Hard cider made from apples was a common drink in early America. Often safer to drink than water and considered a source of nutrition, cider was drank as much out of necessity as pleasure.
Though cider consumption dropped considerably in the mid-19th century, this once-common beverage is at the threshold of a renaissance. Helping lead the cider resurgence in Virginia is Courtney Mailey, founder of Blue Bee Cider.
Located in the historic Scott’s Addition area in northwest Richmond, Blue Bee Cider was founded in 2012 and is Virginia’s first urban cidery. “Blue Bee” cider is named after a native Virginia bee, osmia lignaria, known as the Blue Orchard Bee.
Mailey and her team recently expanded the Blue Bee line of craft ciders to include a unique cider/mead hybrid called Wild Honey Cyser, a blend of Winesap and Arkansas Black heirloom cider apples and wildflower and clover honey.
“I have been wanting to add a cyser to our lineup ever since feral bees started swarming and building hives near our orchard in Nelson County,” says Mailey. “They are super hearty little bees and have started producing significant amounts of honey.”
The Arkansas Black apples add a golden hue color and green apple notes to the cyser while the Winesap rounds out the tannins and provides enough sharpness to balance the higher pH of the honey. The Arkansas Black and Winesap apples were cultivated in orchards on the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Wildflower honey is minty and can be overpowering so the cyser was co-fermented with a blend of wildflower and clover honeys and then sweetened with orange blossom honey to add floral aromas.
Golden color in the glass, the cyser offers light effervescence with tart apple and peach skin notes with a waxy honey texture. This new cider can be purchased at the Blue Bee Cider tasting room.