Its packaging in 12-ounce cans is the first clue that Bad Seed Hard Cider may want to go home with beer drinkers rather than wine enthusiasts. While it does come in bottles, too, that black aluminum can with its edgy logo does a pretty good job of broadcasting what the beverage is all about. “We wanted to make something that people drink on a Friday night or when they come home from work, not something to bring to brunch on Sunday,” says Devin Britton, who partnered with childhood friend, Albert Wilklow, in 2011 to start the Bad Seed Cider Company in Highland. Together with Albert’s wife, Kortney, who came up with the name for the business and now takes a major role in it, they produce a number of truly dry hard ciders, conditioned in the bottle or can with no sugar added back in.
And the influence of craft beer on their brewing techniques means that a number of the ciders contain hops. Their IPC variety — India Pale Cider, the name a bit of a take-off on India Pale Ales — is brewed with American Ale yeast and a large amount of Cascade hops that add bright citrusy and floral aromas. It packs a punch with 6.9 percent ABV. The Farmer is their take on a traditional Saison beer, brewed with French Saison yeast. It, too, has a 6.9 percent ABV, but while strong, it is light and crisp. The Belgian Abbey Cider is brewed with Belgian yeast and is dry, tart and tangy. Unfiltered and strong, this one is meant to appeal to fans of Belgian ales.
Kortney says that when they sell at farmers markets, beer-drinkers who are resistant to trying cider have to be coaxed into trying it, but once they taste Bad Seed, they change their mind. “They start off saying ‘We don’t drink cider,’ but a lot of people come back after tasting it and realizing that hard cider isn’t the sweet, bubbly thing you think it is.”
They produce the ciders in small batches at 43 Baileys Gap Road in Highland, where they converted a 5,000-square-foot building used in the ’40s as an apple cooler into a tap room open this time of year on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Come September they’ll open Saturdays again, as well, and offer weekend tours of the facilities and the orchards through October.
In the meantime, in addition to the Sundays, the tap room at Bad Seed Cider hosts cornhole and dart leagues on some Monday nights and a one-day cornhole tournament with cash prizes will be held Saturday, August 20 at noon with a cost of $30 per two-player team. They’re a stop for some of the craft brewery bus tours, and they hold special events like the recent Cider & Sausage Fest.
The vibe in the tap room is casual and fun. Walking in, there’s a pool table near the long bar made (by Devin) using a butcher block top and fronted with metal roofing material. Four taps offer different varieties of cider, served in flights of four generously sized glasses. The bar is backed by a window that looks into the canning area, which is interesting to see, and the upstairs loft looks down into the tank room with a lot of shiny equipment to check out. The chalkboard-painted walls next to the downstairs bar get used for impromptu games of hangman, and the whole place is kid-and-dog-friendly, says Kortney. “We want people to have fun with us and feel relaxed. Sometimes if you go on a winery tour, you feel rushed to leave before the next group, but we’d like you to stay a while and play pool and hang out, or sit outside on the benches.” Even though tours are only offered those two months in the fall, they’re happy to stand behind the bar and tell visitors all about the place, she says.
“The whole idea is to have it be fun and laid-back,” adds Devin. “Not to have a pretentious place. We want people to come here and sit down and be comfortable. And we’re finding that they’ll stay for hours.”
The space can be rented out for weddings and parties, too. The loft room upstairs seats about 60 and can be used for smaller groups — it has its own bar with four taps — or combined with the downstairs area for a group of 125 or more. There’s outdoor space to use, and they put a firepit in for weddings.
Next on the horizon is a plan to fence in an area to create a beer garden-style setting.
But back to that cider. It’s made entirely of apples, most of them grown on the Wilklow family farm in Highland, which dates back to 1855. Albert is a sixth generation farmer (and since he and Kortney have two kids, 20 years from now we may be writing about the seventh generation). As apple growers, the family had already been making regular sweet apple cider at Wilklow Orchards when someone approached them about using their apples to make hard cider. Devin had already been brewing beer for a while, and he and Albert were more beer drinkers than wine drinkers, so all the pieces kind of came together when they decided to make their own dry cider and make it as affordable and accessible an everyday beverage as beer. The product is now sold in bars, farmers markets and retail locations across New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey with designs on branching out across the country.
Not all the varieties are beer-influenced. The Bourbon Barrel Reserve is fermented then aged an additional two to three months in fresh wooden bourbon barrels from distilleries in Kentucky. Their classic Dry Hard Cider is fermented with Sauvignon Blanc yeast and resembles a very dry apple champagne. Among the more experimental varieties are a delicious Ginger Hard Cider created for the recent Cider & Sausage Fest, made with ginger root and orange peel and slated to be brought back this fall, and a Coconut Hard Cider for summertime as well as a raspberry version, fermented with one pound of raspberries per gallon.
More information is available by calling Bad Seed Cider at (845) 236-0956 or visit www.badseedhardcider.com or their Facebook page. There’s also a “Groupon.com” coupon offer with a good discount on tastings and tours this fall.