Drink This Now: Branch Line’s New Cider Menu
Tucked inside the Arsenal on the Charles complex in Watertown is a beverage connoisseur’s dream. With 20 draft lines for bucket list brews, hand-selected by beer buyer Magellan Casto, and a robust, rotating selection of boutique wines from sommelier Charlie Gaeta, Branch Line ups the ante in the suburbs.
Cider fans have never gone thirsty at the latest venture from Garrett Harker (Branch Line has that designation just until Island Creek Oyster Bar opens imminently in Burlington), but Casto is doubling down on that category with a new, dedicated menu. Earlier this month, the cider list replaced the highlighted selection of rosés that Branch Line offered this summer.
“We always try and have at least one [cider] on draft at all times,” Casto says. She and general manager, Deena Marlette, have been personally enjoying some of the new options that have become available around Boston this year.
“Cider is going through the same evolution that beer did,” Casto says. “It’s really cool apples they’re being made from, or a Champagne method they’re being made with, [and so on]. So many ciders are becoming as varied, as different, and interesting as beer is.”
Previously, as bar manager at Bukowski Tavern in Back Bay, Casto decided to dedicate a draft line to the stuff, too. The beer bar continues to feature cider, including with intermittent cider tap takeovers, proof that conscientious drinkers are interested in the alternative.
Part of that has to do with cider being a naturally gluten-free option, in an age when restaurants and bars must take allergies and aversions very seriously, Casto says. But it’s also about the fun of trying something new, and supporting a growing industry.
“It’s the same thing I love about the beer world: Getting to meet people who make these beers I love,” she says. “It’s really exciting to have that affirmation that you’re enjoying this beautiful beverage, and then you meet the people that make it and they’re just as wonderful as the product they’re making.”
The new menu (check it out in full below) has eight, packaged ciders and one sidre de pera, fermented from pears. Casto selected large-format options, as well as some accessible, single-serving sizes.
“It’s a collection of some of the favorites we have had,” Casto says.
That includes the Bantam Cider Co. flagship, Wunderkind, which Casto attributes as the cider that made her a true believer in the category. This year’s Lost & Found release from Shacksbury is also on the debut menu, and next year’s batch will be, too, she says. Casto and Marlette recently helped the Shacksbury team harvest those wild apples during the Vermont producer’s inaugural #ShacksCamp.
Cider goes back to New England’s roots, but other regions are big players in the beverage’s craft resurgence, Casto says. She’s excited to feature Snowdrift Red Cider, colored by red-fleshed apples from the Pacific Northwest, as well as Guzmán Sidre Brut Nature, a Spanish cider that is “an awesome option for celebration bubbles.”
The cider-specific menu will be around at least through Thanksgiving, and Branch Line will always have some cider options to choose from, she says.
“It’s an admiration of these cider makers who are really innovative, and people are really accepting it,” she says about stocking the bottles, cans, and kegs. “It’s a great change in the beverage world.”
321 Arsenal St., Watertown, 617-420-1900, branchlinearsenal.com.