It all started as an experiment in cider making, where the couple scoured local farmers’ markets for the best-in-class apples to ferment, and slowly their hobby turned into a small, juicy business and eventually grew into a family business. There are lots of steps involved in making cider. We wanted to know how it really works.
Do you place an emphasis on sustainability in your operations?
Everything we do is very agriculturally based. We pay a fair price for our apples. We never try to undercut the grower because we know that our product is a partnership between the grower and the cider maker.
We also pay fair wages to our staff for their work. We just really believe in the highest quality fruit and labor. Some business owners are looking for the best deal – the cheapest, lowest-quality input. We are always looking for really unique, high quality apples to ferment and are willing to pay a fair price for them.
How do you manage your relationships with your growers?
What we’re seeing from our growers is that a lot of people planted a few types of apples for cider making because they were very popular at the time. Now everybody has those. So we’re encouraging the people that we buy from to grow different types of heritage apples, in volume, so we can explore the biodiversity of this fruit.
“We always say it’s better to drink your apples than eat them. Fermentation brings out incredible flavors – you have a real appreciation for what an apple tastes like when you drink it.”
There are thousands of named apple varieties, but we don’t know about them because there are only, say, 10 in the grocery store.
I make 40 different ciders every year and that’s 40 different apples that I use to make those ciders. I’m looking to sustain the diversity of apples and bring that into people’s consciousness. My kids will tell you their favorite apples are things like Esopus Spitzenberg. I’m looking forward to the day when random people on the street can say the same thing!
We always say it’s better to drink your apples than eat them. Fermentation brings out incredible flavors – you have a real appreciation for what an apple tastes like when you drink it.
Please explain the science behind producing cider
I am putting on my science nerd hat for a second: apples are what we call extreme heterozygotes. That means that just like humans, they have two parents. Each child is not a clone of the parents. This is the same with apples–every single seed is a unique apple tree that has never existed in the world before and will never exist in the world again. You cannot plant an apple tree by seed if you want to get the same apple that you’re eating.
“We’re hopefully raising the profile of apples so we’ll have more diversity of apples on the market.”
Every single Honeycrisp apple in the world came from one tree that was bred and then the cuttings of the trees were grafted onto other trees. So if we lose a tree because nobody wants to eat or drink the apples, it will never exist again. And we’ve lost a lot of named apple trees.
One great example is the Harrison apple. They thought they lost it after prohibition but they found one tree in 1976 in New Jersey in an orchard that was being paved over. They saved the tree through cuttings and now we are making Harrison cider again. George Washington made cider out of the Harrison apple! So there is a lot to be said for educating the consumer on what they’re drinking. And that’s what we do. We name all of our ciders after the apple that’s in it.
We’re hopefully raising the profile of apples so we’ll have more diversity of apples on the market.
Do you have seasonality in your business? If so, how do you cope with that?
Our business really picks up between September and December. Pick Cider for Thanksgiving is a promotion that the American Cider Association, our national trade organization, does. It’s a perfect pairing – cider and turkey dinner.
Additionally, we are a sparkling wine, made out of apples, and sparkling wine has its biggest wave of business between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. So we experience that as well but come January, everything drops off and we focus on a lot of cider making while we prep for the next harvest season.
The first year was really scary, and then we realized it was just a seasonal slump. As for our tasting room, we don’t do any specific promotions just because we’re pretty darn busy with the harvest and then our busiest season.
How would you recap the past year for your business and family?
In February 2023, we celebrated our 5th business anniversary and my daughter Eva’s birthday. She was born six days after we opened our doors.
This year we expanded our local markets, added new staff, our club grew, and we launched our brand new, super exclusive Scion Club! Plus we added California and Utah to our distribution.
Maybe one of our most exciting moments was when we landed on the menu of two three-Michelin-starred restaurants and a new one-star restaurant. It’s been so cool working with these new accounts. And our kids grew up—that new Haykin baby is now a full-on toddler.
We remain so thankful to our club members and all of our customers for their continued support.
Talia Haykin is the Co-Founder of Haykin Family Cider located in Denver.