North Carolina’s fast-growing craft cider industry is in the spotlight at a new festival debuting this month in downtown Hendersonville. The Apple Country Cider Jam happens 1-6 p.m. Saturday, April 22, on the south end of Main Street near the Hendersonville Visitors Center. The event will feature a blend of North Carolina-made cider, live music, exhibits and demonstrations.
A crowd of 1,500 or more is expected at the festival. The $25 tickets include 10 3-ounce cider samples and music by the award-winning bluegrass band Balsam Range, blues-folk trio Underhill Rose and the Josh Daniel-Mark Schimick Project, which will perform a mix of bluegrass, soul, reggae and rock. Nondrinking tickets will also be available for $10.
For those who want more than just samples, larger glasses of cider will also be sold for $5, and some cideries will have bottled products to take home. Six food trucks will be onsite for those in need of lunch or snacks.
The festival will showcase North Carolina’s cider makers, including many from Henderson County, which is famed for its apple producers, says organizer Mark Williams, executive director of the nonprofit Agribusiness Henderson County. “We want to keep it small and somewhat intimate,” he says. “We don’t want people frustrated with long lines, and we don’t want to overwhelm our cidermakers.”
Williams has been considering hosting the festival since about four years ago, “when we started seeing cideries pop up in Henderson County,” he says. “We wanted to highlight cider as a new venture for this area. There are very few cider festivals in the Southeast. We wanted folks to realize that our ciders are being made from North Carolina apples.”
Eight cidermakers have signed up for the event. They are Bold Rock Hard Cider in Mills River, the region’s biggest cider producer; Bull City Ciderworks in Lexington and Durham; Crimson Ridge in Mills River; Flat Rock Ciderworks of Hendersonville; GoodRoad CiderWorks in Charlotte; Noble Cider in Asheville; The 1898 Waverly Inn in Hendersonville; and Wallace Ciders from St. Paul Mountain Vineyards in Hendersonville, producers of crisp, European-style ciders. Burntshirt Vineyards of Hendersonville, will serve apple wine.
Many of the cidermakers will bring several varieties to the festival. And for those wanting a nonalcoholic drink, Apple Wedge Packers & Cider and McConnell Farms will have fresh, soft ciders, he says.
Cidermaking has expanded beyond standard apple beverages, says Williams. “There are so many styles. You have European styles that are a little dryer. You see ciders with pears to blueberries to blackberries. There is IPA cider. People will be surprised at how many options are out there.”
Some of the cideries will also host special events at their own tastings rooms to celebrate the event. Among them are Bold Rock, Flat Rock Cider Works and the Wallace cidery at St. Paul Mountain Vineyards.
Tickets are available at CiderJamNC.com. Getting them in advance is a good idea, but some will be sold at the gate, if space allows. Pets are not permitted.
The Apple Country Cider Jam happens 1-6 p.m. Saturday, April 22, on Main Street in Hendersonville.