Highland County native Kirk Billingsley grew up making fresh cider with his father. When he left home for college, he noticed he couldn’t find a cider with the same brightness and character that he could create from freshly picked Highland apples. Upon returning home in 1993, Kirk’s wife bought him a cider press and he turned his interest to hard cider. Last year, he took his hobby a step further when he opened Big Fish Cider, Co., a craft cidery located in a colorfully restored building in Monterey. “As a lifelong resident I have always wanted to start a business that would fit in with the character of Highland,” Kirk says.
In a short time, Kirk has quickly earned acclaim with the craft cider he is making and bottling in Highland County. He’s won multiple awards for Big Fish’s complex, full-flavored style of cider that’s achieved through a slow, cold fermentation process. Kirk gives the credit to the quality of Highland County apples, which have better flavor than similar varieties grown elsewhere, thanks to the area’s high elevation.
Kirk has also been motivated by the support he’s received from his friends and neighbors:
“In Highland County, you’ll find folks that are very supportive and accommodating when it comes to local business.”
When Kirk isn’t making cider, he can often be found hiking or fishing in one of the many scenic spots around the county. “We’re surrounded by unbelievable beauty and many places to explore.”
His favorite activities include wandering the trails of the Laurel Fork Area in the George Washington National Forest and casting for trout in the Jackson River.