Sage Bird Ciderworks pressed on amid the pandemic and plans to open this week

Harrisonburg’s latest business to open amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be Sage Bird Ciderworks at 325 N. Liberty St.

Video and article by Chase Downey, contributor

Editor’s note: This is the second in an occasional series of video stories featuring the experiences of Harrisonburg residents who are opening a business during the pandemic.

For many, the start of the pandemic meant occupying their time and learning new hobbies. But for Zach and Amberlee Carlson, it meant turning their hobby into a business: Sage Bird Ciderworks, which is scheduled to open this week. 

The pair says they have learned a lot from observing other business’ actions during the pandemic, and will use their newly-completed spacious taproom and outdoor seating when they open Friday, Sept. 4. 

Their plan for Sage Bird is to make a few types of the hard cider that most people are familiar with (what Zach Carlson calls, “sweet, alcoholic apple juice”), but mainly the “more traditional, more complex” ciders. He said those resemble more of a white wine. Sage Bird will also showcase ciders that push the boundaries with infusion of hops and other fruit. The main goal of Sage Bird is to create ciders that would have been traditionally made in the Shenandoah Valley, focusing on native ingredients to the area and exclusively using Virginia apples. 

Zach and Amberlee Carlson explain their experience and challenges with opening their dream business amid the pandemic.

The Carlsons first began experimenting with cider as a hobby several years ago. They started pressing apples with an apple press on their front porch, and fermenting the cider in their basement for friends and family. As their skills grew, so too did their ambitions to open a business. About two years ago, Zach and Amberlee decided that it was time to work toward that goal of opening Sage Bird.

Despite all their planning, the coronavirus pandemic added a new level of complications. The Carlsons contemplated giving up but ultimately chose to move forward with their plan.

 “We decided we had to,”  Zach Carlson told The Citizen. “We were in it too deep to back out, and we want to do this.” 


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