by Genevieve Mellott
I remember my first sip of Wild Cider vividly. It was Pineapple. Enjoying an evening with friends, I tasted it with skepticism. And then I thought, “What. Is. This? OMG.” Slightly sweet, crisp, and a tad effervescent, I had experienced something downright delectable. After that, I noticed that Wild Cider was available in many stores and restaurants and figured it was a regional company based in Boulder or outside the state. Not so. Boulder may be known for its startups, including breweries, but this brand, one of Colorado’s foremost hard cider companies, lies just outside of town in Firestone. Wild Cider has been in business for eight years, producing luscious, less-sweet alternatives to the typical syrupy apple beverage and a juicier, gluten-free option to not-sweet-at-all beer.
A couple of years ago, I heard through the grapevine that the business had a cider garden to visit and drink cider in the summer months. I went to their website. It didn’t have much information. Then I ventured out one time. It was closed. But at least I could still get the products in the supermarket, so not all was lost. A bit disheartened that my timing was off, I left it at that. Then, this summer, I noticed some buzz about live music happening on Fridays in the cider garden. What a great idea! In a year that squelched most live entertainment, this local company had a safe space and wherewithal to bring it back! The cidery seemed to be making lemonade (or lemon basil cider, as it were) out of this lemon of a year, and I was glad to hear they were active again! I wondered what sparked the new push.
As it turns out, on July 31, 2019, the torch passed to new owners Dan and Audrey Reagan, who were fueled by big dreams and a desire for community. Dan is an Air Force veteran of 15 years, plus Reserves, and has a prestigious culinary background, having worked in some of the best restaurants in Denver. Audrey is the administrative tour de force, combining her business savvy with Dan’s flair for flavor. Dan and Audrey wanted to start a brewery, but traditional beers contain gluten, which is off the menu for Audrey. Then this opportunity of a lifetime appeared. Audrey remembers, “We were living in southeast Aurora when the cidery went up for sale, and we had been looking for a change in life from the normal grind (looking for a brewery to buy or start at the time), and fate brought us Wild Cider. Poof! After trying the commuting thing for a couple of months, we decided to move up here and give Wild Cider our all.”
What happened after they purchased the business was a bit of a shock to the new owners. Rumors began to spread to local stores and restaurants that Anheuser-Busch had purchased the company, and some refused to buy the products thinking Wild Cider was now corporate. Not only that, but the existing supplier relationships had to be rebuilt entirely because of the transfer, even though the company had worked with the vendors for years. On top of all that… 2020. These setbacks could have sent the Reagans packing, but it did not. As new Frederick residents, they buckled down, did some marketing, and focused on ways they could make things better.
So why should you be wild about Wild Cider? First, the brand is continually creating novel and innovative ingredient combinations. One of Dan’s strengths is his passion for inventing new flavors. Tasting these refreshing ciders proves that they are worth the numerous international gold medals they have taken home. Yes, the staples and tried-and-true seasonal flavors stay, but new recipes are constantly being tested, like the cran-orange that came out in October. And response from customers like you and me will either keep them in the lineup or make them a one-time treat. In addition, customer feedback is leading Wild Cider to produce 12-oz cans as an easier, more drinkable way to enjoy the beverages. Look for your favorites in this new size in the coming months. Another of the Reagans’ ideas was maximizing the cider garden’s seasonal use, hence the live music. They also featured scary movies at sundown on Fridays in October and continued to hold socially distanced and responsible private events. From relaxed evenings of pizza and cider and movies under the stars to gorgeous weddings, their outdoor space is expansive and family-friendly. The public events are free because the couple knows the investment will pay off in relationships with their neighbors. Dan’s take on it is: “We want to get people to explore new things. Being here so close to the mountains, we encourage people to get outside and get out of their comfort level. Live life and go have fun.”
But what about now that the garden is closed for winter? Just like the bees that pollinate the apple orchard, the cidery is always buzzing, always producing. Winter is a time for planning, testing, and forecasting the year to come, but it’s not off-limits for us locals. Drop by the warehouse for your cans and growlers 8 AM – 5 PM Monday through Friday and say “hi.” After all, Dan and Audrey view their business not as much about the beverages but more about the community, which is why our feedback and support is so essential year-round. Visit wildcider.com and facebook.com/wildciderco for more information and 11455 Co Rd 17 in Firestone for your hard cider needs. And as always, please enjoy your hard cider responsibly.