By Wendy Crispell
Historically speaking, the noble apple has played an integral part in some of the most interesting stories, legends, and tall tales of the world. It tempted Adam and Eve, sent Snow White into a deep sleep, helped gain William Tell his freedom, and hit Isaac Newton in the head thus formulating the theory of gravitation while he was simply seeking some shade to enjoy a cup of tea.
Today, a new apple-centric story is unfolding in the Hudson Valley and Capital Region. It involves the passion and dedication devoted to the revival of an ancient beverage, hard cider, the drink of choice on the early American dinner table.
With New York ranking the second-largest apple growing state in the country, it should be no surprise that the region is riding high on the crest of American orchard cider. Discriminating consumers are discovering the small number of craft cider makers claiming a stake in the farm to glass movement. Interest in the gluten-free lifestyle has also helped hard cider, a naturally gluten-free beverage, gain momentum.
Currently there are nearly thirty cider producers in the Hudson Valley and Capital Region, and many have tasting rooms located in the rolling hills and scenic vistas that the region is known for. What are you waiting for? Plan a visit to apple country. Stroll the orchards filled with majestic beauty. Experience the passion and dedication crafted into apple-icious delight.
Be a part of the new cider story unfolding, and be enticed with a taste of authentic, modern apple history.
Flagship Favorites + Tasting Room Exclusives
Some cideries specialize in particular styles or have a flagship brand that has proven to be a crowd pleaser. Others produce a dizzying array of choices available on tap in the tasting room, where you can find seasonal specialties, or one-offs awaiting critical acclaim. The abundance of fresh berries, herbs, and culinary genius in the region has led to sometimes geeky, yet tasty, experimentation. Collaborations with local distillers, coffee roasters, hop farms, and vineyards have resulted in wildly popular results. Each tasting room is a unique experience filled with friendly, knowledge- able guides ready to help you navigate your cider journey. Read on for more about some of these unique producers and what influences their individual style. Whatever style your palate prefers, you’re sure to find a few new favorites.
Fermenting Family History
Bad Seed Cider
Bad Seed Cider is the brainchild of lifelong friends Albert Wilklow and Devin Britton. Devin’s love of home brewing and Albert’s gluten intolerance resulted in their first cider made with fruit from Wilklow Orchards, a six-generation family farm owned by Albert’s family. A range of dry hard cider and flavors are available in the tasting room with favorites including a bourbon barrel-aged cider, a Raspberry tasting room exclusive, and IPC (aka India Pale Cider), a true dry cider brewed with American Ale yeast and Cascade hops. For those fans of traditional IPAs and pale ales, this is the cider for you. A cold brew infused cider, a recent collaboration with a local coffee roaster, is quickly gaining an enthusiastic fan following.
Joe Daddy’s Cider
Joe Daddy’s Cider is the newest addition at Brookview Station Winery, where husband and wife team Ed Miller and Sue Goold Miller are no strangers to the orchard to glass movement. The winery was started in 2006 with their first wine made from apples sourced from the adjoining orchard, founded by Sue’s grandparents in 1910. Joe Daddy’s Cider is a semidry blend of culinary and cider apples using English yeast and years of experience to charm just the right blend of flavors from the Hudson Valley’s noble apple. Available on draft only in the tasting room with growlers to go, Joe Daddy’s Original, Apple Cranberry, and the seasonal Pomegranate ciders are making a splash in the cider world.
Kettleborough Cider House
Kettleborough Cider House is owned and operated by one-man show Tim Dressel, who had originally planned on a small farm winery. The cider move-ment, and the availability of fruit sourced from Dressel Farms owned by his family, caused a change in gears. As a participant in Glynwood’s 2011 cider exchange program in France, Tim’s cider has a French influence with the terroir of the Hudson Valley. Styles include a flagship Dry Cider, reminiscent of a clean and crisp Prosecco; Honey Honey, a slightly off-dry sweetened with local honey; and a Straw-berry Cider made with berries from Dressel Farm. Kettleborough is a must-visit for seasoned cider drinkers and newbies looking to gain insight into small farmhouse cider production using only estate grown fruit.
Weed Orchards and Winery
Weed Orchard and Winery is a relative newcomer on the craft beverage scene, but this farm operation has been delighting U-Pickers with an array of fresh produce and homebaked goodness for decades. Fifth-generation owner John Weed along with his wife and daughters are now crafting their prize-winning fruit into ciders including Blueberry and just-picked Peach, both on the sweeter side of their semidry signature Homegrown Hard Cider.
Hardscrabble Cider is new from Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard, where they press and produce farm-to-bottle hard cider from apples picked on-site. Along with a lineup of classic American style ciders ranging from dry to sweet, this first generation family-owned farm also offers fresh eggs, grass-fed beef, pasteurized pork, seasonal produce, and other local goodies.
