Kevin Williams was well into his journey down the traditional road to craft brewery startup-dom when he took a hard turn into an apple orchard.
The Penrose native had been working as brewmaster at The Walter Brewing Co. in Pueblo, nursing entrepreneurial dreams while brewing beer for himself and friends as a member of the city’s homebrew club, the Steel City Brewers.
He’d been trying to come up with an original, locally relevant concept for a new microbrewery when the proverbial pome bonked him on the pate.
“I thought, why not go with apples? There’s so much competition in the craft brewing industry now, and apples are what the Penrose area is known for,” said Williams, who found that his brewing chops translated well to making fermented ciders.
It was like coming home for the 1991 Florence High School graduate, who recalled plucking orchard produce to snack on during his walks to school.
“It’s not what it used to be, but this area was – and still is – really famous for apples,” said Williams, whose ingredients are as locally sourced as possible. “It will kind of depend on the time of year, and the harvest.”
Williams began bottling under the name Apple Valley Cider Co. in January, and he recently expanded distribution to a number of liquor stores in the Springs. He doesn’t have a tasting room, but his ciders are available at the restaurant next to his business, Broadway’s Bar and Grill. He’s also taken the opportunity to share his libations – available in peach, semisweet and black currant – whenever and wherever he can.
Not that he’s on a mission to convert anyone, per se. Williams said his naturally gluten-free wares have found a fanbase in beer devotees, as well as drinkers who claimed to have soured on ciders.
“People say, ‘Oh, I don’t like cider,’ then they try ours, and say, ‘Hey, that’s really good,’ and they come back for more,” he said.
At a recent event, Williams’ ciders helped shatter stereotypes for one man.
“He was this great big, burly, muscle-bound guy with tattoos from his face all the way down to his wrists. He just wasn’t having it. He was a beer guy,” Williams said. “The last thing he told me was, ‘Man, that peach was amazing.'”