Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New draft cider house opening in Toronto! with an ORCHARD!

Like many places in North America, draft cider in Ontario, Canada has seen a real boost in sales and love recently. A popular traditional beverage for many years in England, draft cider is really only becoming popular in the USA and Canada more recently (although our ancestors drank it in place of water, more or less). Super sweet bottled commercial varieties like Magner's are now being augmented by drier varieties from companies like Angry Orchard (owned by Samuel Adams, the beer brewer in Boston, MA), Woodchuck, and a number of beer makers eager to get in on the cider boom (like Stella Artois which recently introduced its Cidre to rave reviews).

But draft cider is a whole different thing: designed to appeal to foodies and people who like to eat out at bespoke taverns and breweries. Toronto's new Brickworks Ciderhouse will be capitalizing on this growing trend. But what is REALLY exciting is that existing laws require any such establishment (with a retail store) to have five acres of orchard fruit trees in production attached to the property. It will take five years for trees to become productive, so the Brickworks Ciderhouse is currently producing its cider at a local cider. But the CEO Chris Noll is optimistic that an orchard will happen: ""We are currently working with the city to try and make this a reality," he says. "Just Imagine, apple picking in downtown Toronto."

Just imagine! Maybe more cities will follow suit!!! (Albany, NY, are you listening? Maybe Nine Pin Cider can plant some trees along the Hudson...)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New York State's First Farm Cidery opens in Albany!!

Most excellent news! All Over Albany announces the grand opening of the first farm cidery in New York state, Nine Pin Cider Works! This Friday at 3 pm is the ribbon cutting ceremony and you betcha I will be there!
Following Governor Cuomo's legislation passed last fall, to allow farm cidery licensing in New York state (thereby increasing opportunities for orchardists and brewers to make use of one of New York's best farm products), this cidery is now the first official business venture to light the way.
Did I mention I live in Albany? :-) So I am over the moon. And I look forward to supporting this innovative local business. My fantasy is to open a cider tavern that serves nothing but New York state hard ciders...
Check out their Facebook page and wish them well!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Call to Wassail!

Just found this great website, United States of Cider, and they've announced two weeks of wassail celebrations. January 5 to 17th?? Well,we have just about three days left so hop to it! I myself will head out to Indian Ladders, maybe...or somewhere else nearby. Anyone in the Hudson Valley have anything planned? How about you all at Cider Alliance? Tell you what: Indian Ladders Farms, this Friday January 17th at 2 pm. I will be at the main store parking lot with cider. Even if it is just me, I will take a turn around the orchards, and some photos, and bless a tree or two...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Search of the Lost Orchard: Andy Brennan and Aaron Burr Cider

This really great profile from Edible Manhattan writer David Flaherty, on Andy Brennan and his Aaron Burr Cider, is a delight. Brennan's enterprise came about when he wanted to recreate an orchard he loved in childhood in Maryland; it had been razed and he'd been heartbroken. He moved with his wife to the Hudson Valley and bought some land that had about a dozen old apple trees; he planted a few more. A bumper crop of fruit soon after he moved there moved him to press them into cider, it was delicious, and everything clicked.
Brennan's hard work and purist ethic regarding the brewing process (unlike the dubious addition of artificial sweeteners employed by some of the amateur cider makers at Franklin County's Cider Days) makes him a model of craftsmanship in brewing and a visionary in the cider Renaissance. The fact that Brennan was inspired by an orchard he loved and lost is testament to the passion and drive that modern food and farm enthusiasts bring to the table.
I also love that Brennan has the same name as the hapless, gentle sheriff's deputy in Twin Peaks, which celebrates its 25 year anniversary this year...

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tis the season for Wassailing!

