Friday, August 22, 2014

Hudson Valley Distilers Hardscrabble Applejack - The Applejack for Whiskey Lovers

Hudson Valley Distillers are two couples who have banded together to create a unique distillery here in the Hudson Valley. Earlier in the year, sometime in June, they opened the doors to their tasting room in a Grand Opening. As you can plainly see, I would never make it in the newspaper business.
The tastingroom and distillery are located in an old renovated barn. They are making heir applejack from locally grown apples. They are the kinda folks that are growing their own botanicals for their gin in a hot house there on the property. Doesn't that kinda say everything right there?
Anyway, the Grand Opening was a huge event. And an incredibly successful one!



Now, as much fun as this was, there is actually some news here, lest I am just publishing photos four months after the place has already been doing business. An that is about their Chancellor's Hardscrabble Applejack. Now, you might ask, what the big deal is? We've had applejack a while. But what's different about this applejack is that it tastes like whiskey! 

Chancellor Robert Livingston was an author of the Declaration of Independence, an entrepreneur that brought the steam ship to the Hudson River Valley, and the man that administered the oath of office to George Washington. He also once owned the land that we now call Spirits Grove Farm. During the Chancellor’s time, the town of Red Hook was known as Hardscrabble and was a crossroad on the main road between Albany and New York City. We like to think weary travelers may have stopped there and enjoyed Applejack similar to ours. Strong American oak start, hints of caramel and vanilla, ends like an aged scotch.

This is a big, dry, oaky, toasty, nutty, vanilla and spice-y, warm applejack that really does taste like whiskey. If you didn't know it was applejack, you wouldn't know it was applejack. In the tasting room there were a number of amazed disbelievers who suddenly did a double take. I was one of them with a sore neck, I turned so hard. It was amazing!!!



On the barn wall, they posted before pictures of the construction in the barn. Anyone who has ever done barn renovation will laugh and nod their head. Others will be powerfully amazed - as they should be. These two couples busted their butts turning this place over, and they have done an amazing job!!!!

Go to Hudson Valley Distillers and see what they have built! It's incredible what they have wrought. And try the Hardscrabble Applejack - it is also incredible. And you will be impressed, as we all were, at what these folks have wrought.

Green Wolf Brewing - Saying, Doing, Brewing All The Right Things

I first came across Green Wolf Brewing through my wife Dominique, who bought some for us to share at the Schenectady Green Market. I was very much intrigued. Dom is a tough customer, but she was impressed by their commitment to local, and was willing to take them for a test drive.
Green Wolf Brewing says all the thing you want to here about when you here about small beer producers. They epitomize a new wave of Farm Brewers.
Green Wolf Brewing Co. is a licensed Farm Brewery located in the village of Middleburgh, NY – which is, in turn, located in scenic and historic Schoharie County. Schoharie County is within an hour’s drive of New York’s Capital District. They are committed to using local brewing grains, hops, honey, and as many other New York grown ingredients as possible.

First, they use local ingredients whenever possible. Green Wolf is trying to rely on locally grown and malted grains whenever possible. They also use as much locally grown New York hops in their beer.

Green Wolf brews daring beers – Black IPAs and complex ales and the list will go on - from bold and robust imperial porters, hop centric IPAs, Belgian inspired ales, and wheat beers. They also hope to develop a gluten free beer and non-alcoholic sodas.

(The tasting room under construction earlier this summer)

They are trying to create a carbon neutral brewery. As funding becomes available, Green Wolf has plans on installing a hot water solar thermal system to preheat water for their brew house, to reuse waste water, and letting farmers come by and pick up their spent grain to feed to their livestock. They also accept back their 22 ounce bottles – sanitize them, take off the old labels, then re-label and reuse them.

