Bold Rock Hard Cider, the Virginia-based hard cider-maker, will be installing six 6,000-gallon tanks, a bottling line, carbonating machine and conveyor in coming weeks at its new Mills River production facility as Bold Rock prepares to open at 72 School House Road, founder John Washburn said Tuesday.
The fast-growing regional craft cider marker is based near Charlottesville, Va. Washburn announced last year that he and his business partner, Brian Shanks, had purchased property near Sierra Nevada’s new East Coast brewery for their own expansion. Just as they do in their Virginia location in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Washburn and company in Mills River will use locally grown apples to make their cider.
Bold Rock is the largest independently owned cider company in the U.S. It opened in 2012. The plan is to be up and running in Mills River by June, Washburn said Tuesday morning at a meeting at Waking Life Cafe in West Asheville. Aside from the manufacturing facility, there will be a tasting room where visitors can sample ciders and watch the cider-making process, he said.
Washburn’s family roots are in Rutherford County, where a Washburn’s country store has operated since the 1800s. He grew up in Greensboro, moved with his family to Carolina Beach and ended up living in Virginia (Washburn actually lives now in Durham and said he’s looking to relocate to the Asheville area) and owning a farm in New Zealand. That’s where he met Shanks, renowned for his cider-making abilities. The two teamed up, and have been riding a wave of renewed interest in craft beverages and locally grown food.
“There is more than one explanation for what accounts for the growth we’ve been seeing,” Washburn said.
“One is that hard cider is naturally gluten free. Also, there’s the heritage of hard cider in the U.S. I think people have a subconscious link to it. Thomas Jefferson had a cider apple orchard. It’s an American drink, unlike beer, which came from Germany,” Washburn said.
“There’s also something romantic about apple orchards,” he added. “They’re idyllic”
Washburn said he’s excited about the new North Carolina cidery. Bold Rock continues to innovate, he said, noting that it has a cider made from Bartlett pears and an India Pressed Apple cider that is dry hopped.
“People want to be adventurous in what they taste.”