Cider Week is in full swing, people! And today, we’re celebrating by doing what we love most: Talking about our favorite indie cider makers. Each of these ladies and gents are the best at what they do – we should know, we had to suffer through a lot of rotten apples to find them.
Below, seven cider makers who are rocking the fermented fruit world:
David Dolginow and Colin Davis founded Shacksbury and launched the “Lost Apple Project” in 2013. Their mission? To revive the cider scene (which was America’s first buzz, after all) by making cider the old school way. They use “lost” apples (aka, apples from super old tree varietals), which they supplement with fruit from a few orchards in Spain and England. The result isn’t just a super authentic, I’m in a white wig and have wood teeth kind of cider – the ancient apple strains provide structure, earthiness and complexity, while also giving the classic, juicy apple character that makes their ciders so refreshing and drinkable. A true testament to cider heritage. Here, here!
It's a funny coincidence that Orchard Hill owner Andrew Emig (a musician) met his future business partners, Carolyn and Karl duHoffmann (former actors), in a touring production of the play Thoroughly Modern Millie. Although it wasn't founded until many years later, Orchard Hill's aim is to draw on the storied tradition of American cider brewing – an art eventually lost to the Prohibition era that spawned the speakeasy culture to which Millie pays homage – and revive it into something thoroughly modern. They make bottle-conditioned, extra-dry hard cider in the French style. It's delicate, with a Champagne-like fizz that comes from yeast respiring within the bottle, as opposed to infusions of carbon dioxide.
A few years ago, winemaker Brian Smith decided to branch (heh) out from fermenting grapes, and started fermenting apples. (He still makes wine, don’t worry.) However, as good as his wines are, we’re sweet on his traditional, bottle conditioned ciders. Bottle conditioned ciders have yeast added to the bottle before it’s called, which allows further fermentation and aging to happen. The result is a deeper character and flavor. This is a perfect cider to pour at your Thanksgiving table.
Shop Oyster River Winegrowers: Hoboken Station Cider
Alexandria Fisk and Jahil Maplestone opened New York City’s first urban craft cidery right on the border of the Queens and Brooklyn. They use apples grown on farms in the Hudson Valley and Jahil hand-selects varietals for each batch. Sometimes they pile all the apples into their car to bring back to the city for pressing. “By law, I have to use mostly New York State-grown apples," Jahil says. "But these are the best around, so why would I go anywhere else?” We concur.
Neighboring farmers in Dugspur, Virginia have been known to raise an eyebrow at apple grower and Foggy Ridge cider maker Diane Flynt. According to them, "She treats her trees like individuals" – something that makes Diane a true individual in a world where apples don't often receive the lavish attention necessary to make top-quality, carefully crafted cider.
Shop Foggy Ridge: Serious Cider
Watch out, wine! The founders and cider makers at Aaron Burr Cider are determined to revive America's cider culture, calling it "America's original table wine." This small homestead farm in Wurtsboro, New York takes a holistic approach to recreating the cider of yore, using local, foraged cider-apples many of which come from the apple trees of very old, abandoned orchards planted in America's infancy. The hardy apples survived centuries in the woods, and cidery owner Andy Brennan believes that the original glory of cider will as well. The result are ciders with complex, nuanced flavor… We swear we can taste the yore.
In the fall of 2006, during a trip to Montreal in Quebec, Canada, Eleanor (a Vermonter) and Albert (a French Canadian) sipped a cool apple liqueur known as ice cider and thought, “Why don’t we make this on our side of the border?” Ice cider fit perfectly into their longstanding dream of operating an apple orchard, pressing cider and making some sort of delicious fermented beverage.