Continuing to Grow at Haykin Family Cider
Walk into the Haykin Family Cider tasting room in Aurora on a drizzly Saturday evening, and your mood immediately brightens.
By the time you walk out the door, you may have:
- made some new friends around the bright stainless steel and wood bar;
- met Talia, the genial Founder of the eponymous cidery, as she pours you a flight of award-winning ciders, most of which are made from a single variety of apple;
- purchased several bottles to enjoy at home.
If the mention of cider conjures up memories of jugs holding thick, orange flat liquid—a beverage you might buy around Halloween and throw away by Thanksgiving—Talia will be happy to re-educate you.
“We treat cider like wine,” she says. “It’s sparkling, like Prosecco. You will never see a can of our cider anywhere because we love sparkling wine and the higher carbonation. We also believe in paying a fair price for our apples, and we focus on making an incredible product.”
When she is not serving cider in the tasting room, Talia wears many hats. In a tongue-in-cheek nod to the demands of a small family business, she refers to herself as the Founder/CEO/CMO/CFO/COO/CSO of the company. Her husband Daniel holds the titles of Founder and Cidermaker.
All Haykin ciders are certified kosher with the Scroll K hechsher, another point of pride for the family.
“We did not set out to make the best kosher cider we could,” says Talia. “We wanted to make the best cider, and we wanted to make it kosher. I am so excited to provide an option for our friends who keep kosher.”
Judges agree that Haykin Family Cider is in a class by itself. In May 2022, at the 16th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP)—the world’s premier competition for ciders—the company was named Small Cidermaker of the Year and took home awards for 20 of their ciders, including two Best in Class Gold medals.
When you win the top international awards, you develop a reputation. And that’s how Tim King, the Co-Owner of the OK Cider Co. in Oklahoma City, Okla., came to be sitting in the Haykin tasting room on that rainy Saturday evening, sampling the competition’s product.
“I honestly think they are making some of the best cider in the U.S. right now,” King said. “They have access to apples that other people don’t have. When you are making cider with a single varietal, you have the full flavor of the apple, and they bring it on very well. Any time I am in Denver, I always stop in.
That is high praise for a venture that started in the Haykins’ home in 2013, with a jug of pasteurized apple juice and a carboy—a large glass container used to ferment the pressed apples. How, in the past nine years, has this hobby turned family business seen double-digit growth, survived a pandemic, and developed a national reputation?
The hobby becomes a passion
“It all began in a tiny Stapleton townhouse,” Talia Haykin laughs. “We had a baby, a dog, my husband worked from home, and we started making cider on the dining room table.”
“Finally, Dan said, ‘I think I can make this,’” Talia recalls. “I said, ‘You don’t have time for this.’ And then he did it.”
By the next year, Dan was up all night reading about winemaking and learning an important first lesson: “The output is never better than the input.” They stopped using pasteurized apple juice, and Dan bought an apple grinder and press which they put in the townhouse garage.
“Once we started pressing our own fruit, the quality grew by leaps and bounds,” Talia recalls. “We were buying apples in small quantities so we were only using one type of apple at a time and accidentally started making a single varietal cider.”
Large carboys consumed every spare inch of their townhouse. One day, Talia came home to find Dan on his hands and knees. Two of the carboys had brushed against each other, and one, which had a flaw, shattered, spilling five gallons of partially fermented apple juice with shards of glass onto the hardwood floors. As the wood dried, the sugar leached out. Every day, the couple mopped the same sticky floor again. Finally, they bought a bigger home and moved their hobby with them into the new basement. But before long, their passion for fine cider would turn into a business.
The passion becomes a business
“Starting a business was not on our radar,” recalls Talia. “But at our very first contest, we won best cider in the competition. That told us we were on to something.”
