As you peruse the streets of a picturesque neighborhood, leash in hand, sunlight peeks through tree branches to warm your fingertips. Your furry best friend tugs you around a corner, following the sound of David Bowie’s voice drifting out of a pastel green building. A chocolatey, burnt-marshmallow smell invites you through the door. You walk through and find a warm-lit cafe that reminds you of a familiar place–-a quaint little cidery in Switzerland. “Waldschanke Ciders” reads the wooden sign out front, foreground to a back patio with string lights, family dogs, and friends laughing over schnitzels and cider flights.
Though thriving on 4100 Jason Street in the heart of Sunnyside, Waldschanke Ciders encapsulates the feeling of a mountainside cafe in Central Europe. The Swiss name Waldschanke beautifully mirrors its original roots, translating to ‘Forest Tavern’ in English. During WWII, villagers hiked through the thickety woods of Romanshorn, Switzerland, seeking rest, relaxation, and fellowship which were all tucked into a remote cidery called Waldschanke Ciderhaus.
The cidery soon became a home away from home to many–a place to enjoy authentic, unfiltered cider and the company of friends. Close to eighty years later, a second Swiss-inspired cidery was born five thousand miles away. The legacy of proprietor, George Mueller, was established in the welcoming streets of Denver, Colorado.
Just weeks before the unfolding of COVID-19, George Mueller’s daughter Ruth, Ruth’s husband John, their son Keane and daughter-in-law Kelley Dufresne opened the doors of Waldschanke Ciders. John, Ruth, Keane, and Kelley turned obstacles from the pandemic into opportunities for growth. In the first year of opening, Waldschanke Ciders drew in pools of regulars who call it their happy place.
According to co-founder Keane Dufresne, one thing that makes Waldschanke unique is its aim to “not Americanize the things we want to keep traditional.” Speaking of Swiss tradition, fermented apple cider, irresistible as it may be, is still a rarity in the United States compared to beverages like beer and liquor. Drawing from George Mueller’s original formulas, Waldschanke introduces cider to North Denver with a Coloradan twist to each recipe.
“Our cider is made more similar to wine because it is a fermented juice, versus something like beer that starts with water, then grains, etc…,” says Kelley when describing the process of homemade cider. The freshest of apples are harvested from the Colorado Western Slope and shipped straight to Waldschanke to guarantee the cider’s freshness and consistency of taste. The process of fermenting cider requires no cooking at all; the apples are pressed, and the juice is added to a thirty-barrel fermenter located right in the back of the cidery. Added yeast digests the natural sugars of the apple juice, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide inside the giant fermenter. This natural fermentation process creates a beautifully smooth, refreshingly carbonated, hard cider. In addition to the massive fermenter producing large batches of classic apple cider, four seven-liter tanks are located in the back to curate specific cider blends like pear, guava, and pomegranate. Small batches of flavors are then transferred into uni-barrels, with tubes running out of each one allowing cider to flow all the way to the bar. Some fan-favorite cider creations include Base Kamp (original Swiss apple), Limoncello Ginger (fresh lemon and ginger), Hot Fuzz (peach habanero), Prickly Pear Punch (cactus flower), and The Northcider (hopped apricot). Sip these one-of-a-kind ciders under gently falling snow, or come back in the summertime for refreshing cider slushies.
Doubling as a coffeehouse, Waldschanke offers a full espresso bar that sources rich coffee beans from Mad Loon Coffee Roasters. Mad Loon is a gem in itself, raising money for multiple social justice organizations while providing ethically sourced beans to Coloradans. The espresso bar is the perfect place to order a warm cider donut with a Smore’s Latte, open up your laptop or beat-up paperback, and relax at Waldschanke for as long as you like.
Realizing that your coffee outing has unintentionally overlapped into lunchtime, you follow the smell of buttered pretzels and sizzling bratwursts toward the Eurowagen–an authentic, Swiss-inspired food truck, located on the back patio. Much like cider and coffee, food has the power to bring people together. Whether you come solo or with your crew—expect to find yourself chatting with new faces as if they are old friends.
Home to Waldschanke Ciders, and a great deal of family and singles’ housing, the Sunnyside Neighborhood continues to grow as brand new development springs up. When the Waldschanke team chose the location for their cidery, a new railway station had recently been built at 41st Avenue and Fox Street. They wisely took this as a sign of anticipated growth in the area, because the purpose of the railway was to provide an access point for workers traveling to and from downtown Denver and Westminster or Wheat Ridge. The building of the railway ignited a spark in Sunnyside that inspired more housing and small businesses to emerge, allowing Sunnyside to grow in population as well as popularity. John, Ruth, Keane, and Kelley are excited to welcome more customers through their doors. Perhaps the perfect representation of Waldschanke’s growth over the last three years, is best stated in the words of co-founder Keane, “we just keep making more friends.”