Hard cider is now the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the country with production nearly tripling since 2011. Sparked by the insatiable interest in craft beer and all things “foodie,” the Colonial-era favorite has found a receptive audience that’s regularly seeking out new, interesting, often austere ciders that defy the sugary precedent set by Hornsby’s and Strongbow.
Like its craft beer brethren, many of today’s best cider-makers are reaching a new demographic thanks to an investment in slick new taprooms featuring bar snacks and an ever-rotating cast of experimental offerings—many of which can only be sampled on draft and in the confines of their respective facilities. In a nutshell, American hard cider is helping to fuel the meteoric growth in booze-based tourism, so we decided to spotlight some of our favorites from the New England area.
As much as we love longtime leaders like West County Cider, Flag Hill, and Whetstone Ciderworks—not to mention impressive upstarts like Artifact Cider Project—we limited our list to cideries with onsite retail and tasting facilities, or ones ones on the brink of opening such amenities. Here, in no particular order, are 12 of the most exciting cider makers not only in New England, but the entire country.
40 Merriam St., Somerville; 617-299-8600 or bantamcider.com; Thursday and Friday 4-7 p.m., Saturday 1-7 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Wunderkind
Dana Masterpolo and Michelle da Silva opened their Somerville taproom in March with eight rotating taps exhibiting the forward-thinking approach that is attracting legions of new cider fans. In addition to their flagship Wunderkind, Rojo (cider fermented with wild cherries and black peppercorns), and barrel-aged La Grande, Bantam has offered draft-only selections like the Sweet Scrumpy (an “adult farm stand cider”), a boozy ginger beer, and the new Americain brewed with rose petals, green cardamom, coriander, clove, and cinnamon.
295 River Dr., Hadley; 413-345-2133 or carrsciderhouse.com; Visits by appointment only
Must Try Cider: Dabinett-Redfield Sparkling Cider
The husband and wife team of Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum have paired up with Peter Carr (no relation) and Terry McCue to produce Carr’s Ciderhouse in Western Massachusetts. Utilizing the 2000 apple trees they planted on Mount Warner in North Hadley, the Carr’s team is now producing two types of hard cider and a pommeau fortified with apple brandy with cider apples such as Yarlington Mills, Golden Russets, Kingston Blacks, and Dabinetts. Bonus for the sexy packaging with reusable swing top bottles.
200 Terminal St. Boston; 207-200-7332 or downeastcider.com; Saturday from noon-7 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Antoine Dod-Saison cider
College friends Ross Brockman and Tyler Mosher launched their approachable, all-aluminum line of cider products in 2011 in Waterville, Maine. Downeast’s booming popularity led the two to move into a giant 9,000-square-foot facility in Charlestown last February, where they’ve started pursuing more ambitious undertakings like a Hard Lemonade, barrel-aged ciders, and their “Antoine Dod Saison,” a cider fermented with cinnamon, coriander, lavender, and a saison yeast strain.
Far from the Tree
102 Jackson St., Salem. farfromthetreecider.com; Visits by open appointment only.
Must Try Cider: Rind (cider with saison yeast and orange rind)
This Salem newcomer has already made its mark with dry British-style ciders incorporating local products like Cascade hops from Four Star Farms, maple syrup from Country Maple Farms in Shelburne, and mint from the Herb Farmacy in Salisbury. Co-owner Al Snape utilizes his oenology degree and his background producing wine and ciders in Bordeaux, Germany, and Champagne to create crisp, refreshing ciders that draw astounding depth from classic Cortlands and Macintosh apples. Currently, Far from the Tree is looking at opening their taproom in the spring of 2015, but in the meantime they’re welcoming any visitors who want to drop by.
3597 Route 74 West Shoreham; 802-897-2777 or champlainorchards.com; open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Pruner’s Pride
Situated on 220 acres in beautiful Shoreham, Bill Suhr’s sprawling orchard now grows 31 specialty hard cider varieties from Europe and America. Need an excuse to sample Suhr’s amazing selection of ciders on-site, try Champlain Orchard’s attached farmers market stocked with locally sourced apple butter, cider syrups, fresh apple pie, and destination-worthy cider doughnuts. If sweet is your thing, Champlain makes two award-winning ice ciders made from Eco Apples, but we prefer Suhr’s Pruner’s Hard Cider line made with ecologically grown McIntosh, Honeycrips, and Empire apples.
