Standing outside Buskey Cider, owner Will Correll comments how the Scott’s Addition neighborhood where his 8,000-square-foot cidery sits is full of enticing aromas.
“Some days it smells like beer, or a bakery, or burgers or Chinese food – sometimes barbecue,” he said, as we took a whiff of the lunchtime efforts wafting from the nearby Fat Dragon restaurant.
Buskey Cider, the namesake taken from a colonial word that Correll said means tipsy, opens in Richmond’s hip craft beverage neighborhood on Saturday, April 23. It will be the second craft beverage spot to open in Scott’s Addition within a week, with three more slated to open this year.
Correll’s idea fermented four years ago while studying economics and commerce at Hampden-Sydney College. His plan won $10,000 in a local business competition called Start! Peninsula.
Craft beer brewer turned cidermaker Alec Steinmetz — who recently won Best of Craft Beer Awards-Baltic Porter category – contacted Correll from Milwaukee when he heard of the cidery plan.
“He said he loved making beer, but mostly he loved making great products for people and really had a dream of making things that were completely new,” Correll said. “That was somewhat how I came into ciders also; I was into craft beverages and just trying new things.”
Correll wasn’t sure what he could bring to the table if he went into craft brewing, so he started talking to people who made cider, which was pretty unique and less than one percent of the market share about four years ago.
He was also able to scoop up Matthew Myer, winemaker at Williamsburg Winery, as a wine consultant in the venture.
Laws leftover from prohibition were holding back the cider market. Cider was classified as wine, not as cider, because it is fermented fruit juice — but if you put bubbles into fruit juice it becomes classified as champagne. There were also packaging rules that prohibited the sale of growlers of cider and limited packaging to 750 ml bottles.
With the change of some state and federal laws, cider has become one of the fastest growing segments of the alcohol market.
“I thought ‘there are some opportunities here,’ some things that can be done differently,” Correll said.
While new laws like SB 605 restructured brewery business, and allowed breweries to operate tasting rooms without food sales, a cidery doesn’t get the same perk. To have a tasting room meant meeting different requirements; Buskey needed a farm winery license.
That’s why they have 22 apple trees around the building – a combination of Pristine and Empire apples – and they lease an orchard.
“We put a lot of new dirt in the ground and put in an irrigation system,” Correll said. “It will be good to be connected to apples.”
He’s also glad to be connected to Richmond; once upon a time Buskey was headed to Williamsburg — a colonial place for a colonial beverage — but Correll opted for an urban cidery.
“People in Richmond have a vision for entrepreneurship, and for cool beverages – and maker’s space… it’s fun to be a part of that,” Correll said.
His appreciation for community is evident, in Buskey’s design and decoration. A tour of the building, leased from Charlie Diradour, reveals converted school tables in the production tasting area, photography by Joey Wharton, and gracefully reclaimed materials throughout the space – all situated perfectly around the shiny nucleus of production, which can be seen from all angles.
Additionally, the building is now ADA compliant; while rare in older, historic buildings it’s something that Correll insisted upon.
Grown in Virginia, poured in Scott’s Addition
Buskey is made with Virginia apples, the majority which comes from Turkey Knob Farm, just north of Harrisonburg. A truck delivers the fruit — first crushed at the Andros plant in Mt. Jackson — to the loading dock before it makes its way into the fermenters. Buskey has both a loading dock and two massive, outfitted garage doors for pull up traffic, which will make canning easier down the road.
On site there are 4,300 gallons of fermenting tank space, and several Brite tanks. Four 15-barrell fermenting tanks (1,860 gallons total) were acquired from Richmond’s oldest brewery – Legend Brewing Company.
So far Buskey has produced 8,000 gallons of cider, and five ciders will be available on launch day.
The refreshing RVA Cider, a flagship product, is a 5.1 ABV blend of a dry and sweet cider. An unfiltered version of it unleashed even more apple flavor. The Citra hops cider is the driest, hoppiest offering and 6.5 ABV. A dryer and tarter variety, with some “funky yeast” and a longer maturation process, is called 45 and Trying, around 6% ABV.
A carbonated, non-alcoholic apple juice completes the lineup.
“We are a sessionable cider”
Buskey plans to produce 16,000 to 20,000 gallons of product this year and will be experimenting with different batches. Correll pointed to a cherry cider in the Brite tank that will soon be a seasonal offering.
He explained some differences between their product and Blue Bee Cidery, who stopped by Buskey recently.
“I think it is different than theirs, and I think they are happy,” Correll said. “We are a sessionable cider, we are refreshing, they are artisanal and sophisticated, with limited releases.”
Blue Bee, who has a fall opening planned at West Clay Street and Summit Avenue in Scott’s Addition, is released in 500 and 750 ml bottles.
Blue Bee does not can cider, which Buskey plans to do within a few months.
A big tank will fill about 10,000 cans, Correll said.
Loveland Distributors have added Buskey to their portfolio. Correll said that product should be at Growler’s to Go and other local restaurants by next Monday or Tuesday.
Buskey’s launch is Saturday, April 23
There will be at least two bars (the one in the production part of the building has a nitro tap) open on Saturday.
Correll was headed out to the store to pick up bottled water for anyone who had to wait in a long line.
He hopes for around 1,000 people on launch, but acknowledged there are a lot of events this weekend.
The launch runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, at 2910 W. Leigh Street.
There will be two bands playing out back. Count on food trucks, cider and sunshine.
The Luckies go on at 5 p.m., followed by headliner Strummer at 7 p.m.
by: Alix Bryan. WTVR