Christmas has officially come to us here in North Carolina and with it comes all the holiday flavors we wait so patiently for each year. Specifically pumpkin, cinnamon and apple! Here at Swig, we explored a fairly new trend in the North Carolina drinking scene – cider. North Carolina has had a surge of microbreweries opening their doors to serve unique craft beers in the past decade, but more and more “cideries” have been popping up in areas like Asheville, Durham and in Charlotte.
Hard apple cider is a great option for gluten free drinkers, since it isn’t made with barley or wheat. It also can be made sweet or dry to suit various tastes and lends itself well to adding ingredients to make interesting seasonal flavors. We had the opportunity to taste a few local North Carolina cider brewers.
Red Clay Ciderworks in Charlotte, NC
Red Clay Ciderworks has been open since 2014 and is already making a name for itself. Their traditional ciders, Queen City Common (for those who like a drier taste) and South End Sweet (to appease the sweet tooth) are joined by more unique flavors. The Nor’Easter is flavored with cranberry and is my personal favorite. The tartness added by the cranberries is a perfect balance to the sweet apples and makes for a great holiday libation. The Hoppin’ Good Thyme is a hopped cider, flavored with thyme and other herbs for dry and earthy flavor, more like beer than cider. Stop by their South End location in Charlotte, NC and say hello to Jay, the owner and head brewer. He’s often found behind the bar and is really fun to chat with about the cider scene.
Bold Rock Cider in Asheville, NC
Bold Rock Cider is not technically North Carolina born and bred (they first opened in Virginia), but since they are opening an Asheville production facility and tasting room, we’ll make an exception. Plus, they’ve named two new and delicious cider flavors for the Old North State. Carolina Apple, which my father refers to as “apple champagne” is light and crisp, though dry. Carolina Draft has a bit more heft, evidenced by its darker color. Both of these varieties are made with North Carolina apples.
Bull City Ciderworks in Durham, NC
Bull City Ciderworks is one of the pioneers in North Carolina’s cider scene. They began in the summer of 2013 and now have a facility in Durham, NC. Bull City Ciderworks crafts hard cider using New York apples as well as North Carolina apples from Perry Lowe Orchards, a third-generation family orchard in Moravian Falls. Farmer Todd Lowe grows over 24 apple varieties on his 100-acre orchard.
Bull City Ciderworks transforms traditional cider by using ingredients ranging from tea, honey and hops to ginger, strawberry and spruce tips. Cardinal Cin is perfect for the holidays, a semi-sweet cinnamon infused cider with amazing cherry and cinnamon aroma. We also enjoy the Spruce Bringsteen, a semi-sweet christmas tree infused cider with a citrus finish.
If you don’t live within easy driving distance, don’t fret. Bold Rock cider is available in many retail stores up and down the east coast, and Red Clay will be coming to stores soon. You can always plan a road trip to the state and pay a visit to Bull City Ciderworks awesome cider bar in Durham, NC!
Cheers to cider, and we hope you enjoy the holiday season!
Top image by Stacey Price Sprenz for Stacey Sprenz Photography