This lodge in England is trying an ancient custom for the first time: wassailing their orchards to bless the apple crop. Wassailing has undergone a bit of a renaissance in England in recent years,and even a few orchard owners in the US have given it a try. With this winter's harsh cold, it certainly isn't a bad idea to send some positive energy to the apple trees... This blog has offered some historical background on wassailing before; check it out!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard

I've been enjoying this Facebook page recently, based upon a book by William Kerrigan published a few months ago, about the history for the orchard in America. The blog "American Orchard" is a wonderful read, including a recent series on orchards during the Civil War. This post on the controversy surrounding cider apples is also fascinating. Really great blog, and I now want to get this book! So check it out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cider Days 2012

I've neglected this blog in the last few months: sorry! But I have not been neglecting my love of orchards and apples. I finally got to attend Cider Days in western Massachusetts and had a great weekend. My friends and I rented a house in Shelburne Falls and had a wonderful time together, eating, laughing and relaxing. The weather was a bit chilly but sunny and gorgeous. I used to live in the Pioneer Valley and it was wonderful to go back and enjoy its beauty and progressive approach to life. There was a marketplace full of crafts and some books. I bought a copy of Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter by David Buchanan. I started reading it that same night but too much cider tasting made me sleepy! I plan to review it here soon; it looks to be a fascinating chronicle of the author's adventures growing and preserving forgotten and heirloom plants, including heirloom apples he is growing in Maine. I attended a workshop on amateur cider making and helped my friend Berta pour and serve samples of homebrew by cider makers whose efforts won them prizes. My favorite was an ice cider made by Steve. It was tart and sweet in equal measure and very flavorful. he questions from the audience were lively and there was a great discussion. Things got a bit heated when the members of the panel recommended using artificial sweeteners (such as Splenda) to "finish" the cider and add extra sweetness. This was really very puzzling and most of my friends were kind of horrified, as was I. One of the panel members even admitted having used aspartame for this purpose! Earlier in the same talk they had stated how important it was to use organic heirloom apples; so I find their recommendation of using artificial sweeteners to be confusing, to say the least. When a number of people asked about this practice and questioned its wisdom, the panel members did seem to get a bit defensive; one of them even responded to my own comments about the toxicity of artificial sweeteners by saying "drinking too much water will kill you." Hmm, perhaps, but it would do it a lot more quickly than dying of cancer caused from ingestion of artificial sweeteners. Not to mention, that stuff tastes nasty. If cider brewing is a celebration of food and flavors, why on earth would anyone want to add chemically-derived sweeteners? This seems very wrong-headed to me. I wonder if this subject will cause any controversy among the home cider brewing community in the future. Even with those eyebrow raising moments, the workshop was enjoyable and fascinating. After the workshop there was some "tailgating" where amateur brewers share their brews with others from their vehicles. It was fun to taste cider, mead and perry, and meet new friends! There were other workshops, such as one for identifying heirloom apple flavors in cider, but there is only so much you can do (plus the locations of the different events are a few miles away from one another, being spread throughout Franklin County) and my friends and I were happy to relax a bit before the evening. That night, after a potluck dinner of smoked salmon, chili, ribs, and pizza, my friends and I attended the Cider Salon, a cider tasting event that is the hallmark of this wonderful weekend. The salon is so popular they have to schedule two of them, and they almost always sell out beforehand. Cider Days has been happening for over a decade and the cider movement is growing more popular. There were ciders from all over the United States, as well as some from France, England, and Spain. One of my favorites was Autumn Gold from Eve's Cidery in Van Etten, NY! I also enjoyed some terrific ice ciders from the award-winning Eden Ice Cider in Vermont (not surprising "Eden" is a popular name for cideries!) I also enjoyed a perry (pear cider) from France, an incredible apricot wine, and a number of other fine beverages. The volunteer pourers did a great job keeping everyone's glasses full and doing their best to answer questions. I've been trying to go to this event for years but different things always got in the way. I'm now determined to attend Cider Days every year. I highly recommend this wonderful autumn event for anyone who enjoys apples, cider, and enjoying the autumn harvest.