Fruit Forward

Preserving Colorado history through hard apple cider.

Pallets of red and yellow cider apples waiting to be pressed by an industrial machine. Bright blue sky and fall tree colors.
Apples from Montezuma County waiting to be processed by EsoTerra Ciderworks. / Elizabeth Philbrick

Today, the southwest corner of our state is home to at least 500 historic apple varieties with flavors ranging from sweet honeysuckle to nutty marzipan. More than a century ago, when miners made the trek through the mountains and valleys of the region, the landscape was likely dotted with thousands of apple orchards. Some of them are still standing today. “We harvest apples from the very same trees that provided fruit for those miners,” says Elizabeth Philbrick, co-founder of EsoTerra Ciderworks in Dolores. “You are genuinely sipping a snapshot in time when you sip our ciders.”

It was the region’s rich apple heritage that inspired Philbrick and her husband Jared Scott to begin crafting artisanal cider with apples from some of the state’s oldest orchards, a trade that not only brings new and unusual varieties to imbibers, but actively preserves Colorado history. “If we don’t use the ugly, bitter, acidic apple that makes great cider, then who will?” she asks. “And if they don’t get used, the trees are not cared for, and we lose another nuanced, vibrant apple variety to the vague descriptions of the dusty history books.”

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