On Friday the 10th, I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of Stem Ciders, a new cidery in Denver near Coors Field. It was well worth the trip.
Specializing in tart, dry ciders and oak aging–their lineup includes Bourbon barrel-aged and wine barrel-aged selections–Stem Ciders is a welcome addition to the rapidly-evolving landscape of craft ciders here in Colorado.
Located in an up-and-coming section of Walnut street, Stem is just down the street from Epic Brewing and just up from LoDo. Or was it the other way around? At any rate, it’s tucked into the back of a winery building (Mile High Winery) and has great decor–oak barrels, metal, repurposed barn wood, and beautiful wood tables abound. It’s welcoming, manages to strike modern and rustic notes the same time, and…actually, I don’t have a lot more to contribute on the site description that wasn’t covered already by Westword or Denver Off The Wagon or Denver.Eater, so I’ll let you check those out for that aspect of things.
Anyway, the cider. The founders, Eric and Phil, have put a lot of thought and effort into their ciders, and it shows. Here’s what they had at hand:
La Chene–a dry, 7.4% abv cider aged in Red Zinfandel barrels. Oak tannins and smokiness were apparent, and the cider had a complexity that I don’t normally find in table fruit-based ciders. According to Eric, there were some American heirloom varieties in the blend which I believe account for this. Challenging and interesting.
Banjo–Bourbon barrel-aged, unfiltered, dry cider. Bourbon was more present on the nose than in the flavor profile for me, but there were some vanilla and spice notes to the latter. Wasn’t overwhelming like I’d feared it might be–a good balancing act and definitely something you don’t find every day. 6.9% abv. Distinctive.
Malice–pretty straightforward, relatively strong at 7.5% abv, but nice and clean. Tart and dry. The most sessionable of the group. A good, everyday drinkin’ cider.
Grand Opening Special Reserve–this was a still cider that had undergone malolactic fermentation, mellowing the acidity. It was similar in some ways to one of my favorite styles, the still English farmhouse cider (example here), though without the body that the latter derives from tannic, European cider varieties. Round, subtle, and smooth, I was happy to see this in the lineup, as 1) it’s a hard style to find outside of imported bottles and 2) it speaks to Eric and Phil’s knowledge of cider and is, I hope, a sign of even better things to come.
The atmosphere is comfortable–I managed to find a seat at the main bar and camped on it like the precious real estate it is–and there was an interested buzz of people trying something new and enjoying the process. Eric, Colleen, Phil, and Mandy seemed quite energized, pouring ciders, educating the patrons, and making everyone feel welcome and part of something special. I was there pretty early–4ish to 6ish–but by the time I left it was getting pretty busy.
And for those of you who enjoy a good food truck, you’ll be happy to learn that these will be a common feature at Stem Ciders–there is a handy spot right out by their patio where two food trucks fit quite nicely. Add in Bluegrass on Thursday nights, and it’s turning into quite the scene…all in its first officially-open week. They post the details frequently on their Facebook page.
All in all, I had a great time and was pleased to make the acquaintance of great ciders and great people. I’ll definitely be back.
And for those of you who can’t make it to Denver, all hope is not lost–Stem does plan to distribute as well, at least Malice and Banjo, and at least within Colorado.
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