Make a Day of It
Doc’s Draft Hard Cider
Doc’S Draft Hard Cider from Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery was the first hard cider introduced to the Hudson Valley more than twenty years ago. Today, a range of seasonal ciders and apple-based spirits can be paired with a relaxing day away. Features include an on-site cafe, infor- mative tastings, and an endless roster of events. Take a sip and savor the beginnings of New York’s craft cider movement!
Naked Flock Cider
Naked Flock Cider at Applewood Winery was founded by Jonathan Hull, who sources fruit from his family’s orchard, named “Apple Dave” after his father, a trained Pomologist. The highly-prized Naked Flock Cider, with its eye-catching label and zany backstory (see page 16), has a dedicated following both in the tasting room and beyond. The Original, made with Champagne yeast and sweetened with local honey, and Draft style, made with Belgian yeast and finished with maple syrup, are balanced and refreshing. In the tasting room, a selection of drafts are available for sampling and to go in growlers. Seasonal favorites and experimental flavors such as Pumpkin, Black Tea, and Currant Saison await, in addition to a line of red and white wines. Food pairings at the Cider Café, weekend festivities, and general merriment are abundant at this cider destination.
Pennings Farm Cidery
Pennings Farm Cidery is part farm stand, pub, hop farm, orchard, grill, cider tasting room and music venue. Pennings offers something for everyone in the family including hard cider on tap, and in a number of housemade specialties, such as cider-infused pulled pork and onion soup made from local Black Dirt onions. A dedication to keeping it local keeps the Pennings family busy innovating new ways to showcase their own products along with the best of what the Hudson Valley has to offer. It’s the perfect day trip destination. Tour the farm, bring the kids to Pennings’ petting zoo, sample American farmhouse cider and beer, settle in for lunch or dinner, and shop for locally grown fruits and veggies, baked goods, and cheeses before you go.
Age Worthy Bottle Beauties
Orchard Hills Cider Mill
Orchard Hills Cider Mill is located next to the Soons Orchard farm store, produces elegant ciders and a decidedly different apple aperitif, both with a nod to French style. Their Red Label Cider is a stellar example of second fermentation in the bottle. Red Label is a dry, crisp champagne-style cider with fine bubbles and delicate flavors, drinking beautifully on release, or aged for a few years to gain a bit of savory complexity. A must-try is their Ten 66 Gold Label, a single-barrel Pommeau that combines apple brandy with freshly pressed apple juice, then aged nine years in French oak. This advantageous marriage of apple-based products creates a magical elixir that must be tasted to be believed.
Creative, Modern Flavor Flair
Angry Orchard was founded as an R and D facility and tasting room owned by The Boston Beer Company. Head cider maker Ryan Burk favors the English cider style using a blend of culinary and cider apples. An impressive barrel room houses experimental ciders taking a nap in used bourbon, cognac, red wine, and sauterne casks, as well as crisp styles aged in stainless steel. While Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple flagship cider is widely available, a number of specialties will only be available on-site. Standouts include Wooden Sleeper, aged for five months in bourbon barrels, and Dear Brittany, a wild ferment aged in cognac barrels. There is a style for every palate here with many new releases planned.
Nine Pin Ciderworks
Nine Pin Ciderworks is popular with both city dwellers and visitors seeking New York farm flavor. Founder Alejandro del Peral uses only locally grown fruit (pressed in the orchard) to craft a head-spinning selection of cider in an urban setting. Signature, their flagship slightly off-dry cider is tasty and refreshing, but quirky, experimental ciders are something not to be missed here. Cardamom, sarsaparilla, dandelion, black walnut, aloe, and rye and rum barrels are just a few things used to create buzz-worthy ciders available in the tasting room. Must-tries include the Cider Monster, made with 87 different apple varieties; and any of the yarrow-infused ciders. The plan this year is to release 26 different ciders in a two-week rotation. Frequent visitors can sign up to become a “26er” – a cider club of sorts that includes a challenge to sample all 26 flavors!
Be a True Believer
Standard Cider is produced by Brotherhood, America’s Oldest Winery, where you can wander the historic hand-dug cellars, tour the grounds, and settle in for a glass and a bite at the Vinum Café. Standard Ciders are made from fresh apple juice sourced from 100% culinary apples and finished in stainless steel (with the exception of the Reserve) to achieve a fresh American style. Favorites include True Companion, a rich, slightly sweet sparkling cider produced with the addition of ginger. Its sweet and spicy ending is the perfect companion for sushi, Thai, or Indian cuisine. Rebel Reserve, their barrel-aged cider, is smooth, deliciously off dry, with a full, juicy finish, and just the thing to serve with smoky BBQ or hard cheeses.