So far, I have had two beers from Green Wolf.
First was the Wit's End Weizenbock - This was a mahogony colored ale. Darker than I expected But it was bursting with flavor. Raisins, cloves, and vanilla all came through as promised. But a lovely, maltiness as well. 6% ABV. A really sensational, heady beer.
The second beer from them I had was the Ravens Black IPA. It was much bigger than I expected. Firstly, I've been disappointed by some Black IPAs. Water, dark beers with lots of hops. But knowing the body of the first beer I had from them, I was intrigued. And I was pleasantly surprised! This was a big, black mountain of a beer, piled high with dark chocolate and piney bittering hops. A nice big beer, with lovely sweetness up front, but bitter but floral Chinook hops at the end, that left the palate dry after taking a sip. Big and chewy. This was an incredibly well-balanced beer. Impressive! 
The two beers were big, robust, beautiful. Terrific. So it looks like I'll have to take a drive up to Schoharie County sometime soon...and I guess I'll have to give Dom some money to score some more for me at the green market asap.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Orchard Hill Hard Cider (NY)

So, I have a friend, Kelley Slagle, who owns Farm to Glass Tours, which takes people on personal tours of Hudson Valley wineries, breweries, and distillers, especially in Dutchess and Columbia Counties. Kelley is the real deal. She is a highly accomplished mixologist, and she has brought her prodigious talents to the Hudson Valley. She brought me a bottle of Orchard Hill Hard Cider, exclaiming I had to try it!

Orchard Hill Cider Mill is located at Soons Orchard, and expands their 103 year history of providing locally grown produce to include locally produced fermented and distilled beverages. Born of a collaboration between Jeffrey Soons, Andrew Emig, and Carolyn duHoffmann, Orchard Hill has a unique pedigree.

Jeffrey, after studying law, returned to the farm to continue his family’s multigenerational agricultural tradition on their 100+ acre farm.  He also harbored dreams of reviving the great American tradition of making hard cider. That agricultural legacy practiced by our founding fathers had been widely destroyed by Prohibition and hampered from revival by post repeal legal restrictions.  Indeed, Jeffrey's mother Sandy Soons had attempted to make hard cider years before only to be rejected by the regulatory authorities of the time.
Meanwhile, Andrew Emig, a freelance Trumpeter turned business consultant and Carolyn duHoffmann’s husband Karl, a Broadway dancer turned spirits and wine industry professional had been exploring the idea of opening a distillery specializing in apple distillates.  While distilling brandy from Soons’ sweet cider at Tuthilltown distillery to test the viability of that idea, they approached Jeff with the idea of opening Orchard Hill to produce hard cider from Soons’ apples.
Their mission since the inception of the project has been to provide an alternative to the homogenized “big beer producer” style of cider that is most widely available today. Their ciders are made with a minimum of manipulation and intervention. 

Orchard Hill is growing their line. And they are doing it well. I tried the Orchard Hill Red Label, and you can taste the Orchard Hill Gold Label (semi-sweet) at their tasting room. And soon the Tenn66 (Pommeau de Normandie styled barrel aged cider) and the Tenn66 Golden Barrel (oak aged single barrel mistelle) will be available soon. Click on their sell sheet to get more details on upcoming ciders.

Their Red Label cider is made from a field blend of Soons apples.  The cider is made with Crispin, Idared, Empire, Spartan and McIntosh. The cider is fermented in stainless steel tanks. Giles Martin of the sparkling wine house, Sparkling Pointe on the North Fork of Long Island (a life long expert in effervescent wines) oversees the secondary fermentation for this cider, which telegraphs the seriousness Orchard Hill is approaching this product with.
The wine is bottle fermented and unfiltered, producing a bottle-conditioned cider. There is no disgorgement after secondary fermentation. It's like a Belgian ale in some respects. This unfiltered bottle fermented and  bottle conditioned cider will be a little cloudy, aromatic and extra dry. The final product is more like apple-champagne if you will. Upon first smelling it, there is a strong sense of fresh, sweet apple and bread. But they are two distinct smells. It's not apple's something more delicate. The feel of the final product is wonderful. This is a sophisticated cider, dry, with notes of ripe apple and pear, a hint of citrus and ginger, with lots of fine, fine bubbles and a somewhat creamy finish.
Orchard Hill Hard Cider is a cider of high quality, and high aspirations, and it achieves both. For a long time Farnum Hill in New Hampshire has been the only one in the area making this style of cider. It is nice to see a company in the Hudson Valley making this elegant a product! It immediately joins the growing list of better ciders being made here in the Hudson Valley.