Like craft beer, its apple-loving cousin hard cider continues to grow at a breakneck pace. Colorado Cider Co. is a prime example. Colorado Cider nearly doubled its production over the past two years, and an expansion has enabled big sales growth. “In 2014,” company Founder Brad Page explained, “our draft sales were up 84 percent and our packaged sales grew by 59 percent. This new 12-ounce format will help us continue that trajectory.”
And that’s the headline here. Colorado Cider Co. is now releasing four of its most popular ciders in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles. Previously available only in 22-ounce “bomber” bottles, Glider Cider, Glider Dry, Grasshop-Ah and Cherry Glider four-packs are now appearing at Colorado retailers. Bombers of these ciders will remain available, too.
“We’ve had customers asking for 12-ounce bottles for some time,” said Page. “People like a single serving size, and these smaller bottles are better suited to bars and restaurants where draft options are limited and a 22-ounce bottle is too big.”
The four-packs of 12-ounce bottles also reflect the quality and philosophy of Page’s ciders.
“We make small-batch, high-quality, all-juice cider,” Page said. “But the six-pack ciders from the big breweries are made with a lot of concentrate and sugar and are much cheaper to make. So the four-packs emphasize our craft nature and distinguish us from those macro ciders.”
“It’s much like the beginning of the craft beer movement,” Page added, “when small breweries emphasized their all-malt beers in contrast to industrial beers made with rice and corn.”
To help sustain that growth and expand its reach, Colorado Cider is now selling its ciders in Arizona, the company’s first out-of-state market. Bombers of the cidery’s core brands are now there and new four packs will arrive next month. A feature of the new packaging is the addition of nutritional information.
“One of the many things that set our ciders apart from those of the big corporations,” Page said, “is their dryness and low level of sugar. The nutrition labels showcase that fact and help consumers make a more educated purchase.”
The cidery’s flagship and best seller, Glider Cider, is crafted from a blend of dessert apples from Colorado and the Northwest. Glider Dry is an extra-dry version of Glider Cider and another top seller. The company’s innovative Grasshop-Ah is cider with lemongrass and hops, while Cherry Glider features a subtle tart finish from an addition of cherry juice.
The company’s specialty and seasonal ciders include Ol’ Stumpy (a limited-release, barrel-aged cider made from a blend of heirloom and bittersweet cider apples), Pearsnickety (a seasonal perry made with Colorado-grown Bartlett pears), Newtown Pippen (a single varietal made from an old American Heirloom apple) and Pome Mel (a cyser made with a 50/50 blend of apples and Colorado wildflower honey, then aged on rosemary and lavender).
The 2013 expansion at Colorado Cider enabled the cidery to boost its annual production capacity from 25,000 to 75,000 gallons. The expansion included four new 2,100-gallon tanks and two new 1,200-gallon tanks. It cost approximately $250,000. This company invested $125,000 in its new four-pack packaging equipment.
Brad & Kathe Page opened Colorado Cider Co. on November 11, 2011. Brad Page was one of Colorado’s first microbrewers (at Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Co. and CopperSmith’s Pub & Brewery in Fort Collins) in the late Eighties. Today he’s a trailblazer for hard cider in Colorado and has worked to pave the way for new cider makers in the state. His cidery has helped to define modern cider in Colorado with a mix of traditional creations and boundary pushing ciders.
“We use as much Colorado fruit as we can find,” Page said, “and we work with Colorado growers to expand the state’s cider-apple agriculture.”
To boost that local supply of apples, the Pages have planted 3,000 cider-apple trees on property they own and maintain near Hotchkiss, Colo. The Pages expect to harvest their first apples in 2016, varieties that make great cider and can flourish in the sunny, high-altitude climate of western Colorado. Right now, Colorado Cider Co.’s products are distributed in Colorado by Elite Brands. Arizona Beer and Cider Co. distributes the ciders in Arizona.