieties of Virginia cider there are to sample. Here are five you should seek out and taste during Cider Week Virginia. You can find all of them at the Richmond Cider Celebration on Saturday, November 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market. Your $30 ticket gets you a Virginia cider tote bag, a tasting glass, and 10 tickets that can be redeemed for tastes or full pours. Additional tickets will be available for purchase. Lawn chairs are welcome.
1. Wassail from Big Fish Cider Co.
This seasonal cider celebrates the medieval traditional of “wassailing” or drinking mulled cider to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year. It’s made with traditional mulling spices, but not so many that the classic apple flavor is overpowered. You will also notice that while many hard ciders tend to have some fizz, this one is still, making it a nice option for those looking for something a bit different. With all the spices, this tasted like the holiday season in a glass, but it wasn’t too sweet or overly spicy. I might have to make it down to the event because I think this will be perfect for bringing to holiday parties all season long. Big Fish Cider Co. is located in Monterey, Virginia, near the West Virginia border, and just opened this past May. Its Allegheny Gold cider won a gold medal and best-in-class award at The Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition last spring, marking the first time in the 11-year history of the competition that a Virginia cidery has earned a best-in-class award.
2. Harrison from Blue Bee Cider
When you taste Blue Bee’s Harrison, you’re almost taking a sip of Colonial cider. Why’s that? The Harrison apple is what was used for traditional cider making during colonial times, but they fell close to extinction until they were resurrected by cider makers in the 1970s. The nose on this cider is yeasty, almost like a beer, but the flavor is light and dry like a wine. I got notes of pineapple and candied lemon. With its nice dryness and fruity finish, this cider pairs well with food but is also balanced enough to be dangerously drinkable alone. You can also find this cider at Blue Bee Cider’s tasting room in Scott’s Addition where there are plenty of events taking place all week long.
3. Bold Rock Hard Cider IPA, India Pressed Apple
Even if you aren’t a beer IPA drinker, you should try this cider IPA. Bold Rock’s cider is dry-hopped with a blend of five hops, including Cascade, Centennial, and Citra. The result is a balanced cider that starts on the sweeter side, but finishes dry and hoppy with notes of citrus and grapefruit. Bold Rock’s flagship Cider Barn is located on Route 151 in Nelson County and is also open daily for tastings.
4. Buskey Cider Tart Cherry Cider
When I heard the name “tart cherry,” I worried this cider would be too sweet for my palate, which leans toward dry. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It is balanced with apple flavors on the front and lingering tart cherry on the finish. Also on Saturday, November 11, Buskey’s Tart Cherry is becoming its second cider to be released in cans (hello, next pool season!). In fact, the cidery in Scott’s Addition is also hosting a release party from 12 to 10 p.m., so if you don’t make the big cider celebration downtown, you might want to swing by the tasting room.
5. Courthouse Creek Cider Hoppy Girl
Who knew hops and cider were a trend? Courthouse Creek’s ciders are made in a natural method and barrel fermented and they aren’t fined or filtered, making for dry, complex, distinctive creations. The Hoppy Girl contains three types of hops and is bottle-finished with unfiltered molasses, resulting in a light-bodied, balanced cider. You’ll taste some fruit alongside a light, tangy, dry finish, making it a great pairing for cheese plates and other appetizers. You can also taste all the Courthouse Creek ciders at the cidery in Maidens, Virginia, on weekends. It’s high on my to-visit list.
More Cider Week Virginia Events to Hit
There are events taking place all over Virginia all week long and you can view the full calendar here. But these are a few that I’m thinking of trying to check out:
Friday, November 10, How Sweet It Is!
Blue Bee Cider, 5-10 p.m.
Stop by Blue Bee to learn about and taste a broad range of Virginia dessert ciders. This will be the first time that so many Virginia ice ciders, pommeaus, ports, digestifs and aperitifs will all be together in one place. Sweet food pairings will also be available. $15/flight. No reservations necessary.
Sunday, November 12, Virginia Cider and Oyster Pairing
The HofGarden, 3 p.m.
There will be flights of Craft Cider available (5 Potter’s ciders will be available) for purchase along with Virginia oyster pairings. The HofGarden’s regular menu will also be available and acoustic musician Anthony Bruzeau will be performing on the roof.
Tuesday, November 14, Cider and Pintxos Bar with Potter’s and Southbound
Stop by Southbound and enjoy an array of Basque-themed snacks while you sip some of Potter’s more eclectic ciders.
Thursday, November 16, Virginia Cider Reception
Acacia, 6 p.m.
Thursday, November 16, Cheese & Cider Pairing
Blue Bee Cider, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Only 30 tickets available for this tasting featuring 5 cheese samples paired with 5 ciders. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased here.
Sunday, November 19, Oyster Flight Pairing at Buskey Cider
Did I mention I like oysters and cider? Head to Buskey for three oysters paired with three ciders and learn why salty, savory oysters are cider’s best friend.
Like I said, this is only a sampling of what’s to come during Cider Week Virginia and every time I log onto the events page I see more things to do, so make sure to check it out!