RiNo's new cidery Stem Ciders will celebrate its grand opening today from 3 to 11 p.m. Posted up will be two food trucks, Kuechos and Crock Spot and Lineage Music Project will begin playing live bluegrass at 7 p.m.
Stem owners Phillip Kao and Eric Foster got hooked on cider during a trip home to Michigan. "We were drinking sweet wines at vineyards and were getting palate fatigue," says Kao. "But we came across a cool little place that did craft ciders and were just blown away by the experience. Dry, clean and flavorful; it was an eye opener."
Dry, clean, and flavorful describes one of Stem's flagship ciders, The Malice. "Malice is our most fruity cider, slightly tart and zippy. It's a clean and easy drinking cider," says Kao. "We get a lot of questions about the name Malice," he continues. "Malice comes from the genus name for the apple family, "Malus." We thought that was a fun way to be a little nerdy."
Also on tap at Stem are Banjo, a bourbon-barrel aged cider, and Le Chêne, a wine barrel aged cider. Banjo, Le Chêne, and Malice will all be available at the opening tomorrow.
Stem's taproom, which opened softly earlier this month, was designed to feel like an urban barn, with lots of raw wood and metal. Kao's wife's dad made the tables and bars out of blue-stain beetle kill pine from Grand County. There is a nine-foot meeting table in the middle of the room, and communal picnic tables on the patio for warmer days— with a pass-through, drink-ordering window to boot.
"We've had some great response to our cider. Everyone is sort of surprised by how dry and tart they are," says Kao. "Craft cider is sort of recalibrating peoples' perception of cider, which is to say a flavorful, clean drink."
Stem's cider apples are mainly sourced from the Western Slope, supporting the company's philosophy to support small, local purveyors, as well as honor the apple-growing tradition in the state. "The orchards we work with are mainly in Cedaredge," explains Kao. "Most people are surprised to hear that the region used to be big in apples. The high altitude, bright sun and cool nights really gives high sugar content and bigger flavors in the apples."
Stem is also planting some heirloom cider apples to get the more bitter, tannic apples. They are also sourcing apples from family farms in Michigan, where some more cider-leaning apples are grown.
Next up for Stem is distributing their cider in kegs and bottles. Expect to see them around Denver in a few weeks.
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