Asheville native Lief Stevens was getting tired of too-sweet cider. It was 2012, and it seemed that there were hardly any commercial ciders available, and the ones that were out
Asheville native Lief Stevens was getting tired of too-sweet cider. It was 2012, and it seemed that there were hardly any commercial ciders available, and the ones that were out there were loaded with artificial flavors. Stevens began to wonder why no one in the area — a big apple producing region in one of the biggest apple producing states in the country — was making cider, especially when the city had a thriving craft beer scene.
One day, while Stevens was at a bar with friends Trevor and Joanna Baker, everything clicked: Joanna suggested they start their own cidery — one that could showcase truly local apples — and they ran with it.
“We jumped right in,” Stevens says. “We built everything; we built a little press line, and that first year we pressed two thousand gallons by hand.”
Today, Asheville’s first cidery, Noble Cider, produces deliciously dry ciders made with local, fresh-pressed apples in flagship flavors like crisp dry, cherry, ginger, and chai, plus a dozen other small-batch and seasonal creations. Recently, they’ve even branched out to light and crisp hard cider spritzers — a modern twist on the classic spritz. And there’s not an artificial flavor in sight.
We sat down with Stevens to learn more about Noble Cider’s ciders and spritzers — and what he loves most about his job.
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OS: How do you make your cider?
LS: A few years ago, we bought a large press line, but we ran out of space, so we formed a partnership with a local orchard and moved it out to their farm. They take their apples, as well as apples from surrounding orchards, and we press a couple of times a week. We bring the juice here and fill up a whole tank with 100 percent juice, which we ferment into cider.
OS: How does your hard cider spritzer differ from regular cider?
LS: With a spritzer, we start with that base of local, pressed apple juice, which has been fermented into cider, and then we infuse it with a fruit and a botanical. In the case of the lemon and elderflower spritzer, we take organic lemon peels and elderflowers and basically make these big tea bags with them and put them in a big kettle. Then, all of the ingredients go in the tank. We let that brew for a while, and we get all the flavors from the botanical and the fruit in there. Then we add apple juice to give it just a little bit of sweetness.
OS: What other ingredients do you use in your spritzers?
LS: When we created the hard cider spritzers, we were very keen for them to be made with real ingredients, real fruit peels. In addition to the lemon and elderflower, we also offer lime and hibiscus, which is made with lime peels and hibiscus petals; grapefruit and citra, which is made with grapefruit peels and citrus hops; and orange and jasmine tea, which is made with orange peels and green jasmine tea. They’re all real ingredients — we aren’t adding artificial flavors. They’re real things that you can scoop up.
OS: Why is using “real” ingredients important to you?
LS: The whole idea behind Noble Cider is to use really high-quality ingredients and local products as much as possible. We try to work with the local farmers and apple growers. We’re trying to find as much local stuff as we can and start off with the whole fruit whenever possible. There used to be many, many different varieties of apples grown in this area and all across the United States. Now, there’s just a few varieties that are mainly being grown for grocery stores. We are encouraging growers to grow more of the cider varieties that used to exist so that we have a lot more flavors to play with. It’s very important for us to develop those partnerships with the local growers in this area.
OS: What do you enjoy most about making cider?
LS: I love the creativity involved in making a new product. Working with local fruits, taking watermelons or blackberries or apples, squishing them, and turning them into something delicious. Creating those interesting flavors and perfecting them through multiple small batches. The best feeling is you create a cider and you go to a bar and see someone drinking a product you created. Knowing you made that is an incredible thing. I’ve been doing this for eight years and it still blows me away every time I see people drinking our stuff and enjoying it.
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