A row of saplings outside the new Lost Boy Cider facility in Alexandria’s Carlyle/Eisenhower Avenue area may look like any urban arboreal array. They are, in fact, part of what makes Lost Boy a farm winery. “Cider is wine made with apples,” owner Tristan Wright says as we ponder the young trees, which form a line tracing a path between the business (in an old print shop) and Alexandria’s jail. These descend from trees that Thomas Jefferson’s orchard manager cultivated; Wright expects to get seven barrels of cider from them when they’re grown.
For the rest of the cider, Wright is growing trees on Glaize Orchards’ properties in the Shenandoah Valley; its employees press the 100 percent Virginia-grown apple juice that Lost Boy ferments and turns into various modern styles of cider like Bottle Rocket (made with jalapeños), Slasher (a sour made with raspberries, named for the way the juice looks horror movie-red), and Spicoli (made with pineapple due to Wright’s misunderstanding that Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High ordered Hawaiian pizza to Mr. Hand’s class; in fact it was a double cheese and sausage pie and the name is under reconsideration, Wright says).
There are also cider slushees on the menu. They’ll be the sweetest adult drink available, because most of Lost Boy’s cider is quite dry and refreshing. (There’s also unfermented kid’s cider available.) Wright explains that the business is hoping to lure beer drinkers as well (a hazy New England style uses mosaic hops), and that Lost Boy’s products aren’t the sugar bombs people typically expect of alcoholic ciders. Lost Boy uses sauvignon blanc yeast primarily but has experimented with Berliner to make some sours. Kevin Storm, the former lead brewer at Richmond’s Hardywood, is Lost Boy’s cider maker.
Wright discovered cider after a health scare. He had been a banker and developed terrible headaches and joint pain and was eventually diagnosed with a severe soy and gluten allergy. He got interested in cider because he could no longer drink beer; eventually he studied cider-making at Oregon State University and viticulture at Cornell. He decided not to wait to pursue his dream: Inside his arm is a tattoo in Irish that translates to “never turn back.”
Lost Boy’s taproom, with a beautiful bar made from a maple tree that fell near Winchester, can hold 79 people, and Wright hopes to get approval from the city to open a patio outdoors. It will sell eight styles of cider at first; you can get some to-go in stovepipe cans and growlers of a style called “The Incident.” It will host food trucks on Thursday and Friday nights, and, yes, there will be corn hole. It’s kid-friendly, and dogs will be welcome on Wednesday evenings.
Lost Boy Cider, 317 Hooffs Run Drive, Alexandria, opens to the public at noon on Saturday, June 8.