Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bringing Back Hard Cider, and Promoting Agri-tourism in Virginia

The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star is running a story on the comeback of hard cider production in Virginia entitled Hard cider's second act:
In early America, the undisputed beverage of choice was hard apple cider--even more so than water.

Thomas Jefferson brewed champagne-like cider out of Virginia Hewe's Crab apples at Monticello.

John Adams guzzled a pitcher each morning with his breakfast, citing its positive health benefits.

Yet, these days, hard apple cider has largely fallen out of favor in the United States. Only a few brands, mostly imported from England, remain widely available.

Now, however, an Albemarle County apple orchard is aiming to spark a cider comeback.

"Cider was the libation of choice in Colonial America," said Chuck Shelton of Vintage Virginia Apples on U.S. 29 south of Charlottesville. "We're going to bring cider back."

Vintage Virginia Apples has received site plan approval from the Albemarle County Planning Commission to build both a cidery and a tasting room. Cider production is expected to begin this Fall, with the tasting room opening in the Spring.

Interesting news indeed, but the most interesting part of the article to me was the tie-in to tourism in Virginia:
Charlotte Shelton, also an owner of Vintage Virginia Apples, said the company is hoping to tap into Central Virginia's growing agritourism market. With dozens of wineries in the region, it seems only natural that thirsty tourists and Charlottesville food lovers would want to check out the complex flavors of high-end cider, she said.

The same thing could be said of the growing Virginia brewing industry. As I noted in a previous post, the time is right to focus in the tourism aspect of Virginia beer. Why let the wineries get all the agri-tourism dollars? Virginia has long been associated with hop growing. Already Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County has started a hop farm, with over 200 rhizomes planted. Looking beyond hops, I recently spoke with one Virginia brewery owner who is working to obtain high grade, Virginia-grown barley for his beer. I look forward to the day I'm following hop-emblazoned signs through the Virginia countryside.

Read the entire cider article here.

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