Several years ago, just after I stopped drinking beer, I came to Colorado for the holidays and my dear old friend took me out to this new spot not too far from his place in Erie, Colorado: The Old Mine Cidery and Brewpub. At the time, I was really new to craft ciders – I had mostly drank the huge-name ciders that are easy to find in any liquor store. So sitting in a craft cidery, I didn’t know what to think about what I was drinking; it was all so different from the cheap, mass-produced ciders I was used to. Since I’ve returned to Colorado, begun exploring craft ciders in earnest, and spending a lot more time up in the area (that old friend became my boyfriend), I have been dying to get back up to The Old Mine to revisit their inventive cider selection with a better-tuned palate and half an idea of what I like and dislike. The place did not disappoint.
Walking into the taproom, you’ll be surrounded by dim light, brick walls, old-timey photographs, and mustaches – lots and lots of mustaches. Despite their logo being a big, bold letter “M,” it would appear that Old Mine has unofficially adopted a curly mustache as their, uhh, mascot? Indeed, the whole interior felt both rustic enough for a place called “The Old Mine,” and also hipster enough for a place who has chosen a mustache for a mascot. The back room opens up to the ice cream store next door, which is great if you feel like dessert after eating one of the pizzas or other items on the kitchen menu.
Old Mine keeps a couple of flagship ciders on tap year round, plus a selection of seasonal ciders. Do keep in mind: these seasonal ciders mostly only come in 5 ounce pours (though they still charge about the same as a full-size pour). This can be a little disconcerting for folks who are looking for quantity, but we found that for many of the seasonal ciders, the flavors were bold, the alcohol content was high, and a 5-ounce pour was actually enough. For good measure, Old Mine also keeps a rotating selection of local beers on tap, which can help sate companions who don’t care for cider, and which they also use to create beer-cider hybrids (more on that later).
Mango Bourbon Handlebar
- Style: Semi-sweet, bourbon barrel aged
- ABV: 7%
Generally, my first move would be to grab a cidery’s most basic baseline cider, but there were so many interesting options to choose from, I opted for a little crazier selection. Plus, “bourbon” tends to be kind of a magic word for me, so when I saw this on the menu, I knew I had to try it. This cider, like most of the seasonal selections, uses Old Mine’s flagship Handlebar Cider, a semi-sweet selection, as it’s base. It came in a 5oz pour and was a bright apricot-orange color. I loved the way this cider smelled – both savory and sweet – a perfect marriage of the smokey bourbon barrels and the fruity mangoes and apples. And the nose was so full, it felt like it enveloped my whole face even from its tiny little glass. When you taste this cider, it’s easy to forget it’s actually a cider made with apples, as the mango most definitely takes center stage. It almost felt more like a fruit nectar, with a thick, silky mouthfeel and lingering finish. The bourbon flavors play nicely underneath the bright fruit, which brought a nice balance to this otherwise extremely sweet cider. There was a non-bourbon Mango Handlebar on the menu, and I suspect that one would have definitely been too sweet without the smokiness to tone back the fruit sugars a little bit. Even still, this cider was probably a litter sweeter than what I would generally prefer, but the mango and bourbon came together in a way that I absolutely adored. With a little higher ABV and such an intense flavor, I was feeling satisfied by the end of my 5 ounces.
Double Dry-Hopped Handlebar
- Style: Semi-sweet, dry hopped
- ABV: 6.8%
One of Old Mine’s other flagship ciders is their Citra Hopped concoction. However, they decided to kick it up an extra notch and feature a double dry hopped cider, made with both Citra and Simco hops. This cider, also one of the 5oz seasonal pours, came to us a pale yellow color. On the nose, it was extremely citrusy (courtesy of the Citra hops), but distinctly hoppy, like a light IPA (courtesy of the Simco hops). Because this cider got a double dose of hops treatment, I was expecting the hoppy flavor to be overwhelming, particularly because it can be difficult to tone down the bitterness without malts and grains to balance it out. But I was surprised: the hops flavor here was extremely mild – present, but not at all overpowering. Instead, this cider was extremely citrusy, with a punch of bright fruit flavor – apples, oranges, and lemons – at the back of each swallow. The finish is lightly bitter, finally paying off the flavor you expect to find in a hopped drink. Because this cider is built off of the fairly sweet Handlebar Cider, and because it is using sweeter hops varieties, it ended up quite a bit sweeter than I was expecting it to be, but that last bitter finish helps to balance it out and prevent that sticky-sweet finish that I can find less-than-pleasant in the sweeter cider varieties. Again, with such powerful flavors and the higher ABV, the small pour was definitely a satisfying amount.
