Rio Connelly at Scion Cider.

Rio Connelly’s Inaugural Cider Release at Scion Cider Bar

Beer & Spirits

Rio Connelly's Single Varietal canned cider.

916 Jefferson St. W, Salt Lake City, UT
Tue–Thu 4:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Fri 4:00 p.m.
–12:00 a.m.
Sat 12:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m.
Sun 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
833.243.4275 |

Rio Connelly is a decorated member of the local brew community. Spending over a decade in the professional beer brewing industry, aiding in the opening of
Epic Brewing and founding Proper Brewing with his brother, Liam, Connelly has brought experience and excitement to his newest local cider series as Head Cider Maker at award-winning Scion Cider Bar. 

Sitting down with Connelly at Scion to discuss his newest venture, it quickly became apparent that he is filling an underserved niche in Utah. Scion features “over 20 taps of full-strength craft ciders, plus over 220 cans and bottles imported from around the US, Canada, the UK, France, Spain and Sweden and cider-focused cocktails.” Cider is classified as wine, meaning current Utah law prohibits sale of cider in grocery stores. Connelly’s vision to show Utahns all that cider could be has taken shape in the form of a lively, homey bar (long, family-style tables, bookshelves strewn with apple-themed board games and cider-making guidebooks), prompting guests to socialize and taste cider from all over the world.

Three 100-gallon fermentation tanks are to the left of the bar, housing Connelly’s latest, delicious science project. He describes how the apples used in his ciders interact with different yeasts to produce distinct categories, detailing the nature of his three locally-sourced batches with the passion of a chemist. “There’s a lot of experimentation going on; I’m not planning on repeating anything. There might be variations, I’ll continue to expand, but that’s the freedom the small batches allow us. We don’t have any standards we have to meet,” he says.

Dessert apples, which are referred to in the cider world as “grocery-store apples,” are not commonly used in cider, but Connelly has chosen to (ironically) represent the grocery varietals grown in Utah with his first small batch series. He plans to expand on the Single Varietal, Fruited and Imperial categories with reusable labels, aromatics and other flavor combinations as the seasons change.

“Cider is most correctly thought of as a white wine made from apples,” Connelly says.The first of the Single Varietal series, Vice Verde (6.2% ABV, $5/can), features Granny Smith apples and packs a classic, mouth-puckering sourness. It’s as if someone were to pair a white wine with an apple pie. “Cider is most correctly thought of as a white wine made from apples,” Connelly says. The malic acid found in Granny Smith apples provides a home-grown crispness that is uniquely tart and refreshing. “This is one of the [ciders] I’ve considered repeating, almost like a ‘flagship cider,’” he says.

Connelly’s first of the Fruited Series, St. Olfricot (7.6% ABV, $6/can), is a blend of Honeycrisp, Fuji and Granny Smith apples. It is soft and syrupy, due to the 80 lbs of raw apricot puree, which ferments with English yeast to create an earthy, viscous juiciness. “Apricots are closely related to almonds, so there is a nuttiness [in this batch] that rounds it out nicely,” Connelly says. The cider is pleasantly fragrant (I would bottle this smell and wear it as a perfume) but not too sugary on the tongue.

The pioneer of the Imperial Series, Wicked Strong (10.7% ABV, $7.50/can), is the sharpest and most saccharine of the bunch. “What’s cool about this one, it’s measurably dry,” Connelly says. “The ethanol itself has a flavor, and it often gets perceived as very sweet. Despite that fact, there’s almost no sugar.” The Fuji apple foundation paired with a Norwegian farmhouse-style yeast masks the high alcohol content with a bubbly brightness. Fans of apples and alcohol, this one’s for you.

Stay tuned in to Scion’s Instagram, @scionciderbar and website to keep up with Connelly’s small batch releases and stop by Scion Cider Bar to pick up cans of each series or to taste them on draft before they sell out.

Did you know that Rio was a SLUG Contributor? Check out his Beer features here:
SLUG Magazine’s Drinker’s Glossary Vol. 1
An Endless Palette: Designing Beers for Every Palate