Though it may come as a surprise in these days when craft-beer microbreweries are popping up all across the map, the fastest-growing segment of the alcoholic beverage market in the US in recent years has in fact been hard cider. And New Paltz sits smack-dab in the middle of the cradle of the cider industry’s rebirth.
There’s irony in that trend, considering that cider was the original beverage of choice for America’s founding fathers and mothers; according to Smithsonian magazine, “Transplanted New Englanders on the frontier drank a reported 10.52 ounces of hard cider per day.” The orchards of tart cider apples that once covered the landscape were mostly cut down during Prohibition, or regrafted with sweet eating apples, and the art of cidering was nearly lost.
Nowadays, orchards are rediscovering that art, and grafting heirloom apple varieties more suitable for hard cider onto their rootstocks. The trend got a jumpstart about a decade ago, when the Cold Spring-based sustainable agriculture think tank the Glynwood Center organized a travel exchange between French and American cider producers. Glynwood’s stated goal was “to foster a cider market in the Hudson Valley as the linchpin in a chain of positive social, environmental, economic and community benefits.”
But, in order for the Valley to stake its claim as a terroir for craft cider and appeal to a sophisticated adult market that mostly still thought of cider as a sweet drink for kids, potential producers and sellers needed to be brought together. So, in 2010, Glynwood organized the inaugural Cider Week. It started as a Hudson Valley thing, but now has sister events in New York City, the Finger Lakes and western New York State, conducted under the aegis of the New York Cider Association.
Cider Week Hudson Valley lasts for more than a week these days: The 2018 edition has been in progress since Friday, June 8, with tastings and other celebrations happening at various locations from the Black Dirt Country right on up to the Capital District. But the big culminating event happens this Sunday, June 17 at Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz: source of the apples used in the products made by the Bushwick-based Brooklyn Cider House. From noon to 5 p.m., a total of ten regional cideries will be offering tastings of their wares on Twin Star’s scenic 200-acre spread on North Ohioville Road.
“This is the third annual Fathers’ Day that they’re doing a Tasting Party as part of Hudson Valley Cider Week,” reports Monique Willmer of MST Creative PR, official spokesperson for Brooklyn Cider House. According to Willmer, representatives of all ten cideries will be on hand, ready to share their knowledge along with samples of their products. “We’re trying to educate people about hard cider, including how it can be beautifully paired with food.”
Food will in fact be one of Sunday’s main attractions: Twin Star will be offering a roast suckling pig, along with gourmet pizzas baked in its outdoor wood-fired oven, burgers and other options that pair well with the clean, slightly tart taste of hard cider. Edible offerings will be available for purchase, but admission to the event is free, and so are the cider samplings.
The cideries will all have bottles of their products on hand for sale, once you’ve decided on your favorites. “Brooklyn Cider House has four unique ciders: Bone Dry, Raw, Kinda Dry and Half Sour,” Willmer notes. Those will be available for $10 per bottle, $27 for three.
Live music for the Cider Week Hudson Valley Closeout Tasting Party will be supplied by More Tongues than Teeth, a Brooklyn-based band that plays classic rock. There are picnic tables outside by the orchard’s pond, as well as a tasting room large enough to keep the party going strong even if there’s a cloudburst. There’s also a farmstand where you can pick up some local seasonal produce and cheese.
So, if you haven’t settled on a plan for a Fathers’ Day outing as yet, you might want to put this one on your agenda. Already booked up? Come back some other weekend, as the Twin Star Orchards/Brooklyn Cider House folks have already begun their summer season of casual outdoor dining in a beautiful bucolic setting. Twin Star is located at 155 North Ohioville Road. For more info, check out https://ciderweekhv.com/hv/events or www.facebook.com/twinstarorchards.