During our Thanksgiving trip to East Coast USA last year, where we went on an Ice cider tour, we had a tip off from our Real Cider friends that there are some special cider varieties from an exciting emerging breed of artisanal ‘hard’ cider producers.
So, with a rental car, a map of North American cider producers and some empty cider containers we continued our road trip deep into Vermont and New Hampshire.
Cider in New England goes back to the 18th century, Americans realized that the prolific, hardy apple tree – which arrived from England in 1623 – offered a solution to their drinking dilemma. In 1767, the average Massachusetts resident drank 35 gallons of cider!
Today, we found that the most popular apples grown in the New England region are Macintosh, Geneva, Lobo, Empire, Russet, and Cortland varieties. Where the more patient and innovative producers are grafting English cider varieties onto native stock meaning that American producers can match our British know-how in traditional blending and cider making practices.
Issues the North American producers are facing
The Americans are finding that cider pairs beautifully with food. However, because cider is an agricultural product, it can lay claim to the currently fashionable quality of “somewhereness.”
Meaning it’s a slow process to convert public to ‘still’ cider, and also difficult to place on a supermarket shelf as a seller.
For example, where does it sit on a supermarket shelf – With the wines, or the the beers? As the ciders are being sold as a traditional, crafted product both consumers and sellers are becoming more comfortable with cider in the 21st century.
Down at Farnum Hill
Farnum Hill are a passionate team who are evangelising artisan cider from their orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
They are working hard, attending wine expos and food markets across their region.
Owner Stephen Wood began converting his orchards to cider apples 20 years ago. Stephen has selected his own apples for the orchards and all are little-known varieties selected specifically for cider making.
Stephen has a tasting collective of 4/5 friends who carefully agree on the correct blends of cider apples each season after the ciders are fermented individually. It seemed to be much more experimental, yet a visionary way to achieve the best taste and ‘experience’ of the seasons apples.
Farnum Hill Extra Dry is widely becoming available on the East coast. Meaning you will see Farnum Hill being sold in 5 star restaurants in New York city for example, where the product has been adopted by innovative stockists and chefs.
“It’s a long job,” said Wood. “It’s a long job to develop a market where there is none.” Source: NPR
The Semi-dry cider at 7.4% is a complex, fruity, nearly sweet experience. Championed as being fresh and elegant with foods from home cooking to cusine – making flavours more vivid. My favourite was the Kingston Black a clean, medium dry and very drinkable single varietal.
The ciders exhibited smoky, rich flavours, to bright citrusy notes, subtle grassiness, and the barnyard aroma that reminds you of drinking back at Roger Wilkins‘ in Somerset.
Slideshow of Farnum Hill Orchards
Check out wine expert Gary Vaynerchuk sampling the semi-dry and Kingston black Farnum Hill ciders.
A fantastic trip to meet and taste the delights of the East coast apples. Definitely recommended, if you plan a trip to New England please pass by to sample some of the good stuff and send our greetings too!
Other cider producers in New England
Look out for our news report of a visit to a cider farm in Vermont which will be out soon.