Four cider samples sit beside a menu inside Haykin Family Cider in Aurora. (Sara Grant, The Know)
Their journey began on Halloween night in 2013. Dan and Talia Haykin wanted to try making hard cider, and cooked up their first batch using pasteurized apple juice they bought at a local farmers market.
“It was awful,” Talia joked on Tuesday, at their new Haykin Family Cider facility in an unassuming strip of shops off Peoria Street in Aurora, light years away from that first terrible sip of homemade cider. “The first year was rough.”
But the husband and wife duo stuck with it after they discovered pressing their own juice made all the difference. Even after two glass carboys exploded in their Stapleton home, ruining the hardwood floors. Even after the “hobby ate the house,” and they had to move. And even after Dan became “that guy” at farmers markets, testing the sugar content of apples.
And especially after they entered — and won — some cider competitions.
It was there that what started as a hobby began to look like it could actually be a viable family business (side business, that is; he remains an investment adviser and she is a marketing specialist).
“We won the highest award in the cider world, and that’s when we said ‘OK, we can actually do this,’ ” Dan said from behind the bar, both bottles and taps of his libations creating a backdrop behind him.
That award was First in Class at the 2017 Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (the oh-so-catchy GLINTCAP) in Grand Rapids, Mich., for Haykins’ Modern Sweet Esopus Spitzenburg.
Fast-forward to Feb. 1, when the duo will open the doors to their new cider home in Aurora, with a fruit press, shiny fermenting tanks and bottling equipment in the back, tasting room in the front.
As the operation grows, though, Dan remains true to the foundation that got them started: using the same preparation method and quality local fruit, and experimenting with small batches. It’s all about the apple at Haykin, Dan said. The already complex fruit does not get mixed with any other flavors; the yeast brings out different profiles of the varietals.
As long as crops will allow, Dan said, all of the apples for the sparking hard ciders come only from Colorado locations: Ela Family Farms on the Western Slope and Masonville Orchards in Fort Collins.
Haykin treats cider like wine, naming the cider after the apple it’s created from. So don’t let Cox’s Orange Pippin or Winter Banana fool you: You actually won’t find any trace of those other fruits — it’s all in the apple.
“Apples all taste very different from each other,” Dan said. “It’s a tremendously varied flavor profile in the fruit. We respect the apple like wine grapes are respected.”
What ends up in your glass all depends on the varietal, who was growing it, and how. The Haykins will serve dozens of different types of cider over the course of a year. If you find one you like, you had better stock up, since you may never see it again.
“If I could source all the cider apples from Colorado, I would be making some of the best cider in the world,” Dan said.
The cider comes bottled in 750 ml ($18) or 375 ml ($12) options ranging from dry to sweet with 6 to 11 percent alcohol content. The cider should be served very cold, and it ages well — better with the handy-dandy stoppers they sell for $6.50 and when stored around 50 degrees.
Inside the tasting room, cider is available from taps or the bottle (recommended), with a glass running $6 and a flight of three for $8.
Haykin currently does not offer food, as the family is very proud of the facility’s kosher certification, but patrons are welcome to bring along some dinner from nearby Stanley Marketplace or another local joint while enjoying a cider or two.
The Haykins said they are thrilled to start pairing with other local businesses, and have enjoyed being a part of the budding Colorado cider community.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” Dan said. “There is space for everyone, and we have felt welcomed in the local cider scene by local businesses.”
Haykin Family Cider is at 12001 E. 33rd Ave. in Aurora and is open from 5:30-9 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. Bottles of the cider also can be purchased at Pearl Wine Company in Denver, The Proper Pour in The Source, and Joy Wine & Spirits.