There was a time in this country where hard cider was just as popular, if not more so, than beer. Then, in the early 1900s, under Prohibition’s long shadow, most of the orchards growing apples for the spirit were ripped out. It’s been a long time coming but the American cider industry is finally making a comeback—and in Denver, you could say it’s exploding.

The city is home to three cider houses: Stem Ciders, Colorado Cider Company, and C Squared Ciders. Stem, in particular, is poised for tremendous growth. The four-year-old company has outgrown its RiNo location and recently broke ground on a new $7 million Lafayette facility that will include cider-making production, a new tap room, a restaurant, and offices. Stem 2.0 is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Those with an affinity for the warehouse-cool vibe of the Walnut Street digs need not fear: Stem will remain. Director of marketing, Courtney O’Rourke, says the company plans on using the existing tanks to create experimental ciders and wild fermentations. The space will continue to function as a tasting room, while also becoming more event-friendly with additional live music, cider pairings, and pop-ups.

Stem Ciders sampler
Rather than trying just one of Stem’s ciders, sample them all. Photograph by Amanda M. Faison

The cidery, which makes its hooch with culinary apples grown in Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and Michigan, is growing out of state too. Over the last two weeks, Stem made its Illinois debut during Chicago Cider Week (an event equivalent to our Great American Beer Fest). Kansas City, Missouri, is next, followed by several other markets.

In preparation for the expansion, Stem has reworked its look. Fans will notice that the tap handles and cans look a little different and that the names of the ciders are more straightforward: Malice has become Real Dry Apple Cider, Remedy is now Hopped Apple Cider, and so on. “The focus is on the ingredients rather than the product names,” O’Rouke says. “We wanted to bring the quality and integrity of our products to the forefront.”

Bonus: Check out Stem, C Squared, and 11 breweries via the newly launched Drink RiNo tour. Every Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m. free etuks make the rounds and pick up passengers interesting in checking out the neighborhood’s cider houses and breweries. Find the schedule here.

2811 Walnut St., 720-443-3007

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.