A big move to a big facility = more room to make cider. Stowe Cider is going through an “exciting time,” co-owner Mark Ray said.

“We have a lot of projects in our back pocket we can start to do now because we didn’t have the space,” Ray said. Now, he is working on a passion project to give back to the community. Two things he is thankful for in his life: cider and education.

Collecting Apples for College is Stowe Cider’s latest philanthropic venture. Two scholarships will be given, one to a Harwood Union student and one to a Stowe High School student for their community service. Ray said he was a non-traditional student, paying his way through his six years of school. And he admits he wasn’t a straight-A student.

Now, he wants to give back to the community and give to kids that might be in similar shoes, because even a little money for books for a semester might make the difference. It’s going to start small, as this is the program’s first year, but Rays hopes this could become Stowe Cider’s version of the Alchemist’s Opportunity Fund.

The scholarship criteria have yet to be determined, but high schooler students planning to get any sort of higher education — technical school, community college or four year universities — will be able to apply.

Wild fruit

The process: Collect apples with the help from the community, send the apples to Cold Hollow Cider Mill to press, bring them back to Stowe Cider’s warehouse to ferment, then package and sell the cider.

Easy, right? Well, lots of time and energy go into each batch of cider. And this project is going to be particularly interesting because it’s the first time Stowe Cider is using wild apples. The company generally sources apples from Vermont and upstate New York orchards. This time, the company wants community members to bring in wild Vermont apples and their own fruit by the bushel.

A bushel is roughly 40 pounds of apples. Once pressed, a bushel yields about 3 gallons of cider. The cider is then fermented for about a week or two; the wild apples might need to sit longer for flavor development. About 100 bushels would be idea for this small batch, Ray said, maximizing the amount that could be sold for scholarship money.

Ray hopes people will buy the “wild” cider because of the concept, but he wants to make it as “tasty and enjoyable” as possible.

Flavor chasers

The base cider all the hard ciders derived from are a blend of culinary and dessert apples. “Culinary” apples are tart and savory, while the dessert ones — you guessed it — are sweet and juicy. Apples are picked in the fall, put in cold storage and juiced and crushed as needed, tasting room server Nina Livellara said.

Stowe Cider’s regular blends take about three weeks to turn from apple to cider, Ray said. All the ciders currently on tap are derived from the same base, then infused with flavor, carbonated, packaged and sold.

“Different apples contain different levels of acids — tart or sour; tannins — bitterness and astringency; and sugar — sweetness. The idea is to balance these out into an enjoyable beverage,” Rays said. “In terms of flavoring our typical cider we have everything from no flavors, just fermented apples, to dry-hopped, like beer, and fruit infused. The options are endless.”

“Gin & Juice” is flavored with the herbs and botanicals from Barr Hill Gin. The new fall “Berry Merrill” is infused with blueberry and maple. The Stowe Session, another fall flavor soon to be out, is unfiltered and unflavored.

The community-collected apples will make for a totally different base and taste, Ray said.

Rays hopes to partner with Stowe and Waterbury businesses to raise as much money as possible for the scholarships, packaging the cider in kegs for events, and maybe in bottles to sell from the Stowe Cider tasting room.

“This is why we live and work in a place like this,” Rays said. “It’s up to business and community to give back and to keep it a community we want to live in.”

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