Maybe you’ve sampled some of Artifact Cider Project’s varyingly dry, juicy, and complex ciders at a local Drink Craft Beer fest, or perhaps you’ve been intrigued by a bottle at Albert’s Market in Cambridge, which before this month was the only Boston-area place to buy the Western Mass. product.
But if you haven’t tried it before, now’s your chance. The Springfield company, which released its first cider in June 2014, has quietly expanded its self-distribution into the Boston market. Earlier this fall, Artifact’s High Hops became the first cider ever served on draft at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, and 22-ounce bottles of three of its blends are now available at a total of five local shops.
The stores had been asking for it, said Soham Bhatt, Artifact’s cofounder and cider maker. “We’re just trying to make sure we have enough product to supply.”
While he doesn’t describe it as a “surplus,” next year is poised to be a big year for Artifact. The company released its first cider in June 2014, about 500 gallons made with heirloom and dessert fruit from the 2013 harvest. Bhatt and his partner, Jake Mazar, seek out traditionally New England apple varieties, though New York and even European cultivars are sometimes in the mix, too. “You’re a winemaker without a vineyard,” Bhatt said, saying he “squirrels away” apples for various batches.
This harvest season produced a bumper crop, and Bhatt anticipates making 10,000 gallons of cider from the bounty.
“We’re actually pretty well-established in Western Mass. We’re in 40 stores, and in craft beer bars where the product does well. We do events in Boston, but it’s hard to give [people who live here] a chance to get our stuff. We’ve selected five stores to be our partners,” Bhatt explained. “It’s not a matter of surplus. We’ve seen the demand, [so we decided] let’s give people the ability to buy our stuff.”
Artifact’s flagship, the juicy New World; and a bone-dry, chardonnay-like Buzzworthy are now on local shelves, as well as the remaining bottles of High Hops, a collaboration with Amherst’s High Horse Brewing, a crisp, hopped cider with a burst of tropical pineapple and piney flavors. When the High Hops run is over, expect to see Wild Thing, a Macintosh-heavy blend given complexity with a wild fermentation. Bhatt expects to package that one around Thanksgiving.
At Lord Hobo, the initial keg of High Hops was among the fastest selling product beer buyer Sam Schwartz remembers recently. “It took about 3-4 days, which, when you have 44 different lines, is pretty quick, especially for something that doesn’t have a whole lot of hype around it,” he said.
And, one might think, especially for a cider at one of Boston’s premier beer bars. But the cider market is growing: Last year, the category increased by 75 percent over the previous year, FiveThirtyEight reported.
“Cider, much the same way as beer, has grown exponentially in past couple years, where it’s not just a Magners [Irish Cider] or a substitute for someone with a gluten intolerance. People are trying to make it interesting again,” Schwartz said.
Artifact Cider Project is now available at Albert’s Market and Pemberton Farms in Cambridge; Ball Square Fine Wines in Somerville, Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, and Hopster’s Alley inside the BostonPublic Market.
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