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Good Beer Hunting

Dec 30, 2023

In the world of cider, Nikki West says the nerdier you are, the cooler you are. That’s probably the scientist in her talking, but she’s not wrong. As an agriculturally-based product, cider is inextricably tied to the earth, which is one reason why West decided to move from an academic career in geosciences to launching Ciders From Mars in Staunton, Virginia. It wasn’t a huge leap, scientifically speaking, but it was definitely one that changed the trajectory of their life.

In our conversation, West and I discuss the pros and cons of a formal education in fermentation, and how the Cider Institute of North America helped her transform a garage operation into a tasting room in the Shenandoah Valley, the heart of Virginia apple country. We also talk about the seismic shift it took to jump from geology to ciderology, and the overlaps between the two endeavors, as well as why they decided to plant an orchard in order to (eventually) use apple varieties not readily found elsewhere. As someone with Celiac disease, West says cider is an ideal alternative to beer, as well as less filling, without the stuffy culture or high ABV of wine—basically, nature’s most perfect drink, and one she hopes more people discover in the years to come. 

It may be called Good Beer Hunting, but in this episode, we’re Good Cider Hunting.