RVA Magazine visited with Blue Bee Cider recently. They gave us a tour of the facility and a look into the making of their various craft ciders. We happened to be present on a day when they were pressing apples and putting them into the boxes for fermentation. Throughout the tour and visit, we learned a lot about how cider was made and how the craft has been handed down through multiple generations.
RVA Magazine visited with Blue Bee Cider recently. They gave us a tour of the facility and a look into the making of their various craft ciders. We happened to be present on a day when they were pressing apples and putting them into the boxes for fermentation. Throughout the tour and visit, we learned a lot about how cider was made and how the craft has been handed down through multiple generations. We highly recommend a visit to try some of their artisan ciders, and learn more about the process of transforming local apples into high-quality craft ciders. Owner Courtney Mailey let us try some of the great ciders Blue Bee has on offer, and gave us the lowdown about Blue Bee’s history.
So tell me a little about about yourself.
I’m Courtney Mailey, the owner and cider maker at Blue Bee Cider. I’m from an Army family, so I’m not from anywhere in particular, but I live here with my husband in Richmond, and plan to stay.
How long has Blue Bee been making cider in RVA?
We moved into this space in June of 2012, so that’s really when the shovel went into the ground and we began.
Can you take us through the process of how you make your cider?
Cider making is wine making–we just use apples instead of grapes. Each apple we ferment expresses itself differently, just like each grape you ferment would be a different flavor. We then take our single variety ferments and blend them to create different families of flavor that become our ciders.
We just tried some of your current ciders; can you tell us a little about them?
Our current ciders [are] Charred Ordinary, the old fashion tavern style; Mill Race Bramble, which is a raspberry blackberry infusion and has a nice floral note; Hopsap Shandy, a dry hopped cider so [it’s] very citrus-like; Fanfare, a wild mulberry infused cider; Aragon 1904, which is similar to champagne, so it’s lighter, more fruit forward; then Harvest Ration, our dessert cider. These are all in bottles. We also do a small batch draft program, so Thursday nights we try out what we have made lately. We are releasing a barrel aged version of the Charred Ordinary – very salty, very sour and earthy with some brandy in the aroma, so there is a lot going on. It’s very still, so not many bubbles, but a very authentic old fashioned colonial cider that’s very limited.
One thing I really love about the local craft scene is how you get to know your brewer and get to know what they put into what you’re getting.
You know, if we had a house style, it would be diversity and surprise. We always want you to get a range of flavors, [so] you’re surprised by at least one thing that you taste. The surprise factor is always big on our Thursdays–that’s when we bring out our more experimental things. We are doing some smoked apples; we are not so sure how thats gonna turn out exactly, but that should be released in January. Those are the kinds of experimental things you can expect from us in future.
Visit Blue Bee Cider’s tasting room, located at 212 W. 6th St, from 5 to 7 on Thursday, and from noon to 7 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
This article is taken from the Winter 2014/2015 print edition of RVA Magazine, out now! Look for copies available for free at your favorite local Richmond businesses. To read a digital version of the full issue, click here.