Denver's first Cider Festival was last Saturday May 27th at a long-standing, but relatively unknown to us, Highland venue. It was slightly west of the jammed core area, which was great for parking purposes, at The Highlands Masonic Event Center, on 35th Ave and Federal. It was a great space for the event that took place in the front lawn with the band set up on the steps in front of the building's dramatic facade. There were a few lawn games as promised, and food trucks, a couple vendors and hammocks to lounge in. The hammocks were a bit hard to enjoy with a group of friends and tables were seriously lacking, as in there weren't any in the main area to rest your cider glasses, eat, or take tasting notes on the Cider note-taking cards we received upon arrival. That was really the only negative note, as the lines to sample ciders were expected, but without proper lounge areas we pretty much just hung out in the lines (two birds with one stone we figured).
The Pressed Conference featured about 20 cideries from across the Rocky Mountain region, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, New England and even a few European imports! It was fun trying the different company's cider and most had multiple varieties to choose from which kept you coming back throughout to try them all. Unfortunately we didn't actually have time to try them all, but we surely sampled about 2/3 and took diligent notes to share with our readers. In addition to tasting notes, we gave each a rating between 1 to 10, with 10 as the best based on overall comparisons and personal taste.
Welcome Cider - Molly's Barrel Aged Cider: Somewhat flat and generally flavorless, could have been sitting out a bit as pre-poured (2/10)
Big B's Cider - Harvest Apple: sweet and classic (6.5/10)
Colorado Cider Company - Pearsnickety: sour tasting with a slight pear taste, sour beer lovers would gravitate to this one (5/10)
Colorado Common Cider - Original: slightly sweet & dry (5/10)
C Squared Cider - Alma: flavorful, tasted like a perfect Fuji Apple, guy said it was the most "acidic" (9/10). Lila: dry with clear flavor of lavender/honey (7/10). Ginger Lime Leaf: exclusive cider for the festival, "interesting," most unique, semi sweet (8/10). This was my favorite Cider company we tried.
Montana Cider Works - Darby Pub Cider: an ode to the classic non-alcoholic Apple cider I drank as a kid (7.5/10)
Talbott's Cider Co - Alpine Start: minimal apple flavor with a bitter finish (3/10)
Portland Cider Co - Pear: fairly dry cider, clear pear flavor (6/10)
Wild Cider - Original: way too sweet for my taste, but a great cider for those that don't want to taste any alcohol (5.5/10)
Big B's Cider - Cherry: mild flavor, not enough cherry, balanced acidity (5/10) Harvest: tasted like a traditional non-alcoholic apple cider, also the same sweetness (7/10)
Colorado Cider Company - Cherry: delicious, refreshing and pronounced cherry flavor (9/10)
Colorado Common Cider - House: sweet, but acidic (5/10). Ginger: would have liked more ginger flavor (7/10)
C Squared Cider - Alma: sweet, crisp, guy said it was the most "acidic" (8/10). Lila: medium sweetness, flavorful, lavender undertones (8/10). Nona: guy said it was their driest, but I didn't find it too dry, just not as crisp and refreshing as some others (6/10)
Montana Cider Works - Darby Pub Cider: Balanced, traditional flavor (7/10). Macintosh: medium sweetness, refreshing, pure apple taste (8/10)
Portland Cider Co - Pear: fairly dry, tart, crisp pear flavor (6/10) Maui Cruiser: most unique, very refreshing, tropical, pineapple notes, slightly sweet (8/10)
Wild Cider - Original: sweet, tasted like a traditional non-alcoholic apple cider (6/10)
The wide range of cideries and the wide selection each produces ensured that everyone had a good time and plenty of delicious ciders to drink throughout the afternoon and to add to their shopping lists. We had fun taste testing and discovering new ciders we loved, and left thankful our afternoon of unlimited tasting didn't turn into a sugar headache or hangover the next morning! These ciders are all grown up and we encourage you to try them out for yourself.
According to a statistic from CiderCon this year, cider sales in the US grew 12% in 2015. Unlike some of the heavy cider cities like Portland, Chicago, and Seattle, Colorado is a little more geographically isolated from prime apple-growing areas and is still in the beer-craze faze. But Colorado Cider Company owner-operator, Brad Page says, "Eventually the cider market will be very similar to the craft beer market. Not on the same scale, but in the variety and flavors."