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A is for Apple

B is for Beverage; C is for Craft…where do our ABCs lead us to? Craft Hard Apple Cider, of course! 

‘Tis the season to take a short pause from a summer full of craft beer and turn our attention and tastebuds to craft hard ciders. Ciders can be found in their very own section these days in grocery stores and local beverage establishments and the different varieties available continue to grow exponentially. Lucky for us, we live in the heart of apple country, and just beyond our small region, the rest of the Northeast also produces massive amounts of apples that are transported throughout the rest of the country, for both consumers and cideries alike. Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at how hard cider is created!

While truly any variety of apple can be utilized, most hard ciders are ranked from sweet to dry, just like wine. Therefore, different varieties of apples will yield different results along the scale. Apples have acids and tannins, just like grapes, which also contribute to the specific end product that is created. Apples are harvested when ripe and pressed for the juices. The fresh juice is then collected and placed into tanks, casks, vats, barrels, etc., where simple sugars in the apple juice are converted into ethanol by yeast; these yeast strains can be wild, but most are cultivated strains that are added by the manufacturers. Temperatures at which ciders are created vary anywhere from 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Eventually, the yeast is filtered out, and the liquid is strained and placed into a new container. Fermentation continues as it sits and carbon dioxide is created with the remaining sugars, thereby creating carbonation. As well, other flavors, juices and additives can be added during this process of fermentation as well; it is not unusual to find hopped ciders, ciders with additions of honey, cranberries, grapes and even maple syrup! Fermentation can take anywhere from 3 months to 3 years and when it comes time to bottle, fermentation continues to take place in the individual containers. As well, all ciders need to undergo the process of pasteurization to kill any harmful bacteria. Once the process is completed, the hard cider is ready for consumption!

Most everyone who went to grade school in the United States has heard of Johnny Appleseed, (or John Chapman, which was his real name), but did you know that those famous seedlings of his during the late 1700s and into the early 1800s weren’t planted for the intention of eating, but instead planted with the intention of creating hard cider? You see, water was not exactly the drink of choice in those early years of the Americas as it wasn’t always safe to drink, especially as settlers traversed the frontier to settle lands west of Pennsylvania. Cider was a much safer and more sanitary alternative and deemed an appropriate beverage for the whole family to consume.

Today, craft hard cider is growing as much in popularity as craft beer and with so many different and delightful variations to sample! To note, ciders are also naturally gluten-free, and therefore folks with specific allergies or food sensitivities have a golden opportunity to imbibe right alongside their beer-swigging friends.

There are a multitude of cideries in the greater CNY area where you can try different varieties of craft hard ciders, including:

• Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards featuring their 1911 Established ciders, Lafayette, NY

• Abbott’s Wine & Cidery, part of Abbott Farms, Baldwinsville, NY

• Critz Farms Brewing & Cider Company, Cazenovia, NY

• Grisamore Cider Works, Locke, NY

• Finger Lakes Cider House, Interlaken, NY

• New York Cider Company, Ithaca, NY

• South Hill Cider, Ithaca, NY

• Blackduck Cidery, Ovid, NY

• Star Cider, Canandaigua, NY

• Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, Fly Creek, NY (near Cooperstown, NY)

• Nine Pin Cider Works, Albany, NY

• Indian Ladder Farms Cidery & Brewery, Altamont, NY 

My friendly fall advice would be to take a scenic drive out to one of these establishments and let your palate discover something new. Additionally, your patronage supports these local and family businesses, which is so important these days! If you’re unable to visit a cidery, or you’re looking for a 4- or 6-pack to pick up and drink during football games or sip around a bonfire this season, then there are plenty of different options for purchase at your local supermarket. As well, plenty of our local craft beer breweries will sometimes brew a cider or two – or at least offer different varieties behind the bar from various parts of NYS (and beyond). (Maybe even grab a growler!) If you still aren’t sure where to start, here are a few of my hard cider personal favorites.

Cran-Mango Saison – Cider Creek Hard Cider, Canisteo, NY (6.9% ABV) – This is a unique Belgian-style cider that is fermented with Saison Ale yeast and finished with cranberry and mango juices. Let me tell you, I would NOT have guessed that cranberry and mango would go well together, but it DOES. So tasty, juicy, full of complimentary flavor. (Hint: This is currently on tap at Meier’s Creek Brewing Co’s Inner Harbor location!) 

Blueberry Peach Hard Cider – Hamburg Brewing Company, Hamburg, NY (6% ABV) – Crushable, flavorful, able to taste each fruit distinctly – neither being too aggressive or overwhelming – with the fruits melding nicely together upon your palate. On the sweeter side. 

Imperial Black Cherry – Hudson North Cider Co., Newburgh, NY (8% ABV) – Cherry, in general, can be hit-or-miss in my opinion, as sometimes the cherry flavor can have a bit of a “cough syrup” taste. Not this one! This hard cider’s cherry pairs well with the apple; it’s crisp and juicy while being slightly on the tart side. 


Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!