It’s always shameful to admit to prejudice, and in this case I owe an apology to hard cider because I thought it was a girl drink. You know what I’m talking about: fermented fruit soda, alcoholic apple juice. Cloying and commercial is the kind that comes in a six-pack at the grocery store, way down on the wrong end of the beer aisle.
Cheers to Devin Britton and Albert Wilklow of Bad Seed Cider Company for righting my mind when it comes to the hard cider facts. The lifelong friends turned their home hobby into a full-fledged business and professional cidery in January, overseeing a small army of 150-gallon tanks in an old apple cooler with cork walls on Baileys Gap Road in Highland. These vessels hold inventive and invigorating microbatches: Dry Hard Cider, Belgian Witte Reserve, Belgian Abbey, Raspberry, Blueberry and IPC – India Pale Cider. Britton, a professional cook, writes the recipes; Wilklow, a sixth-generation farmer, grows and selects the produce. Rounding out the fruit flavors are top-notch beer hops, aromatics from orange peel to coriander, and specialty wine and beast yeasts.
They’re not sweet. The Belgian Abbey is closer to champagne with an apple nose that finishes with a slight apple-skin acidity. The IPC, brewed with American ale yeast and Cascade hops, imparts a pleasant citrus aroma and grapefruit notes.
This spring, the duo began testing their product on the public at the Fort Greene and Grand Army Plaza greenmarkets in Brooklyn, where it’s been a hit with the craft brewing crowd. But those with a cider bias (ahem) must be won over one by one.
“You have big companies saturating the market with the sweet stuff,” said Britton. “Now we’re getting a lot of people who are seeking out craft cider, asking ‘Is it really dry?’ but most people think of cider as a girl’s drink and keep walking. You want to yell ‘No, no, I have hops! It’s close to beer! Come back!’”
The beauty of the greenmarket is that those who do stop, taste and purchase generally return week after week. Their feedback has been invaluable for incubating the polished product.