Is it a marketing problem?

When most people think of hard cider, its's an antique, New Englandy kind of image that springs to mind. Say, quaffing a tankard while writing a seditious pamphlet about the King of England after a hard day of blacksmithery.

Or is cider's lack of market traction a supply problem?

Few hard ciders widely available in the United States are more than an alcoholic version of the sweet stuff of sleigh rides and pumpkin picking.

"One of the things is there's great beer everywhere in this area, but there (has been) a shortage of really good hard cider," says Dan Daugherty, a Longmont home cider maker, who blogs about the Colorado cider scene at cidersage.com.

Fortunately for hard cider lovers, there's a revived interest in the once-common beverage. You might even call it a ferment.

"If you look at New England, there's a whole, long tradition of cider making. They never lost it some ways," Daugherty says. "The Northwest has a huge (number) of new cideries. It's such a huge apple growing region."

Colorado is in the beginning stages of a cider industry, as well. Two years ago, Dick Dunn, a Hygiene man with a cider obsession and a 300-tree orchard of cider apples to prove it, started an association for Colorado cider makers and would-be cider makers. Rocky Mountain Cider Association now boasts 17 members, including cideries in Montana and New Mexico, as well as Colorado.

Denver, with the Colorado Cider Co. and others, Fort Collins and producers on the Western Slope are currently taking the lead. Boulder County has cidereries in the planning stages.

Creating a serious cider industry requires more than simply finding some folks with an interest and knowledge. The supply problem goes deeper. So-called table apples, the ones people love to eat out of hand, are not the best for making cider with complexity.

"A table apple tends to be great to eat," Daugherty says. "But there's not a lot of body when you ferment it out. There's not a lot of structure."

The apples that make the best cider are not that good to eat, he adds.

"They're crabby, bitter and wild tasting."

Thus cider makers are working to forge relationships with apple growers on the Western Slope or planting their own trees, making cider in the meantime with juice purchased from the Northwest.

One such is Rocky Mountain Wild Cider in Firestone, founded by Adam Gorove, with Michelle Heath as his partner. The company got its final licensing approval in October, and its first batch of 3,000 gallons out the door in November.

Gorove, who was born and raised in Boulder, says the company plans to ramp up to 18,000 gallons this year. Currently, the cider comes in four flavors, including an elderberry and a seasonal apple pie spice, and this summer he will offer a peach flavor by adding Western Slope peaches to the apple juice used in fermenting. Gorove uses juice from the Northwest now but has ordered 1,300 trees to be planted on his 14-acre property.

He describes his ciders as somewhere between the syrupy sweet variety and the super dry types.

"It's very well-balanced," he says.

Gorove, who developed an interest in cider while trying a gluten-free diet, believes the gluten-free aspect is another selling point for people who don't care for the gluten-free beers that are available.

Of his own experience with cider, he says: "I fell in love with it."

Dunn, of Hygiene, also plans to bring some cider to the market this year. Previously, he had been working with Mark Beran of Medovina, a Niwot meadery. But, this year, he will go out on his own, even as he plants 80 more trees. This year, he hopes to produce 50-80 cases.

As with craft breweries and distilleries, there are regulatory ins and outs. Ciders, including perry made from pears, generally are about 6.5 alcohol by volume and regulated as wines. Carbonation is also an issue; if the cider is highly carbonated, it is regulated as a Champagne would be, which means it incurs a higher tax.

Those types of issues, as well as perfecting a cider and finding space in which to ferment are among the barriers to new cideries. One cider association member in these early stages is Kurt Schrammel, who is looking for space to open a cidery in Boulder County. Schrammel, a stay-at-home dad now ready to branch out as his child is older, hopes to start with two ciders and offer a tasting room, partially to use as an ongoing focus group to find out what ciders people like best.

He hopes to find a Western Slope apple producer to work with on apples most suitable for cider.

"I'm in the very early stages," he says.

Much like the local industry.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Cindy Sutter at 303-473-1335 or sutterc@dailycamera.com