Saturday, April 12, 2014

5 True Micro Ciders for the Northeast

  Ideally cider will emerge with a true distinction for “micro,” since the word has become utterly meaningless amongst beer producers.  (A producer of 200,000 gallons per year classifies himself as a "micro-brewer," when, for the record, even if a brewer makes 10,000 gallons per year he-or-she is already employing economy-of-scale measures that are a corner-cutter's slippery slope away from “medium sized.”But I digress. We want true micro-cideries because we want someone- anyone- to make a product that is done the way it should be done: no compromises, no hurry.  
  I can make a sound argument as to why true mom-and-pop cideries are better for health, social, moral, ecological, and economic reasons but for now let me endorse 5 cideries in the northeast all committed to making the highest quality cider at or below 2000 gallons per year.  These are people making cider at that scale not because they are “starting-out”, but because cider is part of a whole homestead.  (Note: some excellent ciders are made in the 2,000 to 10,000 gallon range but they are more accurately termed "small producer", not "micro.")
  Without further ado:

Flag Hill Farm Cyder- Vershire, VT
The first cidery I visited in 2008 and still an inspiration to me. Sebastian, originally from the UK, grows organic apples and does everything himself in a corner of his old barn.  The Cyders are dry, sophisticated, and I recall farm and oak notes that are appropriate to his English upbringing.

Bear Swamp Cidery- Ashfield, MA
Steve and Jen Gougeon also grow their apples organically and produce quintessential American wild yeast ciders.  Cloudy, sometimes farmy, but also bright and vivacious, the ciders are literally produced in the home basement. 

Annandale Cidery- Redhook, NY
Doug Finke has had unusual apple varieties in the ground for a very long time and his son, Adam, honors the trees by keeping many batches single-variety.  They are not organic but a purist vein runs through them, they are the only ones in the Hudson Valley, if not NY, making a full diversity of single-variety ciders, many at the carboy scale.    

Whetstone Ciderworks- Marlboro, VT
No one better illustrates mom-and-pop cider than Jason and Lauren MacArthur fermenting in the basement in their modest self-built home.  Gallon-per-gallon they observe an enormous amount of focus on each blend resulting in quality simply unmatchable at a larger scale.

Red Byrd Cider, Trumansburg, NY
Eric Shatt and Deva Maas have an extensive background in ag-science and wine making, but their Red Byrd Cider is clearly the work of joy.  Again, at their scale they are free to experiment and one of the most sophisticated and interesting ciders I ever tasted was from wild apples Eric foraged in 2013.