Since opening last Veteran's Day, Cider Corps in Mesa has brewed almost 70 kinds of craft cider. The cidery draws crowds, hosts special dinners, and donates to Operation Homefront, a charity that helps the families of veterans in times of distress. Cider Corps is a cool place. But as their altruism suggests, Josh and Jason Duren, brothers and co-founders, want to do more than run a great place to drink.
"One of the things that was important to Jason and I when we started was not to build up our own brand," Josh says, "but to help cider in Arizona grow up."
Southwest Cider Festival, a bash they are hosting on November 10, marks a new notch of local growth.
The event will unite four Arizona craft cideries: Stoic Cider (Prescott), Desert Cider House (Chandler), Crush Cider Café (Tempe), and Cider Corps. There will be others from San Diego, Colorado, Texas, Washington, and New York. They will be pouring on the pavement in Mesa, in a lot behind Cider Corps where attendees will, for $50, score up to 20 cider samples. "The way everybody makes cider is very, very different," Josh says. "There's going to be a wide range of ciders to taste."
Ciders can vary widely from cidery to cidery. This isn't brewing lager. This isn't fermenting pinot. Think of how different a crisp table apple like a Jonagold is from a gnarly, bitter crab apple.
The kind of apple used is a big variable, but just one. Others include whether the cidery owns an orchard, where the apples come from, and whether the cidery presses its own apples. Fermentation yeast, length, and general style make a difference. So does the maker's cider flavor predilections and, as the Durens know well, whether the cider maker want to incorporate non-apple herbs, fruits, and spices.
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"The cool part that we’re excited to feature is the diversity of something that seems so simple," Josh says. He and Jason expect a nice range of craft ciders, one to match what you would see at a beer festival.
And so soon, in a state where apples don't grow well even at higher elevations (Cider Corps sources juice from the Pacific Northwest), a cider festival will convene on a Saturday in the fall. There will be food, including a food truck firing up a smoker. The Mesa Music Festival is happening the same weekend, and one of the band stages will be set up among the cider vendors and drinkers.
The scope of the event reflects the growth of the Valley's cider scene, and the expansion of local craft drinkers' tastes. The metro Phoenix cider scene has only just germinated but already shows flashes of beauty. Check out this event and taste them for yourself.