On Friday, Oct. 12, the second incarnation of Cider Week, part of Glynwood's Apple Project, kicked off in New York City and the Hudson Valley. The tag line of Cider Week says it all: "Crafting The Cider Comeback! Reviving America’s Orchard Heritage;" the event's mission is to build an awareness and appreciation for regional hard cider with the end goal being the creation of a viable market for the tasty libation. There have already been events and tastings (with more to come!) and restaurants are featuring hard ciders and pairings on their menus.
I had the chance to meet a number of hard cider producers and sample their wares at a preview event at Astor Wines in Manhattan. The diversity of ciders, brewing techniques, and opinions on cider-making were eye-opening and left me with a renewed appreciation for that wonderful fruit, the apple, and the artisans who are trying to harness its bounty.
Hard cider is the fermented juice of apples. It has a low alcohol content and is closer in spirit to wine than beer. Hard cider was a long-standing American tradition (Johnny Appleseed was planting apples for hard cider, not pie) and at one point, Newark, N.J., was the hard cider capitol of the world. However, the market for hard cider mostly died out in the early 20th century due to a combination of urbanization and Prohibition.
But a new generation of cider makers is trying to revive the tradition. Fifteen of these cider makers, a majority of them from New York State, gathered at Astor Wines for a Cider Week preview. For some, cider-making is a calling and for others, it is a practical way to try to maximize the profits of owning an orchard in order to stay afloat. The differences in approach were fascinating: Some make hard cider in the style of champagne and others craft it in a classic older style. Some ciders were made with a single variety of apple (the Northern Spy dominated these), while others were made with blends of different apples. Most of the ciders were made with cultivated apples, but a select few were made with wild apples that are only good for cider. A number of cider makers proudly touted the fact that there was nothing other than the juice from apples in their cider, while others were proud of the additions of sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or ice cider to their brews. No two hard ciders, or their makers, were alike.
The whole event left me with a greater appreciation for hard ciders. This is one American tradition I am happy to see revived and one that I am fully ready to support. Below are some of the best ciders that I sampled. Go ahead and discover which ones are your favorites — Cider Week gives you the perfect opportunity.