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Start-up Stowe Cider is Thriving

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Last week, Vermont’s Farm to Plate initiative released a report on the state’s hard cider, spirits and wine businesses with the words, “Vermont’s contribution to the hard cider resurgence is significant.”

Among the growing crop of nine or so Vermont cideries mentioned is a new name: Stowe Cider, founded a few months ago by chemist and biologist Stefan Windler and his wife, Mary. “There’s definitely a cider renaissance in America,” says Windler, explaining why he chose to take on the rigors of running a cider operation alongside his full-time job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Stowe Cider’s production and tasting facilities lie two miles north of Stowe village on Route 100, in a former market and deli at 1815 Pucker Street. Here, the Windlers — with their three young children in tow — ferment 500-gallon batches of cider every two weeks using apples from Champlain Orchards.

This past August, the Windlers released their flagship product: an unfiltered, unpasteurized dry cider with 6.5 percent alcohol. Growlers (and half-size “growlettes”) of the cider sold so swiftly that by October the Windlers had to scale back tasting-room hours (currently Fridays and Saturdays, 4 to 6 p.m.). “It was clear it was really popular, and demand was high,” Stefan Windler says.

In the next week or so, the couple will tap their next batch and reopen six days a week. In early 2014, they’ll add to their line a cyser, or apple-based mead; ciders flavored with blueberries and cranberries; and a batch that’s being aged in bourbon barrels from Smugglers’ Notch Distillery.

“When you go to Europe, it’s nearly one-for-one between beer and cider on taps there,” notes Windler. He plans to begin distributing to Stowe-area restaurants and bars this spring in an effort to achieve that parity.

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