LANSING-Ashe County’s first commercial cidery, Molley Chomper Cidery, recently unveiled its first two signature ciders for sale last month.
Dubbed “Mountain Maelstrom” and “Big Horse Creek,” the ciders are already available at a handful of outlets across the High Country just six weeks after going on sale, and the company is promising to expand that vendor list in the future.
Here’s what you need to know.
Molley Chomper is the work of Kate and Tim Arscott
The couple moved to Ashe County from Georgia five years ago, after falling in love with the area during vacation excursions. “We’ve known about Ashe County since we were kids,” Tim Arscott said. “We used to come up and do camping and hiking and just really came to enjoy this place.”
An old orchard provided the inspiration for Molley Chomper
The couple eventually settled on the purchase of an old farm in Helton. “We were kind of trying to figure out what we were going to do with the place,” Kate Arscott said. “But there were a bunch of old apple trees on the property and we started to imagine what we could do with them. The idea for the cidery just kind of sprang naturally from that, I think.”
What’s a cidery anyway?
That’s the term for an operation that turns raw ingredients – think different kinds of apples or pears – into a fruit juice blend that is then fermented and bottled. The end product generally contains somewhere from 2.5-8 percent alcohol by volume. The Arscotts house their operation at 165 Piney Creek Road in Lansing in the property that was formerly New River Winery.
And cider is becoming big business
Cider is produced all over the world, but it’s most popular in Europe, according to statistics provided by Statista. In 2013, there were 300 cideries in the United Kingdom alone, more than in all the United States and Canada combined, but that is expected to change. Global cider sales in 2013 topped $595 million and is projected to increase to nearly $770 million by the end of this year. Much of that growth is expected to come in the United States where cider sales rose from 4.5 million cases in 2010 to 23.2 million cases just four years later, by the end of 2014. There are more than 420 cider makers in 40 states, but just 13 in North Carolina.
Ashe suited to apple production
While the nearby Yadkin Valley is earning a reputation for its vineyards and wineries, the elevation and weather in Ashe County don’t necessarily support the large scale cultivation of grapes that are essential to a winery. Apples, however, are much easier to grow on a commercial basis “on the mountain,” according to the Arscotts, depending on which varieties you choose to plant.
A little mad science
Apples that make great table fruit, however, might not create the best hard cider, according to Tim Arscott, so it was crucial the couple experiment with small runs of cider production to learn what apple varieties worked the best. They also listened closely to the wisdom of local apple growers Ron and Susan Joyner, according to Tim Arscott. “I would say we jumped in and saw where it took us,” Tim Arscott said. “We’d never fermented anything before we started this, so there was definitely a learning curve. There are a lot of dual purpose apples that are good for table fruit and cider making, and some that are only good for one or the other, and we tried to take all that in as quickly as possible.”
Scaling up production
Over the past four years, Kate Arscott said the couple have planted some 600 dwarf apple trees on their property. The Arscotts enjoyed their first sizable harvest last fall, which the pair used to create their Mountain Maelstrom cider. “We’d call that more a farmhouse style cider,” Tim Arscott said. “It’s sweeter and we didn’t filter it and you can really taste the fruit.” A second blend, made in large part with apples harvested from the Joyner’s trees, produced “Big Horse Creek.” Tim Arscott called it a semi-dry cider with just a hint of sweetness that is expected to age well on the shelf. Between both products, the Arscotts said they hoped to produce some 800 cases of cider this year.
Bottled or on tap
Less than two months after launch, you can already find the Arscotts’ cider at multiple locations across the area, including Boondocks and Carolina Country Wines in West Jefferson, along with Peabody’s Wine and Beer, Benchmark Provisions, Proper, Reid’s Cafe & Catering Co., and Gideon Ridge Inn. Jared Yelton, head chef and general manager at Boondocks, praised the Arscotts’ efforts. “I mean cider isn’t exactly an easy thing to do right,” Yelton said. “The end product could end up too watered down or have an off taste, but Molley Chomper got it right out of the gate. They’ve done a great job.”
And Molley Chomper could open its own retail space
Kate Arscott said the cidery hopes to open their own tasting and retail operation by late spring. “There is kind of covered patio out here and we’d like to do some events on the weekend,” Kate Arscott said. “We’d like to get that going this year. Lansing is such a low key place and I think people would respond really well to that.”