Right after I finished college, I got a crappy job in Longmont canvassing neighborhoods about some inconsequential local ballot initiative. During those 4 months, I probably knocked on half the doors and ate at half the restaurants in the city. That was 2009, and I kind of thought Longmont was “meh” at best. I hadn’t been back to Longmont since I finished that job, and hadn’t really thought much about the place – until a couple weekends ago when the fine folks at St. Vrain Cidery invited Max and me up to drink and talk cider with Dan, their co-founder and all-around cider community badass. It has been 8 years since that crappy canvassing job, and I’ve got news for you: at least when it comes to the booze scene, Longmont has come a very long way from “meh.” There is some awesome stuff going on in that suburb of Boulder, not least of which is the Colorado cider haven of my dreams that is St. Vrain Cidery.
First off, St. Vrain Cidery is tucked in a little alley, behind a bank just off Main Street, making it a little hard to find. If you enter their parking lot the way they intend you to, there are signs pointing you the right way, but you may miss it the first time you go by, particularly if you do what we did and try to enter the parking lot from the side, where it is less clearly marked. Once you see their awning-adorned patio and the wide open garage doors – the unmistakable signs of a brewery these days – you know you’re in the right place. Walk in and see an impressive menu of 24 different ciders, with a sign indicating another 12 taps will be on their way soon. St. Vrain Cidery is a relatively new cidery – they just opened their doors in October – so most of those taps are devoted to other cider varieties from Colorado. However, they do have three of their very own concoctions on right now, with others in the works (we got some pretty awesome sneak peeks), and a goal to keep about 6-8 of their own ciders on tap in the future. Beside the bar, which also features Colorado-made snacks to go with your Colorado-made cider, a calendar lists the many events upcoming at the place, and at the back, you can see their fermenting setup in plain view. Overall, a pretty solid, standard setup, not terribly different from most taphouses you’ll see around these parts. I was definitely not complaining about the atmosphere, as it was friendly, light, and incredibly welcoming.
We sat and talked with Dan for a long time about the business, about the cider community, and about cider. It’s obvious why this guy decided to open up a place that celebrates the Colorado cider scene – he’s passionate and knowledgeable, he’s ready and willing to partner and connect with other cider-makers, beer brewers, and liquor distillers, and just really stoked on experimenting and bringing something great to the table. And he and his team are doing it! As Dan poured us tasters of different ciders (accompanied with excited comments like “I’m making you try this one!” and “Oh, but you’ve GOT to taste this one!” – with notable appearances by the Banjo from STEM Ciders and the Block 1 cider by Colorado Cider Company) it became clear that the Colorado cider community is, well, pretty fucking great. When we sat down to try St. Vrain Cidery’s own ciders, I felt about the same way about those too.
- Style: Dry
- ABV: 6.9%
The Heritage makes up the base for the other ciders St. Vrain Cidery has on tap right now. It’s basically everything you would want in a standard, sessionable cider. It’s bone dry – about 25% of the juice was a bittersweet/bittersharp apple blend from Washington state, with the other 75% a dessert apple blend from Colorado’s own Big B’s orchard. Bring it to your nose, and you get a full face of fresh apple scent, with a lovely golden color. It’s fizzy, light, and really, really refreshing. A short finish that doesn’t linger, and doesn’t coat your mouth like some ciders can. This cider was perfect for the insanely hot day that we decided to check the place out. There wasn’t anything, like, world-changing about this cider, that’s true, but in order to make world-changing ciders, you need a solid foundation on which to build, and this cider does just that. I’d happily drink this all afternoon – if there weren’t 23 others on the menu to dive into and try. One thing about this cider: since St. Vrain is still pretty new, they are still sourcing apples when and where the opportunity arises. The bittersweet/bittersharp blend is not going to be a mainstay for the cidery. That means that future versions of the Heritage will have a different profile than this one. Dan told us the next batch is made with a blend that is heavy on winesap apples – this is going to make it taste more like, yep, white wine – though it will still feature its excellent dry flavors and light, crisp mouthfeel.
