OktoberForest

Manuel Garcia of Blue Bee Cider, Richmond, VA

The Nature Conservancy is celebrating fall with OktoberForest, a collaboration with local brewers to raise awareness about the importance of forests in providing clean water. We spoke with Manuel Garcia, cidermaker for Blue Bee Cider about nature’s role in the making and enjoyment of craft cider.

Visit nature.org/OktoberForest to learn more about the connection between healthy forests and clean water, and see the list of participating OktoberForest breweries across the country!

nature.org:

Let's start with the name "Blue Bee," which has a nature-inspired feel to it. What's the origin and meaning behind it? Are there blue bees around here?

Manuel Garcia:

One of Virginia’s native bees, the blue orchard bee (Osmia lignaria), provided the inspiration for our cidery’s name. These hardworking bees are solitary and wild, emerging early in the spring just in time to pollinate apple blossoms.

nature.org:

How is a ciderey different than a brewery? How is it similar?

Manuel Garcia:

The greatest difference is in the cidermaking process. Cider is made and regulated as a wine. We ferment raw apple juice, called "must" instead of "wort", at low temperatures. We do not apply heat (brew) at any point in the process and we do not add water to the must or the finished cider (though some cideries do).

We tap into the spirit of experimentation and are always trying to find new ways to define cider through innovative ways. We have also done many collaborations with breweries, distilleries, and meaderies within our area.

nature.org:

We're interested in the links between forests, water and your cider products. Do you know how much water Blue Bee uses on an annual or monthly basis? Where does your water come from?

Manuel Garcia:

Blue Bee Cider uses the municipal water supply of the City of Richmond for cleaning purposes and the rehydration of yeast.

nature.org:

Blue Bee is located in a growing area of Richmond, Scott's Addition, but you used to overlook the James River. Why did you move? Do you still have a connection to the James River?

Manuel Garcia:

Though the historic Manchester neighborhood will always be near and dear to our hearts, we outgrew that facility. We relocated to Scott's Addition in October 2016. Our current neighborhood is further inland and we have shifted our stewardship focus to on green spaces and parks in and near our immediate neighborhood.

nature.org:

What else should we know about Blue Bee's environmental or sustainability initiatives?

Manuel Garcia:

In no particular order:

1. We purchased our current facility from the City Deptartment of Parks and Recreation. The proceeds from the purchase of the property have been earmarked for green space improvements and development in our neighborhood, Scott's Addition. A green space working group to steward those funds is in development and our owner, Courtney Mailey, will participate in that group.
2. We support the Enrichmond Foundation and its Tree Lab project. This started with a large donation by Blue Bee Cider of apple trees in 2013 to a trial orchard in Chimborazo Park and continues with Blue Bee's financial support of the Tree Lab and fundraising through the Richmond Cider Celebration each fall.
3. Blue Bee Cider currently recycles about 80% of its solid waste, which is primarily cardboard and glass.
4. Blue Bee Cider has planted urban orchards at its Manchester and Scott's Addition facilities. Each spring we offer grafting, pruning and planting workshops to teach people how to grow their own fruit trees at home.

nature.org:

What else would you like people to know about Blue Bee?

Manuel Garcia:

Our aim is to make cider that is quintessential to Virginia and the United States. We use 100% Virginia cider apples that are grown by passionate farmers. The apples we use represent their labor and all the orchard hands involved in the care of the fruit.

Each year the soil produces a unique variety of flavor and complexity in apples like Winesap, York, Pippin, Harrison, Ashmead's Kernel, Gold Rush, and many more. We want to explore and challenge the definition of cider while remaining true to our region, the fruit it produces, and the community we work in.

The goal is to have our ciders represent Virginia's terrain and our place in the world. We want our ciders to reflect the orchards, the hands that grow the fruit, our cidery in Scott's Addition, the hands that turn the juice into cider, the dedicated voices that share our story, and the customers that enjoy it again and again. Our focus is to work with patience, respect, curiosity,and an unrelenting passion for what we do.


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