316 Pine St. Suite 114 Burlington; 802-448-3278 or citizencider.com; Monday-Thursday noon-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday noon-6 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Unified Press
Craft beer aficionados traveling through Vermont in pursuit of elusive offering from Lawson’s Finest and The Alchemist often find themselves sucked in by Citizen Cider’s welcoming new taproom in Burlington. Try a flight of ciders with tongue-in-cheek names like The Dirty Mayor (cider with ginger and lemon peel), The Full Nelson (cider fermented with Nelson Sauvin hops), and Wit’s Up (cider with a Belgian beer yeast strain). Grab a growler and sit back with their rotating Vermont cheese board, a house-made pretzel with cider mustard, or some poutine with duck fat gravy and Maplebrook Farms cheese curds.
Eden Ice Cider Company
150 Main St., Newport; 802-334-1808 or edenicecider.com; Open daily from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Eden Sparkling Cider
Inspired by Montreal’s tradition of great ice cider, Eleanor and Albert purchased an abandoned dairy farm in West Charleston, Vermont where they planted 1,000 apple trees. Seven years later, Eden Ice Cider Company is thriving thanks to small-production, vintage dated ice wines utilizing heirloom variety apples like Calville Blancs, Esopus Spitzenburgs, and Ashmead’s Kernels. Starting last year, the couple made their first hard cider, a stunning, bone-dry Champagne-like sparkler that’s aged in French oak barrels.
3442 Vermont 22A, Shoreham; 802-458-0530 or shacksbury.com; Visits by appointment only.
Must Try Cider: Shacksbury 1840
Named after a small historic settlement on the Lemon Fair River, Shacksbury is among the newest of 15 commercial Vermont cideries. Founders David Dolginow and Collin Davis are like modern day Johnny Appleseeds, as they can often be found driving around the state in search of “lost cider apples” growing on now-feral trees. As they continue to plant heirloom cider varieties in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, they’re subsidizing their crop with cider from Herefordshire, England and Spain’s Basque region, from which they blend and bottle in their Shoreham cidery. Shacksbury currently produces four different ciders, including their 1840 made from foraged heirloom apples found in the cow pastures, meadows, and forests of their native state.
1815 Pucker St., Stowe; 802-730-7447 or stowecider.com; Tuesday-Sunday 1-6 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Stowe Cider
Cider maker and co-owner Stefan Windler draws immense complexity out of sweet apple varieties such as Honeycrisps, Empires, Galas, and Macouns, all sourced from his local Champlain Valley co-op of orchards. A chemist and biologist by trade, Windler still splits his time between his full-time job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his production and tasting facilities two miles north of Stowe village on the site of a former market and deli. His unfiltered and unpasteurized ciders include versions flavored with local cranberries and blueberries, and barrel-aged versions utilizing bourbon barrels from Jim Beam and rum barrels from nearby Smuggler’s Notch Distillery.
98 Poverty Ln., Lebanon; 603-448-1511 or povertylaneorchards.com; Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Growler Days every Thursday.
Must Try Cider: Farmhouse Cider
Farnum Hill owner and manager Steve Wood, is now widely considered a sage, veteran presence in the ongoing “cider revival” movement. After stumbling upon dry British-style ciders on a trip to London in the early ’80s, Wood returned to his Lebanon, New Hampshire farm and ripped up healthy Cortland and Gala trees to begin planting the tart, tannic varieties that used to dot the New England landscape prior to Prohibition. Farnum Hill now produces seven different labels, most of which resemble brut Champagne or earthy Belgian farmhouse ales, rather than syrupy sweet ciders that are available commercially.
Sow’s Ear Winery
303 Coastal Rd., Brooksville; 207-326-4649 or uniquemainefarms.com; Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Sparkling Cider
Self taught vintner Tom Hoey has now been selling his ciders and fruit wines (blueberry, cranberry, apple, rhubarb) in sleepy Brooksville since the early ’90s. A trip to Hoey’s rustic homestead is well worth the drive if only to experience The Sow’s Ear tasting room complete with mismatched furniture and a library full of medieval architecture books. Hoey makes both a still and sparkling cider, but we prefer his frizzante version, made in the methode champenoise style. Like many of Sow’s Ear’s products, it’s earthy, funky, and pleasantly tart.
Urban Farm Fermentory
200 Anderson St., Portland; 207-773-8331 or urbanfarmfermentory.com; Tuesday-Saturday noon-7 p.m.
Must Try Cider: Baby Jimmy barrel-aged cider
No trip to Portland would be complete without stopping by Eli Cayer’s four-year-old fermentory located just steps away from the East Bayside hub of Bunker Brewing, Rising Tide Brewing, and Maine Craft Distilling. The joint cider and kombucha fermentory offers several types of ciders, all of which are made with fresh-pressed Maine apples and naturally occurring, wild yeast fermentation. Various products incorporate dry-hopping, bourbon barrel-aging, and Downeast cranberries. Also, don’t miss out on their Sour Cidah, the only known kombucha hard cider hybrid in the world.
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