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.

Cortland Apples

Cortland Apples

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

In New England check out Bellwether and Eve’s in upstate New York. Eden Ice Cider and Flag Hill Farm both located in beautiful Vermont.

Other producers in the States that have got people taking again about cider are Wandering Angus Dry and Westcott Bay which can be had on the West Coast.

Look out for our news report of a visit to a cider farm in Vermont which will be out soon.

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Further links

  • Rach

    There is 'cider' in the fridge section of our US supermarket, but disappointingly it was non-alcoholic apple juice!! I wondered why i wasn't asked for ID ….

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Rach! I hope you have enough info. to go on a family road trip to a cidery near you! x

  • Timothy

    can you get magners in N.America? I think I have heard you can.. next time I go will have to try all the other brands as well.

  • Hi Tim, thanks for your reply. As Magners is operated by the Guiness company you can be sure to find Magners in some of the bigger towns and cities. By the way here’s a post you might like to read – http://www.real-cider.co.uk/ciders-not-recognised-as-being-real/ Check out some real cider producers by following links to our cider map and listings. Cheers!

  • Hi Tim, thanks for commenting!

    As Magners is owned by Guinness you can be sure to find the Irish stuff in larger towns and cities in the U.S.

    Check out this post – http://www.real-cider.co.uk/ciders-not-recognis…, then learn more about what makes “Real” cider so special on this site. Enjoy!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Rach! I hope you have enough info. to go on a family road trip to a cidery near you! x

  • As a cider drinker in Devon, UK, were we are also renowned for making excellent alcoholic “Farm cider. ” I was delighted to stumble across your interesting article. If you buy Cider in New England you will find that it is a refreshing non alcoholic apple juice. Good luck with the Iced Cider – sounds intriguing. Charles from http://www.holidayinnewengland.com