During colonial times, hard cider was the country’s most common beverage. It was often made at home and was a way to preserve the year’s apple harvest. The decline in cider production began with the Industrial Revolution, as people left their farms to work in the cities. Then Prohibition came along, making cider illegal. Most cider apple trees were felled and replaced with culinary apple trees. When Prohibition was repealed, the cider orchards simply weren’t there anymore. Hard cider had remained a common beverage in Europe, but its widespread production didn’t return to the US until the 1990s.
While Utah voted for prohibition in 1917, it was also among the states to vote for the law’s repeal. So it’s only fitting that this great state play a role in bringing back hard cider and the agriculture it supports.
Here are the five cider producers currently operating in Utah:
The Hive Winery and Spirits
Jay and Lori Yahne were engineers with a wine making hobby. When the 2008 recession hit, the engineering firm they ran dropped from 15 employees to two. But like everyone else, they had to keep paying the bills. In frustration, Lori made an offhand comment to her husband Jay, which would sew a robust little seed. “Maybe we should just make wine for a living,” she said. And so they did.
The cider they now produce is actually a spinoff of their wine business. The Hive Winery and Spirits Company is a boutique winery and craft distillery, specializing in premium “non-grape” fruit wines, honey wines, hard apple ciders, brandies, and specialty spirits.
Try the seasonal Autumn Stinger, infused with cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s lightly sweet and carbonated and only available at the winery.
When Ann Torrence and Robert Marc bought a piece of property along the Fremont River near Torrey, it came with water rights. And the rule with water rights in Utah is, use them or lose them. So, inspired by an historic crop still standing within the bounds of Capitol Reef National Park, they decided to plant a variety of cider apples.
The original plan was to sell the juice to home brewers, but a cider maker in Colorado pushed them to take it further. He asked why they would let anyone else make cider with their delectable fruit? The question got under their skin. “We realized he was right, and that’s when we started shifting our plan,” Torrence says.
Since the Wild Bunch was known to roam the Torrey area, they named their cidery after Etta Place, the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid. They now have more than 80 cultivars as well as peaches, cherries and cider pears.
The Grand Circle Semi-Dry and the Camp Fruitah are named for the breathtaking local landscape. Limited release items are only available in the Torrey tasting room, so book a tour (and plan to hike while you’re there).
Mountain West Cider
Salt Lake City
Jennifer and Jeff Carleton were on a business trip together in the U.K. They were enjoying the pub culture, but Jennifer was growing tired of drinking heavy beers in pub after pub. That’s when she noticed that alongside those English ales, each pub had dry ciders on offer. She fell in love with English cider and continued to pine for it when she came home to Utah.
The Carletons realized that Utah was ripe for a cider business. They met with a winemaker who helped them create their first product — a dry English-style cider like those they’d loved in the U.K. Eventually, the cidery brought on Marcio Buffalo, brewmaster and World Beer Cup medalist, to head up cider-making operations.
The Ruby is a 6.8% refresher that’s available year-round. Or, for a change, try their dry-hopped Cottonwood cider with just a touch of bitterness.
Second Summit Cidery
Second Summit Cidery started with a pithy idea. Vicki Bott and her friend Julie Adamson wanted to create a hangout that offered more to do than just sitting around talking. They wanted to give people the chance to unplug mentally and technologically and play games together. As a result, they thought, conversation and laughter would flow naturally. They were further inspired by Bott’s son Joe, who had been working at a cidery in Minnesota. Cider struck the team as the right beverage for their “active” social club, and Second Summit Cidery was born. Today, Utah’s newest cidery offers four pickle ball courts, pingpong, corn hole, and other games.
The Ginger Sumac cider demands a sip between pickleball sets.
Scion Cider Bar
Central 9th Neighborhood
Owner Elisabeth Osmeloski, along with husband Matthew Ostrander, had been traveling and experiencing cider culture outside Utah. “This started us on a path to create more of a cider culture here in Utah,” says Osmeloski. They started Scion Cider Bar and were able to import more than 250 ciders from other states and countries. In 2019, they partnered with Rio Connelly, the founder of Proper Brewing. True to that metaphor, Scion Cider Bar could be understood as a tree that has had a number of other cider cultivars grafted onto its branches, producing a colorful flowering and an eclectic harvest. They now produce their own ciders and sell products from all of the aforementioned cideries.
The Fuji-La is made from local Fuji apples, fermented off-dry with two different yeasts.
It’s cider season. Enjoy!