Local cider-makers are ready to unveil themselves at the first CiderFest, an event that promises to celebrate the sweet flavors of fall, while benefiting green and sustainable building practices in Western North Carolina. The festival, a family-friendly event serving up gluten-free cider made from locally grown apples, is also a fundraiser for the WNC Green Building Council, a member-driven nonprofit dedicated to environmental- and health-conscious building practices.
Four local cider-makers, including Black Mountain Ciderworks, McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, Noble Hard Cider and Urban Orchard Cider Co., plus South Carolina cider-maker Windy Hill Orchard, will offer scrumptious samples of their cider on Sunday, Nov. 10, 1-5 p.m., at the Echoview Fiber Mill in Weaverville. Festival-goers are invited to tour Echoview, a LEED certified manufacturing mill that showcases green technologies. In addition, four local creameries — Ashe County Cheese, Looking Glass Creamery, Spinning Spider Creamery and Three Graces Dairy — will offer savory, handcrafted cheeses as part of a cider and cheese tasting; nonalcoholic cider, mulled cider, apples and cookies will be provided by EarthFare. Festivities also include old-time music, a corn-hole tournament, pumpkin-painting for young ones and the young-at-heart, as well as an educational "Hard Cider 101" lesson presented by Urban Orchard.
"We've been around for 12 years, and we've never had a fundraiser before," says Nina Zinn, development and outreach coordinator for the Green Building Council. "We've had different educational events for members and for the community, but never something that actually brings revenue back to us. There has never been a hard-cider event in [the area], and I thought this would be great — highlighting local cider-makers who support local agriculture.”
The Green Building Council offers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program, Green Built North Carolina, for new construction, as well as a certification program for existing homeowners. The Echoview Fiber Mill is the first manufacturing mill in the state with LEED Gold certification. The facility, says Zinn, "has geothermal wells, is solar powered and made with sustainable building practices."
Noble Cider’s Trevor Baker, the self-described "co-owner, co-founder, cider-maker, manager, bookkeeper and delivery guy too," of the cider company, is excited to offer its flagship cider, as well as other surprises, at CiderFest. "We've got two or three things in the works that we'll be debuting at the festival," says Baker. Noble Cider has been selling cider since May, and was the first cider-maker to establish itself in WNC.
Cider production, in fact, has a long history in the Appalachian Mountains, but "you have to go back further [in time]," says Baker. "The Southern Appalachian region, including Virginia, has had a strong cider history, especially when you go back to the Colonial days. It never fell out of favor in England or France. Here, you kind of had a die-off in the late 1800s and early 1900s with Prohibition, and it’s just come back into fad or favor. I think people are wanting to be more connected with where their food and drinks come from, and cider [is] a nice one, because you can see the apples in the orchard, then press it and ferment it. It's like making wine."
North Carolina is the seventh-largest apple producing state in the country, and drinking cider is a great way to support local agriculture. At Noble Cider, for instance, supporting local agriculture is the heart of its mission, "We only use 100 percent locally grown apples, and we're also working with the Cooperative Extension center in Henderson County in the research orchard, putting in 30 varieties [of apple trees] that are new to the area,” Baker says.
"Traditionally," he adds, "cider-makers use bittersweet and bitter-sharp apples, which are primarily grown in Europe. No one's really grown them down here, which is partly climate-based, and partly because people don't realize there's a market for them. We can make good cider with eating apples, but we blend them. We use about six or seven varieties. I like blending apples because you can get a balance of acids and tannins."
CiderFest offers a celebration of the season with sweet drinks and local fare, while supporting a community nonprofit devoted to sustainable development. For cider-makers and attendees alike, it’s exciting to see an old tradition reappearing in our mountain home.
Tickets are $10 for WNCGBC members, $15 for nonmembers and free for children. For tickets and more information see ciderfestnc.splashthat.com.