For years, cider has languished as beer’s lesser-known cousin, only turning up in bars in its most sickly-sweet incarnation. But if you attended this year’s Ciderfeast, which was held August 8 on the Manhattan waterfront, you know that there’s a wide variety of amazing ciders out there being produced by some truly passionate artisans.
More than 30 different ciders were available at the event, along with hot dogs, burgers, ribs, and grilled corn. Embark Craft Ciderworks, based in upstate Williamson, New York, poured three varieties, including an especially tart and crisp one made with underappreciated crabapples. Descendant Cider, which produces its cider in Queens with apples from the Hudson Valley, was serving several varieties, as was Big Apple Hard Cider, which also produces its cider in New York City. Other New York-based ciders included Original Sin and Doc’s Draft.
Representing Vermont were Shacksbury, which was pouring its farmhouse cider as well as its spot-on Basque-style cider (which was poured into each glass from a height of several feet, as per tradition); as well as Burlington-based Citizen Cider. Other states that were represented included Maine (Downeast), Texas (Austin Eastciders), and California (Tilted Shed Ciderworks in Sonoma). There were even some international ciders on hand, including Aval (France), Moa (New Zealand), and Aspall (England).
While some of the ciders were sweet, the vast majority were dry and tart, making for a perfect summer afternoon drink. Even the higher-alcohol ciders didn’t have that big and filling quality that some high-alcohol beers have, and there were some truly innovative new ciders on display, like two that were dry-hopped, lending a slightly hoppy and citrusy note.
There seem to be plenty of beer fests going on these days, but it’s not too often that you find one dedicated entirely to cider. The producers, many of whom were also on hand, were clearly passionate about what they do, and just like beer, there are tons of subtle nuances in the production process: whether the cider is fermented fast or slow, what the carbonation level is, what type of yeast is used, and of course, what types of apples are used. For those who are into beer and are looking to expand their palates, cider is certainly a logical next step.