Cider celebrates little orchards making a big difference
Boulevard Brewing Company recently released the Westside Wilds Pear Cider to support The Giving Grove. The small-batch, mixed fermentation cider is the celebration of a local food collaboration five years in the making. A portion of the proceeds benefit Kansas City Community Garden’s Giving Grove program.
The Giving Grove is a nonprofit that supports and plants little orchards with fruit trees, nut trees, and berry bushes in food-insecure urban neighborhoods to create access to healthy food. It first started as a program with Kansas City Community Gardens (KCCG) in 2013, and has since grown nationwide – supporting a network of Giving Grove orchard programs in 11 cities.
In Kansas City, there are now over 230 community orchards with 4000 trees that produce more than 2.8 million servings of food each year. In neighborhoods, schools, parks, faith communities, and health facilities, these little orchards – with their stewards and surrounding neighbors – are building new relationships and community connections.
The making of an ‘orchard-to-bottle’ collaboration
The Giving Grove and Boulevard relationship started in April of 2017. Brent Cox, Boulevard’s barrel aging and packaging brewer, volunteered at a Giving Grove orchard planting in Kansas City’s east side. Cox met Giving Grove horticulturist Matt Bunch and the Giving Grove team, and they shared conversation about the unique beverages and ferments that could be made with fruit. Cox became interested in using Giving Grove fruits to create a fermented beverage at Boulevard that could help raise awareness about the nonprofit.
In early 2017, before Cox had met the Giving Grove team, a family with private property outside of Kansas City approached the nonprofit about planting an orchard with the idea of donating the fruit to support the cause. While its orchards are usually planted in community spaces for public access, the team began to brainstorm an avenue for this opportunity.
It was the culmination of these new community connections that eventually led to the cider. So in November of 2017, local volunteers gathered and planted a 50-tree Asian pear orchard on the private land with the hope that the orchard would raise awareness and support the nonprofit. They planned to have their first harvest in 2020 for a Boulevard collaboration.
The pear harvest
Due to late frosts in 2020 and 2021, it wasn’t until 2022 when the Asian pear crops were finally ripe for picking. In the fall, Boulevard, Giving Grove, and KCCG staff, as well as Giving Grove board member and co-founder, Kevin Birzer and his staff from TortioseEcofin, gathered at the orchard to harvest 1,000 pounds of golden Asian pears. Many of the volunteers were also at the tree planting in 2017.
“The relationship between the Kansas City Community Gardens-Giving Grove program has been fruitful (pun very much intended),” Bunch said. “Our partnership has helped expand awareness of KCCG and The Giving Grove while adding new flavors to the Boulevard portfolio.”
About the Westside Wilds pear cider
Boulevard Brewing Company’s Westside Wilds collection features small-batch projects that are released exclusively at its Tours & Recreation Center. It showcases ales or ciders fermented with wild yeasts.
The mixed fermentation pear cider was created in the basque style that uses natural yeast found on the fruit and from the orchard to help create flavor and aroma. The Asian pear is a round, golden fruit with a delicate flavor. In addition to the Asian pears, the brewers added three varieties of locally grown apples from Sibley Orchards, located in Sibley, MO. The unpasteurized juice in the cider adds to the “funky” flavor.
According to Boulevard’s tasting notes, the Westside Wilds Mixed Fermentation Pear Cider has “big, ripe green apple flavors up front, riding fruity esters before giving way to fresh pear notes and a super dry finish.”
“It was a joy to help pick the fruits and develop a true ‘orchard to bottle’ product,” Cox said. “It’s always a pleasure to be able to connect with ingredients in these small-batch projects, especially when it can have any positive impact in a real community of people.”
The cider was released in January at a Brewers Happy Hour event when the brewers, KCCG and Giving Grove staff, and the orchard planting and harvest volunteers came together to celebrate the fruits of their labor five years in the making.
How to taste the cider
The mixed fermentation cider will be on tap for a limited time while supplies last at the Boulevard Beer Hall. Visit in February to enjoy it on draft, or take home a bottle from its gift shop. It’s also available to order online for local in-store pickup. The 750ml bottle is available for $18.99.
A portion of the proceeds benefit Kansas City’s Giving Grove program.
The Giving Grove’s growing impact
- Kansas City Community Garden’s Giving Grove program is working with local stewards to transform vacant lots into neighborhood orchards across the city to provide healthy calories, strengthen community, and grow green spaces. Find orchards in KC.
- Want to add fruit trees to your yard? KCCG is hosting a free workshop on Feb. 3, Selecting Fruit Trees & Berry Bushes
- Looking for a gift idea? Donate a fruit tree to a Giving Grove orchard.
- Follow The Giving Grove: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
Top photo courtesy of Boulevard Brewing Company
Story photo courtesy of The Giving Grove