Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hudson Valley Cider Week!

It's Cider Week in New York!!! It started yesterday and there seems to be quite a bit happening; the Hudson Valley has become a veritable hub of cider-related shenanigans, and a good thing too, given all the apple orchards hereabouts. Hudson Valley Magazine offers an overview of some of the events happening for Cider Week, and their opinion of the three best local ciders. They mention Aaron Burr which is one of my faves; just cool people and great cider, period. (Photo from their display at Cider Days this year is now my main blog cover photo) But the magazine doesn't mention Nine Pin, which is near me in Albany and which happens to be having a huge event today, creating a new cider by pressing 80 different varieties of apples! Wow! Plus live music and food trucks. Sounds so fun! I have a busy day but I hope to stop by. Check out the Nine Pin Pressing Party's Facebook Page.
I attended Franklin County Cider Days at the beginning of the month and had a blast tasting heirloom apples, helping with the pouring during the home-brew workshop, and trying some delicious ciders from all over. New faves include West County Cider from Colrain, MA (right near the Cider Days locations), and Citizen Cider of Burlington, Vermont (him elf the craft beer revolution in the Northeast for a long time now).

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Shortage of cider apples? Let's get on that...

The Wall Street Journal reports that craft cider makers are having trouble getting their hands on flavorful cider apples (that means bitter apples that are not necessarily good for eating). Though many commercial hard ciders are fairly sweet, a growing body of cider connoisseurs prefer dry subtle flavors, and only cider apples can provide that. Some brewers are obtaining apples from as far away as France, but others are beginning to grow their own.

I think this sounds like a great entrepreneurial enterprise for anyone with some suitable land who wants to plant some orchards...and the recent state tax incentives in New York make this even more attractive. Some languishing orchards might even be brought back.

Cider apples sometimes require slightly warmer, milder growing zones than other Northeast varieties, so be sure to get trees that will flourish in your climate. As with any apple trees, cider apples are subject to the same pests and problems (I had an heirloom Smokehouse tree planted at my campsite in western New York, that got decimated by fireblight this year). This is a guide to common issues with apple trees in the Northeast. But the good news is, these apples need not be picture perfect (since they're going to be mashed up) and so organic growing methods are easier to implement, and can prove to be a good selling point for your product, as many cideries want to offer organic cider. There are plenty of books (like the classic Organic Orcharding) and websites to show you how to grow your trees using organic practices; organic ciders can obviously position themselves to fulfill a very desirable niche in the market.

So, who's planting an orchard this year? You can buy trees from Trees of Antiquity (order soon, they're shipping to colder regions until the end of May!), including many apple varieties in standard, semi-dwarf and dwarf sizes, listed by hardiness zone, purpose (like making hard cider!), showiness of blossoms (I mean, how great is that?), and timing of harvest. I've gotten a number of trees from them and have been very happy, but be aware that the trees are fairly small and will require winter protection for the first several years, especially if you have deer in your area, as they love to nibble the bark and tender new buds in late winter/early spring. I use lightweight burlap sacks loosely tied with string or tape, as the deer do not enjoy chewing through the fiber, and this allows the tree to get sunlight and moisture until you remove them in the spring.

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!