Beer Scout: Noble Cider goes west

AN APPLE A DAY: Noble Cider founders Lief Stevens, left, and Trevor Baker are getting ready to start work on a new production facility. Photo by Thom O'Hearn

When you pick up a gallon of cider from the orchard, it seems like a lot of juice. But somehow over the course of a few days it magically disappears. Scale that situation way up, and you’ve got the early days of Noble Cider.

“We [initially] pressed 2,000-gallons worth of cider…[which] was supposed to yield plenty of cider until the next apple season,” says Trevor Baker, one of the founders and general manager of Noble Cider. But it turns out Asheville had some pent up demand. “We blew through what we had in about three months instead,” says Baker.

So the company got to work making more. Yet creating cider has some key considerations that most brewers in town don’t need to worry about. First, ordering apples to ferment is a good deal harder than ordering malt since apples expire much faster. Second, Noble has been using a press that fellow founder Lief Stevens made himself. “On a good day, we can get about 200-250 gallons of apple juice out of it,” says Baker.

It wasn’t long after Noble Cider launched in 2013, that it became clear its current facility on the edge of town in Arden would be a temporary home. “We’ve been working out of a shared portion of a commercial park. … Our production space is tight,” says Baker. Yet this being Asheville, finding an affordable space was near impossible. The team searched for the better part of a year and almost gave up. But then they found the perfect spot to buy at 356 New Leicester Highway — the former home of Carpet Connection.

There will be plenty of room in that building for fermentation tanks, and the team will also setup a brand new cider press — one that can top out at 400 gallons an hour instead of 250 gallons a day. “It works the same way as the old one, but it’s easier to fill, less time consuming and more efficient,” says Baker. 

The increase in volume will lead to other exciting things: an expanded cider selection, a tasting room and the potential for Noble bottles or cans.

“The majority of our new space will be for production, including a bottling area. However, the plan is for most of that to be open so people will be able to see it from the taproom,” says Baker. “And the taproom itself is something we envision working sort of like Wedge’s. … We don’t want to be open late.” 

In addition to the Noble standards, the taproom will have a rotating list of other ciders to sample. Baker says a blueberry variety could be added to the year-round lineup and seasonal ciders will be flowing as well.  Since they plan to produce up to about 180,000 gallons in a year at full build out, Baker says the initial plan is to bottle some of that in a larger-format bottle — likely 750 milliliter — but they haven’t ruled out cans. 

If all goes well, the new space will open in the spring or summer of 2015. In the meantime, Noble will continue distributing its cider around town and attending festivals through the winter. Look for Noble at CiderFest on Sunday, Nov. 2, where Baker says the company will have a few varieties to sample, including a new pumpkin spice cider (if it’s ready in time). 

Harvest Beers This Weekend

  • Burial Beer Co. is hosting their first annual Burn Pile festival 2-10 p.m. Saturday Nov. 1. It will be a celebration of fall and harvest-inspired beers with offerings from more than 20 breweries, including plenty of locals and some from further out: Bird Song Brewing (Charlotte, N.C.), Fonta Flora (Morganton, N.C.), Fullsteam (Durham, N.C.), Innovation (Sylva, N.C.), Mystery (Hillsborough, N.C.), Natty Greenes (Greensboro, N.C.), Nantahala (Bryson City, N.C.), NoDa (Charlotte, N.C.), Olde Mecklenburg (Charlotte, N.C.), Sub Noir (Raleigh, N.C.), Trophy (Raleigh, N.C.), Haw River Farmhouse Ales (Saxapahaw, N.C.), and Unknown (Charlotte, N.C.). Burial will serve some special beers for the event as well, including Slasher sweet potato porter and a new apple tripel. The event will not be ticketed. The brewery will instead sell commemorative pint glasses and beer tickets at the door. Live music from the Hermit Kings and the Nude Party will start at 6:30 p.m. 
  • Hi-Wire will debut a couple of harvest beers at its tasting room on Friday, Oct. 31. The pumpkin saison and pumpkin oatmeal stout were both brewed with local pumpkins and in collaboration with Ben’s Tune-Up Chef Mike Shapiro, who roasted the pumpkins. The saison is a sessionable beer (5.1% ABV) that blends pumpkin pie spices with the traditional saison yeast aroma, while the oatmeal stout is a slower sipper (7.1% ABV) with bourbon and vanilla notes to complement the pumpkin.

 

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About Thom O'Hearn
Thom O’Hearn is a writer, book editor and homebrewer. Twitter: @thomohearn

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