Our Story

The story of Bold Rock Hard Cider starts with the unlikely partnership between two guys from different sides of the world. John Washburn, a native Southerner who grew up in Virginia and the Carolinas, long owned a piece of scenic farmland in Nelson County, Virginia. It’s an idyllic place where rolling green hills rest against the peacefully flowing Rockfish River, while the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains tower above. As John contemplated how to put this special land to good use, he was eventually struck with the idea to produce craft cider from the bounty of apples being grown in nearby orchards. During his time living in New Zealand he learned about the man who could help fulfill his ambitions.

Brian Shanks grew up farming in the New Zealand countryside. After he bought an apple orchard, a fortuitous cyclone cleared his trees of fruit so he started making small batches of hard cider. Brian’s Harvest Cider eventually became an award-winning phenomenon across his native country, but it was really just the beginning of his career. This New Zealand cider pioneer eventually became an acclaimed international consultant, helping established companies like Strongbow and Woodchuck and working across continents with cider makers in the United States, Europe, China and Australia. In 2010, though, Brian received a phone call about a new opportunity that could bring him back to his roots.

Without introduction John boldly reached out to Brian and asked for a meeting. These two salt-of-the earth characters—one a Southern gentleman, the other an affable bloke—became fast friends, and John convinced Brian to fly with him from New Zealand to Virginia. Soon after, a new partnership was formed. Bold Rock sold its first bottle of cider in June 2012 and since that time has become the nation’s largest independently owner cider company.

We’re proud to say we’ve won more than 75 awards, and our cider can now be found throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. But all of this growth hasn’t sacrificed quality. Our dedicated cider makers crush and craft locally picked apples to create our variety of crisp and refreshing hard cider styles. That’s true at the two cideries we built and established at both ends of the Blue Ridge, including our flagship timber frame Cider Barn in Nellysford, Virginia, as well as our newer facility in the western North Carolina mountain town of Mills River. As more people continue to enjoy our freshly crafted cider, John and Brian are still committed to preserving Bold Rock’s founding ideals: Real Apples. Real Craft. Real People.