Q&A with Brad Page, Owner of Colorado Cider Company

Are cider apples different from the apples we purchase at the grocery store?

So called “Cider Apples”  are distinct from apple varieties you’d find in the grocery store.  The British refer to them as “spitters” because they tend to be tannic and sometimes bitter.  The properties you look for in an eating apple; sweet and crisp typically, are not what cider makers are looking for in a traditional cider apple.  Although sugar is key to  making alcohol there are tannins and terroir flavors that come through fermentation with cider apples.  The one analogy I use is that cider apples to dessert apples are like table grapes to wine grapes. It’s a comparison that is apt for comparing the two types of fruit.

Can you also eat cider apples?

You can eat them but they might not be too enjoyable.  There are many “crossover” apple varieties that are good eating and have some of the characteristics of cider apples such as Golden Russets and Ashmead’s Kernel.  The typical “cider apples” are known as “Bittersweets” and “Bittersharps” which illustrate the properties of each.

What are the most common apples used to produce Colorado Cider Co. ciders?

Our mainline ciders use a mixture of common dessert apples that you’d find in the grocery store.  We buy a blend that has the right acid level for fermentation.  Our orchard series uses a combination of about 20 varieties and the largest portions are Golden Russet Porter’s Perfection and Kingston Black.

We are trying to determine what varieties of non-dessert apples will grow on the Western Slope.  Currently we have planted the following:

Bittersweets:

  • Major
  • Blanc Mollet
  • Gros Frequin
  • Harry Masters Jersey

Bittersharps:

  • Brown’s Apple
  • Foxwhelp
  • Wickson Crab
  • Kingston Black
  • Porter’s Perfection
  • Gilpin

Heirlooms:

  • Northern Spy
  • Newtown Pippin
  • Golden Russet
  • Esopus Spitzenburg
  • Winesap
  • Arkansas Black
  • Smokehouse
  • Winter Banana