- Style: Dry, with ginger additives
- ABV: 6.9%
As I mentioned before, this cider started out with the same juice blend as the Heritage. However, they added ginger to the mix and came out with something pretty spectacular. There are a lot of awesome ginger ciders out there, but this one was super different, in all the best ways. Rather than your typical spicy Chinese ginger, which you will find in most other ginger ciders or ginger beers, this cider features the use of Fiji ginger, which is definitively less spicy and provides a more citrusy flavor profile. When I first brought my nose up to the glass, I immediately thought about the tropics, a beach, and a fancy cocktail. Like, it’s really no wonder the stuff is named after Fiji, because I truly felt like I had been transported there for a hot minute. Sipping the cider, I got a lot of fresh lemony and limey flavors, and even the slight bitterness you will typically find with citrus-flavored ciders and beers. The other day, I had a lime-coconut pina colada, which just kept flashing through my mind as I drank this cider. As you might expect from a cider built from the Heritage, it is also extremely dry – which lends itself really well to the Fiji ginger flavors – light, crisp, and refreshing. Another short finish, though the citrus flavor lingered a little bit longer, with that slightly bitter bite. I can think of nothing I’d rather do on a hot, hot day than drink this stuff – it makes it so easy to imagine the hot Colorado sun is just the reflection from the white sand and blue ocean in Fiji. Ah…
Tastes and Tidbits
Also on tap from St. Vrain Cidery was an interesting little nugget they call the Wild Titan. Dan told us that when he got his shipment of apple juice from Washington, it started to wild ferment before they got it fermenting with their neutral wine yeasts. Just for fun (as are a lot of things at St. Vrain – something I love about the place), he decided to pull a bit of the juice and just let it wild ferment all the way to completion. He poured us a taster and – yeah, this stuff was definitely different than the other two brews. A whiff of the glass evoked the word “funky” from Max and “different” from me. It also ended up being a bit polarizing – as wild-fermented ciders can be, since it is kind of running on a hope, a prayer, and some rogue yeast pioneers. I found it to be a pretty mellow and pleasant flavor, despite the fact that there was a lot to taste in that glass. Max, however, found it to be a bit much – there were a lot of different flavors coming through, from the apples and the different yeasts, all pulling in different directions. Again, like the other two brews, this cider is built off a juice that won’t be a mainstay for the cidery. My recommendation: get in there ASAP, try a Wild Titan, and see which side of the coin you end up on.
While showing us around the place, Dan let Max and I sample some of the awesome projects that are still in progress. First, he poured us a bit of a new experiment – chokecherry cider, made from that winesap juice mix I mentioned as the next base for the Heritage cider. It was not yet carbonated, but I am excited to try it when it is, because this stuff was great. Slightly pink, with a definite cherry/berry flavor happening. But because the winesap fruit is so dry, it wasn’t sickly sweet the way so many cherry ciders are – heightened by the fact that this was made with choke cherries instead of something like sweet or sour cherries, which will absolutely bring a heavy dose of sweetness to your cider. You guys, this one is gonna be good. Later on, we got to sample a little experiment Dan was running, infusing his cider with the leftover gin botanicals from their neighbors down the road, Anvil Distillery. Another one to look forward to seeing on tap – with a swirl of fragrant, botanical flavors – distinctly gin, but not overwhelmingly juniper.
Bottom line: Get to St. Vrain Cidery ASAP. No, Longmont is not really a place I think of when I think of awesome spots to find a drink, but that opinion is quickly changing for me, and it ought to change for you too. Not only can you get a nice pour of some experimental and delicious ciders fermented in-house, you can get a glimpse into the glory that is the Colorado cider scene, and try varieties from all over the state. You’ll see the result of some awesome local partnerships – not only with Anvil, but with Oscar Blues (that long time Longmont staple) and other distillers and cider makers in the area. You’ll see a great place to spend a hot afternoon, either in their bright and welcoming taproom or on their lovely patio. And you’ll drink some damn fine cider while you’re at it, too.
- Address: 350 Terry St #130, Longmont, CO 80501
- Phone: (303) 258-6910