What is the difference between a winemaker and a cider maker? Answer: only the fruit they use. Both are licensed as winemakers, which gives them the right to ferment fruit. Jay Kenney and Karl Kister are passionate about cider. Jay emphasizes that plain apple juice or pressed apples should never be called cider, because cider is fermented. He and Karl started Clear Fork Cider Company in Denver, Colorado in 2015. Karl describes himself as “filmmaker, apple enthusiast, and recovering architect. I planted my first apple tree in fourth grade and spend as much time as possible tending to a small family orchard on an island in Maine. At the cidery, I manage all design aspects of the business, as well as bottling, labeling and packaging.”
Jay depicts himself as “a cartographer and recovered lawyer. I’ve been pressing apples for more than 25 years and have made cider in my basement for 10 years before taking the plunge into Clear Fork Cider. I hold a certificate in cider making from the National Association of Cider Makers and at the cidery I manage all aspects of cider making production.” Jay admits that he borrowed an apple press from his mom over 30 years ago and has kept it in his cellar to this day where he has continually experimented with cider making.
Jay and Karl get most of their apples from Colorado, where the company owns two orchards and leases four of them. Like winemakers blend grapes, Jay and Karl mix apples to come up with the perfect blend, and just as wine, the blend is different each year. Jay points out, “We age some of our cider in oak barrels, which contributes to the flavor.” At this point in time Clear Fork Cider will only be available in Colorado.
There are cider quality apples. Jay details, “What we look for in the flavor of an apple is bitterness, sharpness and sweetness. We have used Golden Russets, Kingston Blacks, and Ashmead’s Kernels, among others.” A good apple will inspire cider connoisseurs to poetize its qualities. The late English food writer Morton Shand once described Ashmead’s Kernel on BBC Radio as, “What an apple, what suavity of aroma. Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavour overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet, not sugar sweet, but the succulence of a well devilled marrow bone. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.”
One can truly never underestimate the lure of cider making. It involves the love of working outdoors, pride in creating the perfect blend and who knows maybe one day Jay and Karl will make a movie about – you know – cider making.https://www.clearforkcider.com/
Edith Lynn Beer is a seasoned writer who covers stories about people in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.