Beer may get the most attention of any alcoholic beverage in the Asheville area, but the region’s cider scene continues to grow and spark its share of related events.
On Saturday, March 10, noon-10 p.m., the first West Asheville Cider Crawl will stretch along the busy Haywood Road corridor, where venues including bottle shops, restaurants and more will showcase the popular beverages. There’s no admission charge — just hit the street and visit the venues to savor ciders, either by the glass or with a bite to eat at participating restaurants.
Urban Orchard Cider Co. and Botanist and Barrel cidery of Hillsborough are collaborating to host the cider crawl. The idea originated with Lyndon Smith, an Asheville resident with extensive experience in the wine industry and whose family operates Botanist and Barrel.
“I used to be in wine distribution,” Smith says. “The opportunity came up to take over a blueberry farm.” The Smiths then opened a winery and, finally, a cider-making operation. Botanist and Barrel started releasing ciders in July 2017 and has strong distribution of its bottles statewide, including the Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham markets.
“The purpose of the cider crawl is to show how versatile cider can be, all the different styles that there are,” Smith says. “What I do and what Urban Orchard does are completely different. Urban has these beautifully balanced flavors, and the cider is carbonated. I’m higher alcohol, bone dry, and [the cider] is still.”
Smith refers to himself as “more of an old-school, Old World-style cider” producer and sees the Cider Crawl as another outlet for bringing exposure to Botanist and Barrel. “West Asheville was the perfect fit,” he says. “You have places like the Westville Pub with ciders on tap. And it’s walkable and has a lot of variety. You have high-end cocktail bars and regular bars, you have restaurants, you have a couple of bottle shops.”
Over a dozen locations have signed up for the Cider Crawl, including The Black Cloud, The Hop West, The Whale Craft Beer Collective, West Asheville Lounge and Kitchen, Pizza Mind, Hops & Vines, Haywood Common, Local 604 Bottle Shop and BimBeriBon. Its footprint runs from Urban Orchard at Beacham’s Curve to the Odditorium performance and art venue at the other end of Haywood Road near Patton Avenue.
“It’s a self-guided crawl,” Smith says. “I don’t expect people to hit every place.” He’s planning to post a map with more details on the event’s Facebook page. “Some people will put on full entrée food pairings, like Foothills Meats. They will do two food pairings, one with Urban and one with Botanist with different butcher cuts. Sunny Point Café will have pairings, and Jargon will have cocktails.”
Jeff Anderson, Urban Orchard’s marketing and creative director, supported Smith’s vision from the start. As the only cidermaker in West Asheville, Urban Orchard is primed to be a big destination on the crawl. “We’re just hoping that people will stop by for a drink, but we want people to visit these other establishments,” he says.
Anderson also hopes that the Cider Crawl will encourage more restaurants to use cider in their dishes. “It’s way more versatile than beer or wine in food,” he says. He expects Urban Orchard will be pouring at least nine ciders during the crawl, ranging from Bizarre Love Triangle, made with cocoa nibs and strawberries, to Covfefe, made with coffee and featuring hints of vanilla and chocolate.
As evinced by those creations, Anderson believes there is really no limit to the ingredients that can go into a successful cider. But however inspiration strikes, he notes that the starting point for any Urban Orchard creation is apples sourced from Hendersonville.
While cider-making has spread across the state, Western North Carolina has many producers, including Bold Rock Hard Cider in Mills River, Noble Cider in Asheville, Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery and Flat Rock Cider Works in downtown Hendersonville. Also in the mix is Daidala Ciders, a small-batch cider company based in Asheville and run by nomadic cidermaker Chris Heagney.
“Western North Carolina has a bunch of really talented people making really fun cider,” Smith says, adding that the region is also “blessed with apples.”
But even with the locally grown fruit and passionate community of craftspeople, events like the Cider Crawl can go a long way in raising awareness of cider, which Anderson stresses is “still a growing category in the craft beverage market.”
WHAT: West Asheville Cider Crawl
WHERE: Participating businesses along Haywood Road
WHEN: Noon-10 p.m. Saturday, March 10 avl.mx/4qk