Bold Rock Cider opens in Nelson County
The News and Advance.
Bold Rock Cider began flowing a few weeks ago, adding a new
destination to wet your whistle along Virginia 151 in Nelson
"We're over the moon," said John Washburn, a co-founder of Bold
Rock Cider. "We are so excited. We have butterflies every day
Distribution began the first week in June. It is sold at area
stores and will come to Lynchburg in September.
Tours and tastings at the cidery began June 30, despite the
power outage, and will be held every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Having a cidery was a recent dream of Washburn's. He bought the
Nellysford land 25 years ago, planning to retire on it. But while
living on his farm in New Zealand he heard about how the Rockfish
Valley was developing and decided to join in the action.
In August 2009, he and his wife contemplated which beverage
complemented the area's already existing wine and beer market. Hard
apple cider was the answer. They were sold after researching it and
reading an article about how the cider market will rocket in the
United States over the next decade. His research led him to Brian
Shanks, one of the top cider makers in the world, who also was
living in New Zealand.
"Cider is in a huge growth at the moment and we're confident it
will double," said Shanks, a Bold Rock Cider co-founder.
After Washburn tried Shanks' cider and the two flew to Virginia
to see the farm, a partnership was born.
Shanks, who spoke about cider on television shows and was the
head of cider innovation for Great Britain, was awarded a visa so
he could work in the U.S. and has been here since October.
Shanks worked on the cidery's two blends - Virginia Apple, a
light, bubbly, fragrant green apple cider, and Virginia Draft, a
slightly heavier, more bodied cider with clear apple tones - for a
few weeks, perfecting the flavor, color, aroma, acid balance and
"He wanted to have it be even better than the ciders produced in
the past so Virginians could be proud," Washburn said. "Brian
always says, 'We're doing this in Virginia with Virginia
Thousands of local apples will be used annually in cider
"We would like to use as many Nelson County apples as possible
in the future," Washburn said.
One of the benefits to Virginia apples is they've been growing
in the area for over 200 years and the art of growing has been
perfected over that time, Shanks said.
"The climate, the land and whole environment are just conducive
to growing apples," Shanks said.
He compared it to grapes, which are a new Virginia crop that
growers are still experimenting with.
Another aspect of local apples the owners enjoy is that people
are able to see where the apples, and thus cider, come from.
"We want people to enjoy drinking in the scenery," Washburn
Apples aren't the only local thing. The tap handles were carved
from a cherry tree on the farm and assembled in Lynchburg, where
the rocks and steel logo were also made.
The apple skins are sent to a Nelson County pork business, which
Washburn plans to use as a supplier once the pub is
Even the company's name draws on a local influence. It was
inspired by Black Rock Mountain, a feature in the farm's viewshed.
Washburn said they wanted a strong name for their product and
arrived at Bold Rock Cider.
"We liked the phrase 'Our bold ciders rock,'" Washburn said.
The cider has been well received among customers and
distributors alike. People have begun calling Washburn and Shanks
to see if they can sell the cider at their restaurant, tavern or
festival. The cidery sold out of its six kegs at a recent beer
festival in northern Virginia.
"There are many, many matters when you start up a business,
especially an alcohol-providing business, but the excitement and
enthusiasm we have experienced has buoyed us up," Washburn
He said the hardest part of starting the business has been
ensuring they are following the very thorough federal and state
The two production and packing barns were completed in May 2012,
10 months after construction began. The 1,500-square-foot barn
houses the fermenting and bottling part. The 2,400-square-foot barn
houses the tasting and juicing part.
Apples are squeezed in the juicers in one building. The juice
then travels through a pipe to the other building, where it sits in
one of six 14-feet tall fermentation tanks for 17 to 21 days. The
cider is then bottled and brought back over to the first building
for tastings, purchase and shipments.
Shanks said the target output is 60,000 cases annually, or
Cider production at the new facilities created six full-time and
six part-time jobs.
In the fall, construction will begin on the 11,000-square-foot
rustic cider barn where the pub will be located. Designs for the
pub depict floor-to-ceiling windows and hundreds of exposed oak
beams. The building will also have thousands of old hand-made
bricks from a demolished building. It is expected to be completed
in Fall 2013, Washburn said.
Washburn said he has already started thinking about the menu,
which he describes as Southern comfort food with a cider twist,
like the cider-marinated brown-sugar-glazed pork chops.
The pub will create 30 jobs for the area, Washburn said.
New ciders are also in development. The newest will be Crimson
Ridge, which is more like an apple wine. It has a seven percent
alcohol content, compared to the 4.7 percent the two current ciders
He said he hopes they are able to provide an enjoyable
"If our project is creative and in harmony with this rural
mountain environment and that families are happy coming to this
agri-tourism site, we'll feel very fulfilled," Washburn said.
Shanks said he hoped they were able to contribute to the local
scene and cider market as a whole.
"I think when we initially looked at the project, our goal was
to capture a significant part of the United States' hard cider
market, but also had something a little bit different in the local
culture and economy of Virginia and Nelson County," he said. "The
area has a lot of wineries and breweries. We think our cider is a
little different and will blend in and make the area a more