Sunday, January 08, 2017

Far From the Tree Ciders (MA)

So I was in Salem, Massachusetts with my good friend Rich Srsich last year giving a talk at the Nathaniel Hawthorne House of Seven Gables on The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex when we decided to seek out some libation.

According to their website: Al and Denise Snape started the business in September 2013 in Salem, Massachusetts. Far From The Tree began fermenting apples in January 2014 and released their first cider in mid-May 2014. Although they’ve only been in business a short time, the business has been brewing for years.

The Snape’s met in 2007. At the time, they were both in different careers. As a hobby they experimented with wine they had made using home winemaking kits. Al jokes that he “even came up with a way of making sparkling wine using old corks and duct tape, which considering the base materials came out pretty well!” Before long, the couple’s passion for wine deepened and they both decided to quit their jobs to move to England.

Al obtained a student visa, and enrolled in the University of Brighton, Plumpton College Bachelor of Science program in Viticulture and Oenology. The chemistry and biology-intense Plumpton College program is located in Lewes, England, and takes three years to complete. It has the distinction of being the only European winemaking degree program taught in English.

During breaks, Al lived in different winemaking regions while learning about that area’s wine and working at a winery. He worked in Germany’s Mosel Valley, Bordeaux and Champagne.

Over the course of their time in England, they both became more and more interested in the process of making cider. Lewes’ town market had an apple press, and residents and visitors (including Al and Denise) often gathered apples from the area’s abandoned apple orchards and pressed them.

Al had wanted to open a winery for years. “The idea of starting our own cider house was a bit of an epiphany during my dissertation, while studying and reading paper after paper about the difficulties of growing grapes in New England, and harsh climates in general. Time and time again the best solutions were always just to grow what worked best in that area without trying to force something to grow where it just isn’t meant to grow. Thus, the idea was born that we should make hard cider, not wine, in New England—its ingredients are what grow well here and as New Englanders that’s what makes the most sense to us. Don’t try to force it. Do what works, and do it well.”

Niether Rich nor I had any clue what to expect, and we had a few friends join us for a tasting there. Apparently they've been covered in the Boston Herald, Boston Magazine (several times), The Boston Globe, and even CBS Boston!

Suffice to say, the ciders were of tremendous quality and incredibly well thought out, and very well presented!!!! There wasn't  clunker in the bunch, and we were pleasantly surprised by their distinctiveness and drinkability. This was really great, quality cider!

Nova was by far my favorite of all the ciders. It was just slightly off-dry, and hopped incredibly well. A perfect light blend of apple and floral notes from fragrant hops. Absolutely one of the best versions of this new genre in cider over the last few years that I have tasted where the hops complimented the fruit, and nor combated orver-powered it in a show of force. This was smoother, more balanced. Fabulous!!!!

When I first saw Rind and figured out what it was, I was a little apprehensive. Sometimes this cider/beer cross-over thing can be taken too far. But I was instantly surprised. I think this quickly became one of the favorites of the night. Rind is a Saison Cider made with the traditional orange peel and coriander. Once again, From the Tree struck the perfect balance between blending their well-balanced cider with this classic brewer's tradition. The new flavors, liked the hopped edition, complimented the cider, not over powered it.

Far From the Tree instantly went to the head of the class of east cast ciders in one night. Their ciders are incredibly well-crafted and incredibly balanced, and thoughtfully put together. An impressive, impressive craft producer!!!