On a cliff: Bold Rock plans to build big

So we're getting ready to drive to Richmond for the UVA Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday morning when we get a call from John Washburn, the bossman out at Bold Rock Cider in Nelson County.

He's asking if we want to write about the 11,000 square foot cider barn that he's building on a mountainside over Nellyford. Well, sure, but can you send us a pretty picture showing how it'll look?

He's got blueprints, but no artistic rendering, so we start chatting instead about the 700 exposed beams including one that measures three feet by four feet and 50 feet long. And then we start discussing his vision of floor-to-ceiling glass and the fact that this new building will be up on a cliff.

"We're taking this big plunge due to the wonderful demand we've experienced," says Washburn.

It seems that although he just recently began bottling and selling the cider in June he has already inked a contract with Budweiser to distribute his ciders across the state. After all, his cider maker, Brian Shanks, came all the way from New Zealand on a visa that noted his "extraordinary ability."

Well, sorry, you gotta send us the pretty picture of the new building, we tell him. But then something happened shortly before the drive to Richmond.

We slip into a downtown apartment, open the fridge, and there's a bottle of the "Virginia Apple" variety. It's crisp, it's cool, and gently alcohol-laden.

And so we put the bottle next to a window for a pretty picture while we await a pretty picture– or the completion– of the big bottling barn on a cliff.

Read more on: hard cider


It's good stuff, yo.

Cider seems to be making a "comeback" here in Virginia and it is very exciting! I do wonder though - what is the difference between something like Potter's Craft Cider or Foggy Ridge and Bold Rock. I've had all three and the Bold Rock cider is a different beast. I have a feeling that Bold Rock may be using concentrate and not actual apples - and tossing in a bunch of sugar. Some people might not care about the difference if it all tastes good but I do - especially if Budweiser has joined the party.

Distribution by Budweiser is a huge red flag. I'll taste it and I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised, but I'm not holding my breath.

I've been there and they use nothing but fresh apples, mostly from Nelson County. If you haven't tried it it is very refreshing and tastey ! The differance in taste is like the differance in beer or wine, depends on the maker.

Swilling hard cider on a Wednesday morning before driving from Charlottesville to Richmond?

Journalism: still the good life.

Where can you get the Cider now? Is it in local grocery stores or only through the Brewer?

I bought a six pack of the cider at Foods of All Nations this past saturday. They had two different varieties of Bold Rock

Gotta love the photo - if I were Bud I'd sign for the rights pronto.

@Chris - I did ask around about this and it does seem they are using actual apples which makes sense given their location. I was just curious about the differences between mass produced cider (which this must be given the Budweiser interest) and "real cider".

When you get into this level of production, I think it would be impossible not to be using additional apple concentrate, sugar and additional sweeteners, and then fermenting with a controlled yeast strain. Traditional cider is made with whole pressed apples that are fermented by the wild yeasts present on the skin. There is no way they could be sourcing enough apples to make traditional cider. I think it is important for people to understand the difference.

@Moses Apple: I was ready to diss this cider...corporate distribution: Ahah!

I toured...tasted...bought a case. The apples are squished before your eyes. The juice is pumped to the vat room. Yeast and carefully controlled temps make the difference. Soo, it is the real deal. Delicious, not a hint of mold or additives. Another success for route 151.

This is indeed an industrially produced cider that uses co2 stored apples (the "fresh" apples they used in production this Spring). Fermented with the addition of sugar to a higher (than if fermented without the addition of glucose) alcohol content and then watered back to 4.7% ABV (alcohol by volume). Sure it is local but not that different than other mass produced corporate ciders on the market. @Momsy "Yeast and carefully controlled temps make the difference" sounds like some phrase lifted from an ad. If you want the real deal try locally based Castle Hill, Albemarle CiderWorks or Potter's Craft.

Dear Moses Apple,

Please visit Bold Rock Hard Cider before making such silly comments. Talk with Brian Shanks, a master hard cider maker who was asked by Bulmer's in Great Britain to head their cider industry years ago. He'd be happy to set you straight in your misguided beliefs about Bold Rock's cider (and their association with Budweiser). You'd perhaps be more than welcome to watch the process from beginning to end, thus becoming a bit more educated about the new addition to Nelson 151.


One of their employees

@john gault....I have tasted one of the other ciders you mentioned. I didn't care for what I would term a muddy taste with mold overtones. I do know what yeast is. Temperatures that are kept within certain limits are what I call 'carefully controlled.' No corporate talk here, just reporting what I saw.

@Momsy – I never said that you did not know what yeast was. I said that your phrase "Yeast and carefully controlled temps make the difference" sounds like some phrase lifted from an ad. (Do you work for Hill & Knowlton? I did not check the metatags!) And of course the temperature is controlled as is the case with any fermentation process. Each of the real local CRAFT cideries produce several varieties of cider. Try more than one before you make a general judgment about them. Traditional cider is dryer so if you like the “apple soda pop” flavor of an industrial cider stick with Bold Rock or Woodchuck.

@Moses Apple – I agree it is important for people to understand the difference.