Both Dan and Talia had fulltime jobs. She was a marketing professional. Dan had worked on Wall Street for Moody’s and Lehman Brothers and had moved to Denver to join his father as an investment adviser in the family business, Haykin Wealth Management. Given Dan’s background, it was not a total shock when investors approached them with the idea of starting a cider business. At first, the Haykins said no. But the idea slowly took root.
“Our cider is unique, and we were not sure people would be as into it as we were,” Talia says. “But we decided to take a leap of faith and see how it played out.”
Before long, one of their ciders had won the highest award in the world. They bought space in Aurora and opened the location on Feb. 1, 2018. Six days later, Talia gave birth to their daughter. (“I was 10 months pregnant, and doing a soft open,” she laughs.) Just before the pandemic hit, they bought additional adjacent units to house production and a larger tasting room.
If your knowledge of apples has never moved beyond Honeycrisp and Red Delicious, Haykin Family Cider will open the world to you, with apple varieties like Ashmead’s Kernel, Newtown Pippin, Golden Russet, and Manchurian Crabapple. Haykin Family Cider has two ingredients: apples and yeast. They buy the apples from orchardists in Colorado and around the country, grind the fruit, press it, pump the juice into tanks or glass carboys, and add the yeast for fermentation.
“We taste the cider constantly while it’s fermenting to see where it is going to go,” Talia says. “We are listening to what the apple wants to be. Do we need to stop now or go further to make the best version of that cider?”
When they decide it’s done, they carbonate the cider and bottle it. It sits in the bottle for at least a few months before they release it for sale.
“I always say, ‘The cider tastes better in month two than it did on day two,’” Talia says. “And it tastes even better in year two than it did in month two.”
The Haykins constantly challenge themselves to create new products. They recently released an award-winning line called “Methode Ancestrale” which demands a secondary champagne-like fermentation in the bottle taking up to four years.
The cider-lover and the cider-curious can sample and buy Haykin products at the tasting room which is just five minutes away from the Stanley Marketplace. Fans can sign up for three different Haykin Family Cider online clubs. The cider is also available at liquor stores and fine restaurants along the Front Range.
The business takes flight
Before COVID-19, the Haykins’ business had been growing by double and triple digits each year. When the pandemic hit, Talia says the family initially “panicked like everyone else because no one knew what the future would be.”
But a quality product sells itself—despite fierce pandemic-related headwinds. The company survived, even grew by a small percentage in 2020 and has now returned to double-digit growth.
The Haykins have expanded their staff to help with production, work in the tasting room, and staff farmers markets. As the company grew, so has their family. On their website, they list their young son as the “Chief Sales Officer.” Their daughter is “CEO in Training.” And their baby, born in December 2021, has been assigned a title beloved by any fan of the TV show “The Office:” “Assistant to the Assistant Regional Manager.”
While their tasting room does not serve food, Talia encourages everyone to bring a meal or a snack with them, including kosher dinners.
“In a town with very limited date night options for folks who keep kosher, the fact that we don’t serve food but have a kosher beverage means you can bring your own food and have a nice date night,” she says. “It makes me extra happy when folks in our community come in for a nice evening.”
And if you’re curious, even though apple cider is a fermented drink, one does not speak the traditional blessing over wine, “borei, p’ri hagafen,” before drinking cider. Instead, one recites the blessing for many other drinks and foodstuffs, “Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, Shehakol Nihyah Bidvaro.”
“I never liked beer, so I became an avid cider drinker,” Abrams-Kornblum said. “It was a no-brainer to have this event here, because we can get together and taste delicious cider.”
After Talia Haykin poured cider samples at the event, she joined a panel to talk with YAD attendees about innovation in business.
“It’s the dream of early career professionals to own their own business,” Abrams-Kornblum said. “Talia is a model of someone who turned their passion into a business and is part of the Jewish community in a meaningful way.”
But when you talk with Talia Haykin, you realize that making cider will always be more than a business. When your name goes on every bottle, it’s personal.
“We love to drink our cider, and we want it to be great,” she says. “So we are going to keep making it. And it’s really nice if we can sell it too.”