Cider Houses Rules
Getting to the core of the Valley's hard cider scene
Hard cider was once America’s top drink, a favorite of Revolutionary War soldiers, not to mention Johnny Appleseed’s real reason for wanting to get all those trees planted.
Then prohibition nearly wiped the whole thing out. But thanks to 2013’s Farm Cidery Law, which limits licenses to those making hard cider exclusively from fruits grown in New York State, business is currently booming. One of the law’s perks is that producers can sell and sample their product without red tape—and that they do, with new cideries popping up regularly, many on the grounds of the orchards themselves.
Like wine made from grapes, the taste of the cider depends on what goes into it—which is why cider-makers seek out bitter and sour apples rather than, say, Honeycrisp, for their local brews.
Some orchards even set aside spots just to grow unique apples not actively cultivated for centuries. “They don’t necessarily taste good, but they make great hard cider,” says Donnan Sutherland, manager at Orchard Hill Cider Mill at Soons Orchards. “Our philosophy is to express the true nature of the fruit with the least amount of manipulation.”
At Nine Pin, the first cidery to be granted a license from New York State, owner/cider-maker Alejandro del Peral seeks out those interesting cider apples, but also plays with ingredients. He adds blueberries, flowers, spices, wood chips, and even tea in the hope of manipulating the cider’s trip along your taste buds.
Last fall, Angry Orchard opened its Innovation Cider House on a historic orchard in Walden. The cidery recently debuted Walden Hollow, its first nationally available cider made using a mix of apples from last year’s on-site harvest and a variety of other apples grown in our backyard.