More than six months after crushing her first apple, Courtney Mailey this weekend opened the doors to Richmond’s only cidery.
Mailey said the April 20 launch was on par with what she expected when she started developing Blue Bee Cider last year.
“Once you actually get in there and start doing it, you realize there are thousands of little details you have to tinker with and get perfect,” Mailey said. “We fell behind on a few things and got ahead on others, but it all worked out.”
The cidery’s tasting room will operate from noon to 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Mailey said she plans to expand or reduce the hours depending on demand.
Customers will be able to buy cider by the glass, bottle and case in the tasting room. A glass will cost $6, 750 mL bottles will run $15.50, and 500 mL bottles will be $10.25.
Mailey said Blue Bee’s Aragon 1904, a light, fruity blend, will be on tap first. Blue Bee worked with Catoctin Creek, a Northern Virginia distillery, to develop a higher-alcohol cider variety that’s blended with brandy. That batch is still aging but will be available this year.
Mailey sold a few batches of nonalcoholic apple juice in the fall, but she said the product wasn’t cost-effective to make.
Mailey started renovating the 4,800-square-foot space last June and bought her first batch of apples in late August. She spent six months crushing apples, fermenting the juice and bottling the cider.
She said it took some time to get used to the physical demands of the business.
“I was an office worker before this,” Mailey said. “Now I’m spending 15 hours a day climbing ladders, moving pallets and trying to find the perfect wrench.”
For now, Blue Bee Cider won’t be available at any local retailers. But Mailey said she’s filed the paperwork to self-distribute the product through the Virginia Winery Distribution Company.
The ciders are also available through the company’s website.
“I’d love to see a lot of our business come from retail, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” Mailey said.