Cider Days: A Family-Friendly Drinking Environment

Photo: Savannah Nelson


If you’ve never drank with your parents, I’d highly recommend it. There’s nothing quite like dismantling a power dynamic that’s been established for 21-plus years, rooted in the teachings of right and wrong, and worked to define the path of straight and narrowness. At last weekend’s Lakewood Cider Days, we blurred traditional boundaries— literally, as drinking alcohol impairs vision—as I sipped and slurped and chugged hard ciders alongside my mom and dad, who preferred to swig and taste and savor.

Cider Days 2016, hosted at the Lakewood Heritage Center on Oct. 1 and 2, featured a slew of fall-themed activities. Families ran toward the hay bale rides, pick-your-pumpkin patch, historic demonstrations for the saw mill and apple press, square dancing, staged cowboy performances beside a small car show, a tractor-pull race, and plenty of blow-up bouncy castles. Attendees were welcomed with the scents of fall wafting from booths: local businesses set up shop, selling anything from pumpkin-spice candles to caramel kettle-corn to autumn-friendly soaps and scrubs.

For adults though, the main appeal— aside from the delicious food-stand gyros and buffalo burgers, priced at $9 each—was the $25 all-you-could-drink hard cider garden. This wristband-only section featured over 20 different cider vendors from all over Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico, with 50 different types of cider, and, most importantly, offered a 2-ounce glass for each guest to use for their cider trials

As seasoned drinkers, my parents are still partied out from our New Year’s Eve antics in Mexico—specifically the afterhours consequences of my own indulgence—but as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 21-year-old, this day was an autumnal fairy tail. “Good thing this isn’t a tequila festival,” my dad joked.

The hour and a half wait time to get into Cider Days was well worth the sun-heavy line: my parents and I were able to indulge on some of Colorado’s best ciders while feeling our sobriety dissolve into the autumn landscape around us. While my parents prefer the likes of an occasional beer or glass of wine, even they got excited with the variety of ciders available to sample. Likewise, I was able to relinquish my hesitation toward public intoxication, especially with my parents in sight; after all, it was a feast of unlimited apple-juice alcohol.

It was difficult to decide which booth to try first. An unexpected hesitation arose: here I was with my parents, in sundresses and sunhats and doused in sunscreen, enjoying one of their few and far-in between visits to Denver, and I suddenly did not want to spoil it. This wasn’t meant to be a binge fest nor an excuse to use my free Uber code. For a few moments I stood caught between the opportunity to get drunk and the opportunity to spend time with my parents. The two worlds collided, as my dad closed his eyes and pointed to a name on the provided brochure, thus picking our first cider booth. “Oh,” he said, pointing in the direction of the keg-filled tent, “I bet you’ll like that one!” We then got to tasting.

Denver local C Squared Ciders filled our sampling glasses with Ginger, Alma, and Lilac-f lavored ciders, which tasted as you imagine a flower should. Their Nona f lavor, poured straight from a tap, mixed bitter and sweet apples to create a strong, full-tasting brew. This was a more traditional take on hard apple cider, compared to the innovative varieties at the Snow Capped booth.

The Fort Collins cidery (Snow Capped) had a wide selection of ciders—at the end of their incredibly long line, f lavors like Habanero Lime, Caramel Apple, Peach, and Crabby Granny waited. On the Habanero Lime, my mom noticed that, “The spiciness outmatches the sweet—it’s just the way I like it.” For the more tame of heart, and perhaps the more sober, Wild Cider from Firestone, Colo. served Pineapple and Lemon-Basil ciders, which were both surprisingly complementary in f lavor profiles and were tasty to boot.

Talbott’s Cider Company, straight out of Palisade, Colo., gave us a peach-f lavored cider, which had a light and dry consistency, similar to champagne. Emily Dickerson, a worker for the stand, suggested that Talbott’s ciders should be mixed with orange juice and added to a weekend morning routine. “It’s better than bubbly,” Dickerson said, smiling as she reached for yet another empty tasting glass, “because it’s fruity and natural. It tastes like the celebration we all deserve.”

Photo: Savannah Nelson
Photo: Savannah Nelson

“Great, don’t give these girls any more ideas,” my dad replied, before letting out a full-bellied laugh. That declaration was received by a clink of our glasses and a hefty “Cheers!” before we went in search of the portable restrooms.

Stem Ciders, whose brewpub and bar is located on Walnut St., combined new flavor twists: a favorite among festival-goers was the Raspberry Dry Hopped B&B. “It’s fucking metal,” Ryan Means, a Stem representative from Texas, said. His colorful language nearly matched both the rouge on my cheeks as the drinks began to settle and the palate of the drink: its rose-gold tint looked especially delicious once poured into our glasses.

Hotchkiss’ Big B’s Fabulous Juices & Hard Ciders booth delivered their version of alcoholic drinks, from the sweet and smooth Lazy Daze Lemonade to the pleasant and chipper Cherry Daze to the robust and aggressive Bourbon Barrel Pommeau, which, according to their website is “distilled into a 140 proof apple Eau De Vie, which is then blended back with hard cider and fresh apple juice; it’s then aged in used bourbon barrels for 12 months.” If you’re at the cider festival wishing for a higher-proof alcohol, this variety of Big B’s does the trick, though it left behind an overwhelming smoky aftertaste, which didn’t pair well with the next several samples.

It wasn’t a tragedy when some of the Pommeau sloshed from my glass onto the grass; instead the sloppiness was met with a collective set of giggles and my mom whispering, “Real smooth, Boo Boo.” The use of my childhood nickname was extra endearing, especially as some juicy hiccups caught me mid-cachinnation.

An official cider limit did not exist; patrons were able to go back to tents and request cider repeatedly, until the kegs ran dry. The threat of booths running out of their apple juice never settled on festival goers: the tone of Cider Days remained relaxed and social, never stressed nor competetive. As I took yet another sip of the Wild Cider Pineapple—perhaps for the fourth, maybe fifth time—I mistakenly swallowed more air than cider, resulting in a brief choking episode. My parents understandably took this as a sign of my drunkenness. “Umm,” my mom started, casting concerned looks over at my dad, who happened to be distracted by one of several leashed puppies, “maybe this is a good time to take a break.”

I agreed to the break without much resistance; the cider garden also hosted a convenient sprocket for fresh spring water, welcome to all guests. Thankfully, our complementary cider-tasting glasses also functioned as drinking water glasses. This intermission allowed us to walk around the festival and admire the wealth of vendors and activities, and roam toward the tantalizing smells of festival food. The homemade goods drew in my parents, whereas I half-wobbled over to the bouncy castles and wondered if the children inside would mind being out-jumped.

We made our way back to the garden, and sifted through the tents for any last-minute tastings. With a declining supply of sunscreen and our rapid dehydration, my parents and I sampled our last hard ciders. After an autumn afternoon of tasting Colorado’s best ciders, filled with laughter and hugs and plenty of reminiscing, one thing is perfectly clear: for next year’s Lakewood Cider Days, I recommend taking your parents along.

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