How Sweet It Is: Hard Cider and Tasting Rooms
It’s no secret North Carolina is a talked-about destination when it comes to craft beer, with 200+ breweries and brewpubs. But the Tar Heel State is also seeing another drink rapidly gain popularity: cider.
The rise in cideries in North Carolina seems fitting, as the state ranks seventh in yearly apple production. Many of those apples come out of Henderson County, which produces roughly 85 percent of all apples grown here.
Head out to one of these cidery tasting rooms to experience this burgeoning scene in Western North Carolina.
1 Black Mountain Ciderworks
1 Black Mountain CiderworksBlack MountainSee on map
Co-owners David Hall Bowman and Jessica Puzzo-Bowman were inspired to open Black Mountain following a trip to England several years ago. The English influences are evident with several of Black Mountain’s ciders (which rotate on a seasonal basis). The tasting room is open Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday.
What to sample: Try The Puritan, which is made using a 17th-century recipe from colonial New England, featuring the wild yeasts of raisins and Good Queen Bess, a cider-lavender mead blend named for Queen Elizabeth I, who had a fondness for lavender. Black Mountain’s flagship is Pomona, a tantalizing cider that has a perfect dryness to it, and is also available to take home in bottles.
2 Noble Cider
2 Noble CiderAshevilleSee on map
Noble prides itself on making pure hard cider “from tree to tap.” The popularity in this cidery grew so much that it expanded operations in 2015 from Fletcher to West Asheville, where it now boasts a taproom open Thursday through Sunday, complete with guided tours, where you can see apple pressings firsthand.
What to sample: Noble’s most popular year-round offerings are The Standard Bearer and The Village Tart, a cherry-infused cider like none other.
3 Urban Orchard Cider
3 Urban Orchard CiderAshevilleSee on map
Just like the city where it resides, there’s no shortage of selection at Urban Orchard. First, of course, is the cider, which ranges from staples Sweet English and Dry Ridge to the more adventurous choice of Sidra del Diablo, featuring smoked habanero peppers and vanilla. Urban Orchard’s taproom offers year-round and seasonal ciders, along with guest bottles as well. Pair your favorite cider with a variety of local meat/cheese plates or baked goods to cap off your visit.
4 Bold Rock’s Mills River Cidery
4 Bold Rock’s Mills River CideryMills RiverSee on map
Just minutes from Asheville, the Mills River Cidery offers an inviting patio and an expansive tasting room to enjoy any of the eight award-winning hard ciders. Take a tour of the newest facility in the Bold Rock family to learn about the local blends – Carolina Apple and Carolina Draft – and take a peek behind the cidery’s curtain at the expanded bottling line. The Tap Room is also the perfect spot for hosting your next party, fundraiser or company function.
5 Flat Rock Ciderworks
5 Flat Rock CiderworksFlat RockSee on map
Started by four Hendersonville businessmen with a vision of giving back to the community, Flat Rock Ciderworks is committed to its North Carolina roots – literally. The local cidery grows its own apples and blackberries, and sources other ingredients from Henderson County so the cider stays local from tree to bottle.
What to sample: Have a drink at the tasting room (open Thursday through Sunday) to try the popular Blackberry Gold cider. The tartness from a hint of mountain-grown blackberries makes this pleasantly different than a traditional cider.
6 McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks
6 McRitchie Winery and CiderworksThurmondSee on map
Wine and cider enthusiasts get the best of both worlds at McRitchie, which boasts bountiful vineyards and also sources handpicked fresh apples via the mountains in Wilkes County. McRitchie’s ciders are served in two styles – dry and semisweet – and you can enjoy them either onsite (open Thursday through Sunday) or take a bottle or two to go.
7 Red Clay Ciderworks
7 Red Clay CiderworksCharlotteSee on map
The Queen City’s first cidery opened to mass fanfare in July 2015. When visiting the taproom (open Wednesday through Sunday), seek out Red Clay’s crisp Queen City Common and the aptly named South End Sweet, named after the neighborhood where the cidery is located.
What to sample: There’s always a seasonal offering or two, and Red Clay wows the local beer-loving crowd with its collaboration with nearby Birdsong Brewing and its Jalapeno Pale Ale for a beer-cider blend, Jalapacider.
8 Bull City Ciderworks
8 Bull City CiderworksDurhamSee on map
Locals have been, well, bullish on this cidery since it opened in 2013. While Off Main provides a crisp and drinkable offering, dig into your Southern roots and try Sweet Carolina, which is infused with local honey and Steep South, a cider cold steeped with black tea and honey that creates a refreshing sweet tea flavor. Can’t make up your mind? Try a flight, and don’t forget to check out the rotating seasonal and small batch offerings. Bull City is open Tuesday through Sunday, with tours of the cidery every Saturday.
Apple & Cider Festivals
During spring, visit the Apple Country Cider Jam in Hendersonville to taste local ciders and enjoy great music in our state's largest apple-producing county. And there’s even an official cider festival, CiderFest NC in Asheville, which takes place each fall and awards ribbons for the top-produced ciders in North Carolina.