“After 25 years of being in love with wine, it took one second to change that to cider,” says Peter Yi, founder of Brooklyn Cider House, headquartered at Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz. Born in Korea, Yi and his family moved to the US in 1978 to open a retail wine business. For decades he traveled the world as a buyer, honing his palate both for wine and for cuisine, but thought of cider as unappealingly sweet. “I didn’t want any part of it,” he recalls.
That all changed on a driving trip from Bordeaux to Spain with a knowledgeable friend, who persuaded the reluctant Yi to visit a traditional Basque cidery in the town of San Sebastián. “I took one sip and fell in love instantly. My new passion was cider.”
Having already tried his hand at viticulture and winemaking, when he got back to the States Yi immediately wanted to take up cidermaking, to bring the sophisticated “wild, dry, food-friendly” tastes of Basque-style sidra to American consumers. “But we couldn’t get cider apples. I realized that we had to grow them ourselves.”
That’s how, eight years ago, Peter Yi came to acquire Twin Star – an orchard that had been growing culinary apples since Prohibition and relying on the pick-it-yourself tourist trade in recent years. Each year since, he has replaced more of those eating apples with cider apples, whether by grafting new branches onto old stock or simply tearing out the trees and replanting. Of the farm’s 210 acres, about 60 are now producing the kinds of tart, hard heirloom apples that were a staple in the Hudson Valley in Colonial times, when hard cider was served with every meal.
Brooklyn Cider House, under the auspices of Peter Yi as head cidermaker and daughter Olivia Yi as his assistant, now produces seven different varieties: Raw (Peter’s favorite), Half Sour, Bone Dry, Kinda Dry, Little Wild, Tree of Life and Rosé. He’s happy to guide visitors through a tasting, but there are other compelling reasons to visit Twin Star as well – notably the big open-sided pavilion with its white-clay brick pizza oven imported from Italy. Besides the great pizzas, you can also get hardwood-grilled burgers.
Some of that wood comes from apple-tree trimmings, which impart a special delicious fragrance that will also enhance the barbecue offerings smoked on-premises at Twin Star. On a tour for HV1 last weekend, Olivia Yi showed off the brand-new 1,000-gallon offset smoker “brought in from Texas last week.” About 26 feet long from firebox at one end to chimney at the other, with four side-accessible smoking compartments in between, it’s an impressive beast. Already they’re smoking brisket and spareribs “for about 14 hours,” Olivia says, and custom-made sausages will be happening sometime in the future.
Applewood-smoked barbecue will be just one of the attractions at the inaugural Hudson Valley Craft Beverage Festival, set to happen at Twin Star on Saturday, June 18 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. (a great way to start Fathers’ Day a little early). The Yis and many friends will be celebrating the Hudson Valley’s booming craft beverage industry with tastings from breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries from throughout the region. Attendees can enjoy tastings from more than 20 makers of artisanal cider, beer, mead, wines, spirits and kombucha – all from New York State and mostly from the Hudson Valley – who will also have their packaged products available for sale to take home.
Participants (besides Brooklyn Cider House) will include Nine Pin Ciderworks, Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider, Orchard Hill Cider Mill, Treasury Cider, Wayside Cider, Original Sin, Angry Orchard, Naked Flock Hard Cider, Brotherhood Winery, Whitecliff, Baldwin Winery, Benmarl Winery, Taconic Distillery, Stoutridge, Slate Point Meadery, Sing Sing Kill Brewery, Great Life Brewing, Soul Brewing Company, Laughing Gut Kombucha and Calmbucha.
There will be two ticketed tasting sessions, from 1 to 3 p.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets for each will cost $18 at the door, $16 online in advance. There will be live music throughout the day, with Sheila Dee & the Dazzlers confirmed as of presstime. Twin Star’s wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, burgers and new barbecue items will be available for purchase à la carte.
Located at 155 North Ohioville Road in New Paltz, Twin Star Orchards are open to the public for exploration and relaxation, cider-tastings and food sales from noon to 7 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays. To learn more or order Hudson Valley Craft Beverage Festival tickets, visit www.twinstarorchards.com.