When former banker Tristan Wright was diagnosed with a severe soy allergy a few years ago, he realized he wanted to make some changes in his life.
“I had spent 16 years in the industry,” he says. “And one day when looking in the mirror, I realized I was doing something that I didn’t love and wasn’t passionate about any longer. A lot of that had to do with that diagnosis. As you get older, you begin to hear that ticking clock and think more about your mortality. I didn’t want to wake up in a hospital room one day and not be able to say I had done something in life that was worth the risk.”
Wright had recently started drinking cider because he needed to give up whiskey and beer. He researched what was out there, and couldn’t find too many ciders that he wanted to drink. Like kismet, he was sitting on the couch one day watching a ballgame when a commercial for Angry Orchard cider came on, and he had a light bulb moment.
“It was almost like someone was telling me I should start a cider company. I was looking for something to do, and here was an opportunity to do something really cool.”
A month later, he found himself at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon sitting in a cider production class led by cider professionals from the Pacific Northwest.
“I immediately connected with those in the room and spent a couple of weeks out there going through 19 different cideries,” he says. “From there, I enrolled in Cornell’s viticulture and enology [the study of grape cultivation and the study of wines, respectively] program, studying yeast cultures they use in wine and the science behind the craft.”
His business plan was finally on its way. On June 8, Wright opened Lost Boy Cider – the first cidery in Northern Virginia – in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. His cidery produces a variety of traditional and innovative hard ciders, with almost 100 percent of their sourced apples grown in Virginia.
“Our ciders are all bone-dry with no residual sugars. They are in the 6.9 percent range. Our belief is you can go and source very good apples, hand ferment them and introduce dry cider the way it should be.”
For now, the cider is coming from trees on Glaize Apples’ properties in the Shenandoah Valley. The process involves Lost Boy fermenting the squeezed apple juice and then crafting the liquid into one of the cidery’s signature ciders. The menu features Bottle Rocket, made with jalapeños; Spicoli, made with pineapple; and Slasher, made with raspberries.
Lost Boy Cider has an apple orchard onsite adjacent to its tasting room with semi-Dwarf Golden Delicious varieties from Stark Bro’s, a Mississippi Delta-based company. Once fully grown to roughly nine feet, the apple trees will produce nearly 80 gallons of juice. The first harvest is planned for fall of 2020.
“We are licensed in the state as a farm winery and you cannot do that in the state without controlling land where 65 percent of your product comes from,” Wright explains. “You must control an orchard in continuous or adjacent space to where your tasting room operates from.”
Lost Boy Cider will also receive a $60,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program grant.
“We’re incredibly grateful for it, and we’ll use that money to build out and deepen our laboratory area so we can continue to understand what type of ciders we are making. The money comes in waves and it requires me to utilize Virginia resources, which we planned on doing anyway. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
The theme of the Lost Boy logo is to motivate people to explore the opportunities they are presented with.
“It’s not about being lost, but really about being found.”
Lost Boy’s instant popularity at the grand opening last month proved to Wright this is a place people wanted to see.
“I knew our cider was good and we worked very, very hard on it, but I had no idea that the community would support us in the way that they did. I opened the doors at noon and by 12:04, we had exceeded our occupancy load. There was a line of 80 people outside and throughout the day, people were waiting up to 45 minutes in line to get in.”
About 1,400 people came through the doors by day’s end, and cider was flying off the shelves.
“It was just incredible and we’re looking forward to more. It feels really good to know the hard work we have put in the last couple of years is hopefully going to pay off.”
Lost Boy Cider: 317 Hooffs Run Dr. Alexandria, VA; 703-868-4865; www.lostboycider.com