“If you look at the three cideries in D.C., we all spent the last two or three years trying to establish our identities,” says Will Sullivan, the co-founder of Supreme Core. “Now we’re saying to the public, ‘Hey, do you know you have all of these options?’” After all, he says, “There are people who walk into Anxo who’ve never heard of us or Cap Cider.”
The decision to team up is right on trend: Total sales of hard cider were up 8.4 percent in 2018, greatly outpacing beer, wine and spirits according to national research firm Nielsen. And although cider makes up less than 1 percent of all alcohol sales nationally, it’s strong with millennials — 40 percent of cider drinkers are in their 20s — and it has a better gender balance than other beverages, with regular drinkers split 51 percent male and 49 percent female.
Each of Washington’s three producers has its own approach to crafting cider, and that shows in their first collaboration. The cider makers got together at Capitol Cider House in early September and pressed 100 pounds of Jonathan apples, a heritage variety grown in an orchard at the foot of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Capitol Cider House owner Jared Fackrell says Jonathan was selected for a few reasons: It’s available early in the harvest season, leaving time for the cideries to work the pressed juice, and it “offers high acidity and sugar — both key components in crafting a well-balanced cider.”
After pressing, the juice was divided up and turned into three wildly different ciders. Supreme Core mixed its share with the yeast from 3 Stars’ boysenberry gose and fermented it in a Republic Restoratives bourbon barrel. Anxo fermented juice in a new oak puncheon (an oversize 500-liter barrel) and blended in juice from Gold Rush apples from Pennsylvania. Capitol Cider House fermented with wild yeast before aging in a barrel that had held Pommeau, or apple brandy.
The results go on tap at the respective cideries this weekend, which serves as the kickoff to the month-long cider passport program. Visit any of the cideries — Capitol Cider House is hosting a free harvest festival Sunday with apple tastings, apple cider doughnuts and activities for kids — and pick up a District of Cider passport. Show it at any of the tasting rooms through Nov. 15 for buy-one, get-one-free deals on house ciders. Collect stamps at all three locations for the chance to earn a $50 gift card.
If you want to taste the three collaboration ciders side by side, which sounds like a delicious experiment, you’ll have to wait until Rootstock, held Nov. 16 at Hook Hall in Park View. Unlimited tastes of at least 50 regional ciders are promised, alongside bands and food, and anyone with a completed cider passport receives $10 off Rootstock admission (regularly $39; $69 VIP).
“We just want to show that we have a critical mass of cider stuff going on in D.C. right now,” Supreme Core’s Sullivan says of the month-long celebration. The cideries “don’t have to have the same philosophies, but we want people to say, ‘Whoa, cider’s interesting.’ ”
Anxo: 300 Florida Ave. NW and 711 Kennedy St. NW; Capitol Cider House: 3930 Georgia Ave. NW; Supreme Core: 2400 T St. NE.