Tuesday, October 22, 2013

East Coast Cider: A Primer of the Best Ciders

There are few places on earth that compare with the cider country of the east coast! From Canada to Virginia, there is more variety and more creativity than almost anywhere else in the world.

Just for the record, what is cider and where does it come from?

According to Wikipedia, “Cider or cyder (/ˈsaɪdər/ SY-dər) is a fermented alcoholic beverage made from fruit juice, most commonly and traditionally apple juice, but also the juice of peaches, pears ("Perry" cider) or other fruit. Cider varies in alcohol content from 1.2% ABV to 8.5% or more in traditional English ciders. In some regions, such as Germany and United States, cider may be called "apple wine". 

In the United States and some parts of Canada, "hard cider" usually refers to the alcoholic beverage discussed in this article, while "cider" may refer to non-alcoholic apple juice. When sugar or extra fruit has been added and a secondary fermentation increases the alcoholic strength, a cider is classified as "apple wine".
Cider may be made from any variety of apple, but certain cultivars grown solely for use in cider are known as cider apples. Cider is popular in the United Kingdom, especially in the West Midlands (region), South West England and East Anglia. The United Kingdom has the highest per capita consumption of cider, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world, including H. P. Bulmer, the largest. As of 2006, the U.K. produces 600 million litres of cider each year (130 million imperial gallons). Much cider today is made from apple pulp rather than fresh apples and may contain added sweeteners or flavors.
The beverage is also popular and traditional in some European countries as Ireland and the French regions of Brittany (chistr) and Normandy (cidre); In Spain it is especially popular in the Principality of Asturias (sidra) although it can also be found in the Basque Country (sagardo) and Galicia (sidra); Germany is another country where cider is drunk, above all in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse (Frankfurt am Main). In Poland which is the largest producer of apples in Europe, cider (Cydr, or Jabłecznik) is just recently gaining on popularity however a lot of English, Swedish, Irish ciders are made from Polish apple concentrate that is considered very high quality. Argentina is also a cider-producing and -drinking country, especially the provinces of Río Negro and Mendoza. Australia also produces cider, particularly on the island of Tasmania, which has a strong apple-growing tradition.
Pear cider is used as an alternative name for perry in the marketing of some producers' products.

And what of cider in the US? According to Dan Wilson’s webpage for Slyboro House, “Ciders once ruled all other drinks in taverns and farmsteads in early colonial America. Apple seeds were brought over on ships from Europe along with centuries of cidermaking traditions that quickly spread through the New World. With the westward expansion of pioneers and the help of "Johnny Appleseed", orchards were planted on most farms with the dual purpose of establishing proof of cultivation and homesteading and providing a source of cider. Fermented ciders were consumed in this region more than any other drink bar none. In 1726, the per capita average consumption of cider was 35 gallons per person! Farms, families and towns would work together to put up thousands of barrels of cider each year. Barrel fermented cider could either be mild or strong, depending on the recipe or treatment and no doubt fine ciders were made. These ciders were relatively low in alcohol, so children and adults drank cider regularly. In some cases it was considered safer to drink than the local water. President John Adams was known to drink a tankard of cider each morning to promote his good health.
The Whig party in 1840 used the symbols of a "Log cabin and barrel of cider" to represent the self reliance of traditional American values in their bid for the Presidency (they won). Cider was also used in the place of currency in rural areas, being used to pay for services from the doctor, minister, etc.

Alas, a series of events brought about the decline in cidermaking and drinking in America. The advent of the Temperance movement and Prohibition brought about the chopping down of many orchards and declaration of cider as an evil drink. The migration of a largely rural population to more urban centers and an influx of German immigrants to these areas paved the way for large scale beer production which was easier and cheaper to produce in these urban centers. By the time Prohibition was lifted, cidermaking had virtually disappeared and was being replaced by farmers marketing apple juice or "sweet" cider.
But now, there is a renewed passion for modern cidermaking in North America. Not surprisingly, there are good cidermakers on each coast. I favour the east coast. No surprise there.
The top tier cideries include La Face Cachee De La Pomme, Farnum Hill, and West County Cider. These are people who make art from apples. They are the best ciders and the highest quality. They treat cider like great winemakers create great wine. Some of my other favorites include Warwick Valley, Beak & skiff, Steampunk Cider, Foggy Ridge, Bellwether, and Slyboro House. They people also make great ciders.
Some of the most important people in cider include Elizabeth Ryan (Breezy Hill), Steve Wood (Farnum Hill), Sara Grady (Cider Week), and Dan Wilson (Slyboro House) are among the biggest movers and shakers in the industry.

All the cidermakers listed herein make wonderful cider. Two individual reviews missing, in my estimation, would be Bellwether and Slyboro House. I have reviewed their ciders in the past, but it seems I could not find individual reviews of their line-ups…something I will have to remedy as soon as possible. Both are excellent producers.
Of the ice cidermakers, La Face, Slyboro and Eve’s Cidery all make excellent ice ciders.


Also, new things are being done with ciders. They been made using witte beer yeasts, aged in Bourbon barrels, and made with hops and pumpkin! This is not you grandfather's apple cider.

The following links are to pieces I’ve written over the years. They are in no particular order.

Esquire Raves About East Coast Ciders
Visit Vortex: Ye Olde Hard Cider is Hipster Cool

Beak & Skiff - Cider and Spirits With An Old-Fashioned Twist

Blurring the Line Between Craft Brewing and Cider -Bad Seed Cider Lights Up the Industry (HV)

Steampunk Cider from Leonard Oakes (NY)

Jack's Hard Cider from Hauser Estate Winery (PA) Fantastic!

A Visit to Farnum Hill Ciders (NH): Watching Art Being Made
Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards
Applewood Winery Rosey Apple and Grape in the Hudson Valley

West County Cider Redfield in the Berkshires (MA)

Harvest Moon Red Barn Raspberry Hard Cider

Foggy Ridge First Fruit Hard Cider (VA)

Warwick Valley Doc's Draft Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider (NY)


Mount Vernon Mulled Apple Cider

Summer Time and the call goes out for Cider!

Foggy Ridge Hard Cider

Spencerville Red Hard Apple Cider from Colesville, MD Wow! (MD)

All Hail Essence From Eve's Cidery

Annandale Cider from Montgomery Place Orchards


Brookview Station Jo-Daddy's Hard Cider

Some of My Favorite Hudson Valley Ciders