Funk N’ Tart
- Style: Semi-sweet, partially soured
- ABV: 5%
When we saw this cider on the menu, we asked what gave it the name “funk.” The bartender told us that it was a happy accident – they were trying to sour the cider, but something went wrong with their process, the batch only got a bit sour, and they ended up with something interesting and not half bad. I figured – okay, this isn’t going to be on the menu forever, I’ve got to try it. In the glass, this cider is a light, opaque orange color and smells so, so, so funky. Like, gym sock and cheese funky. You know immediately that this has souring agents in it, no question. Despite the extreme funk, you can also smell the fruity apple, as a reminder of what is actually in your glass. The cider tastes definitively less funky than it smells – it’s more of a sweet, tart, and fruit-forward flavor. However, you can definitely still taste some funk, particularly on the finish where it lingers pleasantly. To be honest, I found the funky smell paired with the sweet cider to be a bit off-putting, and would definitely like to see how this cider tastes when the souring process goes as planned. I think that will cut through some of the sweetness and give you a nose-to-tongue experience that leaves you with a little less cognitive dissonance. This was definitely worth a try, but I was left more excited for the fully-sour experience next time I come in.
Mitch’s Summer Mustache
- Style: Beer-Cider Fusion
- ABV: 5.5%
One thing that Old Mine offers that appears to be fairly unique was their beer-cider fusions. As they cycle through their selection of local beers, they look for the ones that will pair nicely with their cider selections, and BAM! new, exciting drink for the menu. I’d never seen this before and thought I had to try one. Mitch’s Summer Mustache seemed like the perfect way to cap off a warm evening drinking cider – it blends (once again) the Handlebar Cider with Dry Dock Brewing’s Apricot Blonde. In the glass, this concoction is bright orange and very opaque, with a lovely, albeit very mild, aroma. The apricots and apples blend to create a fresh, summery bouquet. As I’ve mentioned a few times, the Handlebar Cider is definitely a sweeter cider, and even though the Apricot Blonde is a sweeter beer, it works extremely well to temper the sweetness and create a balanced, incredibly tasty beverage. The beer also provides a much fuller, more velvet mouthfeel than you usually find in ciders, which I definitely appreciated. The finish is short, and while I wouldn’t call it clean, exactly, it is pleasant. You’re left with a very slight bitterness, which I think only comes out because you’ve mixed cider into the beer (I’ve had the Apricot Blonde on its own and bitter is about the last word I would use to describe it). Overall, these two drinks mix together beautifully – I would be very, very happy to drink this one again, and would be excited to try the other fusions Old Mine discovers.
I’m really happy I finally found my way back to this place, with a better appreciation for craft ciders, a little bit more experienced palate, and good company to share some drinks with. While I could have sworn there were more flagship ciders on the menu during that first visit, it is clear that there are some really fun experiments going on in the fermentation room, yielding some really fun products. I’d love to see some dryer ciders on the menu, as everything we tried during our visit pushed on my limits for sweetness in ciders – though I know this is a personal preference, it would be cool to see variation on that level too. Next time, I’d also like to arrive hungry, so I could get a taste of one of the many pizzas I saw getting served to other customers. More meat-inclined patrons will enjoy the Jurassic Pork, smoked for 12 hours and served on a bun. Either way, pairing the sweeter ciders with a salty snack would definitely make for a lovely meal. But no matter how you go in, a visit to The Old Mine will make for a lovely day. If you’re ever in the east-of-Boulder neighborhood, you won’t want to miss this stop.
- Address: 500 Briggs Street, Erie, Colorado, 80516
- Phone: (303) 905-0620