Noble Cider in Asheville, North Carolina, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with an event marked with live music, food and cake, door prizes and the release of a new flagship cider.
Founded in 2012 by three friends with zero background in brewing or making cider, co-founder Lief Stevens was, at the time, a professional musician. Joanna Baker was too, as the lead singer in the wedding band Stevens had started. As the story goes, Baker’s husband, Trevor, had been laid off from his job and was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next in life. Joanna jokingly suggested they start a cidery — and so they did.
Like many places in the United States at that time, the craft beer scene was starting to take off; so too in Asheville, a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains with a population of over 92,000. Stevens wondered why there wasn’t anyone also making cider, since Asheville is an area that produces a lot of apples. At the time, cider wasn’t easy to come by — even at a national level. Stevens wanted to make cider that was dry using local apples, something more akin to sparkling white wine.
Stevens and Joanna and Trevor Baker each pitched in what little money they had to rent a small warehouse and purchase a 15-barrel brite tank and eight IBC totes. With not enough money left over to buy a press, Stevens built one. In their first year, they pressed 7,570 liters of apple juice by hand and fermented it all in the totes, which became their flagship cider, Standard Bearer, a very dry champagne-like cider. They sold their first cider in May of 2012 and by July had sold out. The next year they pressed 10 times the amount and replaced the totes with five 3,785-liter fermenters. They also made their second year-round cider, Village Tart, a cherry cider using Montmorency cherries.
In 2015, Noble Cider moved to a much larger facility, a 9,000-square-foot building in West Asheville, where they opened a taproom and gradually expanded their production capability. Now they have everything from 945-liter to 19,680-liter tanks, as well as a pressing and canning line. They also formed a partnership with one of the larger orchards in the area, Lewis Creek Farm, and created their own juicing company. Stevens says Noble’s core range of ciders uses blends of mostly table and culinary apples, but through their partnership with Lewis Creek Farm they have started to grow British, French and American cider varietals.
According to Stevens, “I only ever want to make ciders that I am proud of. For me that means filling our tanks with 100% fresh-pressed apple juice, using the best quality ingredients and as much local ingredients as we can get. It’s not necessarily the most profitable way to make cider, but it’s the only way I want to do it.”
As Asheville’s very first cidery (and second in the state), Stevens admits there was a lot of initial skepticism about how they would be received, but after a successful 10 years, there can be no question — people really enjoy their style of ciders!
“Quality apples are the key to great cider,” says Stevens. “It’s very important to us to have a consistent source of fresh pressed local apple juice.”
Lee Reeve is the owner-operator of inCiderJapan G.K. (www.inciderjapan.com), an importer/distributor, retailer, and producer of cider and cider-related goods. He is also the publisher of inCiderJapan, Asia’s first and only bilingual magazine dedicated to all things cider.