There has never been a more spirited time to get into local booze, brews and ciders: Backyard brewmasters with big dreams alchemize into purveyors of top-shelf tipples. Politicians are still-crazy, modifying Draconian post-Prohibition laws after all these years and making major investments in the industry: Tuthilltown Spirits will receive a nearly $5 million guaranteed loan to expand operations, courtesy of senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. And informed and adventurous consumers are seeking more than simple sipping. “People are eager to know about the process, they’re interested in what we’re doing, they’re supportive of what we’re doing, the whole local movement. It’s really fantastic to be a part of it,” said Susan Johnson of Denning’s Point Distillery in Beacon.
Just a few short years have seen a marked difference in the cider scene, says Devin Britton of the Bad Seed Cider Company. “When we started [in 2012], people were not aware of what cider was; they were thinking sweet sodalike beverage. Now people look for dryer ciders, more oddball ciders, and we’re more sought-after. Before, we had to break into the market. It’s getting to be a little more user-friendly,” he said.
For tastings, tours, education and more, here are six sparkling examples of what’s up in local liquors, beers and ciders:
Extreme makeover: Cider house edition
In just three months, the Bad Seed Cider Company’s Highland headquarters went from old ag to cider chic. “We tore the whole building apart – you’d never know it was a 1949 apple cooler,” said Britton, who co-owns and operates Bad Seed with sixth-generation farmer Albert Wilklow. The renovation, completed October 4, created two new temperature-controlled tank rooms and a large event space complete with pool table on the ground floor. Best of all: an inviting upstairs bar, open weekends, that’s sure to start attracting a regular crowd.
The chalkboard menu offers classic and limited-edition Bad Seed Ciders, as well as ciders from fellow members of the Hudson Valley Cider Alliance. Bad Seed classic Dry Cider, made with a ten-apple blend including Winesap, Russet, Macoun and Empire, was lately joined on draft by Bad Seed’s claret-hued Cherried Away, made with this year’s perfect-for-cider crop, Maple Monk and Apple Pie ciders, and selections from Nine Pin and Naked Flock. Order a flight of four to test the best, and don’t forget to take a tour of the building and surrounding orchards.
Bad Seed Cider Company is located at 43 Bailey’s Gap Road in Highland. Open Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit www.badseedhardcider.com or Bad Seed Cider.
Cider Alliance member Jonathan Hull, owner/operator of the Naked Flock Cider Company in Warwick, is the pumpkin (cider) king, and brewing this distinct seasonal offering is one of his favorite parts of the job. “We don’t use pumpkin flavor or stuff out of a can or anything like that; it’s all real sugar pumpkin, and we roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for about three hours, mash them up and put them in the cider to marinate for a week or so before we filter it out. A little bit of clove, a little bit of brown sugar, bottle it up. During the fall, it’s by far our greatest seller – and I love the color of it, too,” Hull said.
It’s so popular that your last chance to score some in 2014 may be direct from Applewood Winery (where Naked Flock is based)—hope they’ve still got some on hand after their Hard Cider Experience, a popular annual cider celebration held last weekend. If not, this year’s event marked an exciting debut: Apple Frost, an ice cider made from frozen tanks tapped in January and aging ever since. Next, Naked Flock will participate in Hudson Valley Cider Week, November 14 to 23. For a list of events, visit https://ciderweekhv.com.
Naked Flock Cider Company at Applewood Winery is located at 82 Four Corners Road in Warwick. Open Friday to Sunday through December. https://applewoodwinery.com.