As the first leaves fall, Blue Bee Cider begins stocking its urban tasting room in Richmond with bottles of the esteemed Heirloom Series. The power trio boasts three historically rooted ciders that harness the fruity savors of Virginia’s centuries-old orchards. Making their autumn debut just in time for Cider Week Virginia are Hewe’s Crab, Harrison and Harvest Ration.
Formerly the cider apple of choice of Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, it comes as no surprise that Hewe’s Crab is one of the signature varietals being poured during this year’s Cider Week. Hewe’s Crab flourished in the South for centuries before its presumed extinction during the Prohibition era.
Several decades later, however, Virginia cidermakers unearthed a singular Hewe’s Crab tree growing in a commercial orchard in Williamsburg during the 1990s. The coveted cider apple flourished once again at the turn of the millennium and has remained a Commonwealth favorite.
Harrison, the northern rival of Hewe’s Crab, tells a similar story. Harrison grew abundantly in the colonial-era North before its mysterious disappearance. The varietal reappeared in 1976 on a single cider tree nestled behind an old cider mill in Livingston, N.J. As the fate of future ciders would have it, the miraculous rediscovery of Harrison took place just one week before the tree was removed to accommodate a vegetable garden.
The rare golden pour is predominantly fruit forward with notes of orange zest and golden raisin.
This heirloom’s namesake is inspired by the colonial tradition of gifting orchard workers a daily post-work ration of two parts cider and one part brandy. The boozy concoction not only hydrated and nourished the laborers but numbed their aches and pains caused by arduous shifts.
Crafting Harvest Ration into existence were Blue Bee and Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. The yearly dessert cider takes 12 months to prepare, beginning with the distillation of Blue Bee cider into an unaged brandy, or custom eau de vie. The brandy is then aged for six to eight months in five-gallon white oak barrels at Catoctin Creek’s facility.
The final winter elixir is produced by blending the brandy into an actively fermenting cider, boasting an ABV of 18 percent. Its aged, fruity pour makes for an excellent addition to Old Ration, Blue Bee’s cider-centered take on an Old Fashioned.
1 sugar cube
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce Blue Bee Harvest Ration
orange peel, garnish
How to make:
Place sugar cube at the bottom of a tumbler glass. Add four dashes of bitters and a splash of soda, allowing sugar to dissolve completely. Swirl to coat the bottom of the glass.
In a separate glass, stir bourbon and Harvest Ration. Pour into the sugared tumbler and stir lightly.
Add a large ice cube and run an orange peel around the rim. Twist remaining juice over the drink, then drop in to enjoy.