When it comes to fermented beverages, Virginia’s scene is certainly not lacking. From the vast amount of vineyards to the continuously burgeoning brewery industry, the state continues to play host to a plethora of places to imbibe in popular potables. In more recent years, those interested in other alcoholic endeavors have begun to branch out to different beverages that may appeal to new audiences. Enter, most recently: Tristan Wright of Lost Boy Cider.
The inspiration for crafting cider came from a tandem situation. First, a fond honeymoon memory in Ireland and later a dire and disappointing diagnosis of food intolerance. The opening of Lost Boy cidery in Alexandria is part of an up-and-coming scene of cideries in Virginia. There are only about two dozen spots in the state producing cider, and few are doing the dry variety that Wright has created.
“When I was diagnosed with a soy and gluten allergy, I was also looking for a business to start. Lost Boy Cider is a hat tip to the apples finding me. It gave me a new opportunity to leave a corporate job behind and pursue something awesome,” Wright explains the name of the cidery.
Based in Alexandria’s Eisenhower East neighborhood, Lost Boy Cider boasts a comfortable yet cozy space with soaring ceilings, a locally sourced maple tree bar, and chalkboard displays of tap options from traditional ciders to infusions with pineapple, raspberry, habanero, banana/peach/coconut, passion fruit, blackberry/rhubarb, lemon/mint, and coffee. Occupying an old warehouse which serves as both a taproom and a production facility, the child and dog-friendly space serves up flights and pints as well as stovepipe cans and growlers, and even cider slushies. There are plans for an outdoor patio as well.
In a nod to urban agriculture as well as sustainability, Wright has planted semi-dwarf Golden Delicious trees. The trees are intended to bear fruit that could potentially grow 12 feet or beyond. In the meantime, and likely beyond, the cidery procures its fruit from orchards in the Shenandoah Valley, using a wide variety of apples including Stayman, Pippin, Arkansas Black, Black Twig, Granny Smith, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Gold Rush, and Ginger Gold.
Wright describes Lost Boy Cider as “a gateway cidery,” citing the access they have drinkers who may be new to cider. “We honor the old style of fermenting. We are taking the initiative to create modern style blends using international ingredients. No one else uses like butterfly pea flower or Mexican vanilla bean.”
When Wright decided to leave his full-time job in the banking industry and delve into cider-making, he initially attended classes in Portland. He credits this decision for his ability to build relationships with other cider makers with whom he can now collaborate. Later, he pursued and earned certificates from Cornell Viticulture Center and Oregon State University’s Cider Production School. He has since used that education to perfect his fermenting process and produce a high-quality dry cider.
“Real cider uses pure juice – not concentrate and corn syrup – and high-quality yeast. We use a white wine sauvignon blanc strain. It should then be aged appropriately and batch tested as necessary, not rushed. Customers that drink our cider are getting the highest quality ingredients available with no residual sugars. It does not get any better,” says Wright.
Wright continues to explain what makes Lost Boy Cider different from other brands. “We use a blend and single varietal 100% Shenandoah gown apples, organic additions, and age for a minimum of 45 days. Our house cider is a custom blend of heirloom and dessert apples which we ferment down to dry, no sugar. It would take roughly 168 of our 12 oz ciders to add up to all the sugar in 1 commercial 12oz cider. It’s world-class dry cider. Most large cideries use concentrate and sugar to sweeten their products. We do not and never will.”
In addition to building his knowledge about cider production, Wright has also built a strong team of industry professionals to help lead Lost Boy.
“My lead cellarman is Kevin Storm, a former brewer from Hardywood Park in Richmond. He’s a whiz with production and efficiency,” says Wright
Wright also brought Kyle WInner on board who came to them from another brewery tasting room and has 11 years of tasting room and bar management experience.
The cidery’s well-attended opening in early June underscored the popularity of cider in Virginia and the success of Lost Boy’s team. The 2800 square foot tasting room’s capacity was reached within the first hour of opening, and lines of interested imbibers reached out the door for waits to enter that neared an hour.
For food, the cidery hosts a wide variety of food trucks with tacos, bbq, pizza, Middle Eastern cuisine, and New Zealand-inspired food. Frequently on hand is Kiwi Pies with hearty, savory eats and Rocklands BBQ who boasts an impressive menu of ribs, chicken, and sides. Basic Burger, with its locally sourced ingredients, is often at the cidery as well. Additionally, visitors are welcome to bring their own food.
Fans of cider can, of course, enjoy Lost Boy Cider’s tasting room and 20-minute tours that explain the cider-making process, but they can also find the cidery around town. Wright regularly works with the Carlyle Business District and sponsors events in Old Town with groups like the Torpedo Factory, the chamber, and Cars and Coffee. There’s also a tentative plan, in very early stages, to find a location for a cider pub in DC.
As for other plans, the short term future includes gearing up for fall with a line up of flavors that include a variety of spices and rinds as well as cinnamon and vanilla. In terms of production, Wright has set a goal of 50,000 gallons for 2020. However, Wright will also focus on maintaining the firm foundation of Lost Boy.
“As we grow, our focus is on maintaining strong relationships with our orchard partners. We want to ensure we have access to the best quality juice always to maintain the highest quality standards. Our other goal is to ensure our staff is included in the journey and developing personally as we expand our presence.”
The name Lost Boy was influenced by not knowing where to go. Later, the early success of Lost Boy has inspired Wright’s more recent philosophy: “Riamh casadh ar ais,” (In Irish: never turning back), perhaps underscoring the adage that all who wander are not, indeed, lost.