Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Explore Virginia Cider in RVA's Scott's Addition

American cider appears to be entering its heyday. Following a similar route of the American craft beer explosion, cideries are popping up all over the country. Distinguishing themselves from mass-produced and sometimes overly sweet ciders available at the grocery or corner store, a new generation of cider-makers is producing fruit-based booze with a modern twist.

Cider has been providing Americans crisp alcoholic beverages for centuries, but we’re in the middle of a 21st Century cider boom, and there’s a lot to be excited about. From herb-infused options to barrel-aged ciders, the range of styles and flavors is eye-opening. Virginia, home to some excellent old apple orchards, now claims 14 cideries. Recently, I tasted some ciders that offer Virginians some exciting examples of what’s going on in their corner of the cider world.

Blue Bee and Buskey are injecting new life into Richmond’s historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood, a hopping area with lots of foot traffic and thirsty people. Located a few blocks from each other, these two new operations are focused on sourcing Virginia apples and introducing cider to open-minded drinkers. Like craft breweries that have gained popularity in Central Virginia, these cideries seem driven by experimentation, which is great for drinkers looking for something unique.

Blue Bee is Virginia’s first urban cidery, and dedicated to bottling small batch ciders and providing a unique tasting room experience. It has operated out of a facility in Manchester for several years, but now boasts a lively tasting room and a host of cider and food events.

Buskey's Will Correll. Credit: Buskey Cider.
Buskey’s Will Correll cut his teeth home brewing, and won $10,000 in a competition, so he clearly has fermentation chops. He spent four years preparing a team and finding a spot, but all that hard work has paid off. Buskey became neighbors with Blue Bee when they opened their tasting room on W. Leigh S. It’s a draft-centered operation that hopes its apple-based pints will fit right in at bars around the region; they’re also looking to expand their retail reach as well.

The available ciders may change frequently, but here are my impressions of a few of these ciders. 

Blue Bee Cider Rocky Ridge Reserve 
Bright and fresh, creamy texture, crisp acid. Very pretty and dry, definitely gulpable. Delicious, expressive, so food-friendly. Aged in light toasted oak barrel (used for fruit brandy) then carbonated and bottled. 

Blue Bee Cider Aragon 1904 
A chalky and floral element to the juicy fruit. Slight nutty and honeyed sweetness, but balanced by fresh acidity. Delicious stuff, very impressive. 

Buskey RVA Cider
A lighter style with moderate acidity, touch of sweetness. Light-bodied and thirst-quenching. Fermented dry and then blended back with some apple juice for slight sweetness.

Buskey Belgian Candi Cider
Deep honey aromas, some richer apricot and orange marmalade. Juicy texture, lovely richness, but fresh acid. A bold, rich, toffee element to the juicy darker fruit flavors. Really exciting stuff.

Blue Bee
1320 Summit Ave.
Richmond, VA
Sunday-Friday: 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Saturday: 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

2910 W. Leigh St.
Richmond, VA
Wednesday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Thursday: 3:00 – 9:00 pm
Friday: 3:00 – 10:00 pm
Saturday: 12:00 – 10:00 pm
Sunday: 12:00 – 9:00 pm

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