A Richmond cider startup is joining the growing artisan food and beverage movement brewing in Manchester. Courtney Mailey’s Blue Bee Cider brews its apple juice and fermented cider in a 4,800-square-foot converted warehouse space next to the Corrugated Box Building and across from the Legend Brewery and features a tasting room with panoramic views of the downtown skyline.
Named for the blue-colored bees that pollinate apple blossoms, Blue Bee is the only woman-owned alcoholic beverage company in RVA.
Mailey first considered entering the cider market more than 10 years ago, but she wasn’t ready to act until she registered for her first cider courses at Cornell and began pursing her apprenticeship at Albemarle CiderWorks in 2010.
Originally considering more traditional, rural locations for Blue Bee, she discovered that Richmond had a bit of a cider heritage, dating back to William Byrd and the colonial days. Manchester offered her the perfect opportunity to reconnect with a city tradition while also contributing to the neighborhood’s burgeoning artisan culture.
Blue Bee offers two varieties of cider: a dry cider for craft beer drinkers and a fruitier variation appealing to wine drinkers. A third cider, a higher-alcohol variety blended with aged brandy, is on the horizon.
Because Virginia law classifies cider as a wine product, Mailey will be able to personally distribute her product through the Virginia Winery Distribution Company. Customers can order wine directly from Blue Bee or online at the VWDC website.