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An Apple a Day

Woodchuck Cider is crisp, light, not too sweet . You can combine it with equal parts hard cider and lager or stout to make a Snakebite.

As a native Central New Yorker, I grew up surrounded by apples—McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland, and Empire among others. Regular fall pickings were part of my childhood and adulthood, as was learning about our rich apple culture via school field trips, apple festivals, and eating cinnamon donuts with hot cider on a brisk autumn night. You might be asking, “What does any of this have to do with craft beer?” For a while, I ignored the subject of hard cider—that is, until I started sampling them at beer festivals. Apple cider at a brew fest? Yes. It may sound a bit funny if you haven’t been to a fest yet, but if you have, hard cider comfortably fits right in.

Gloria at a local apple orchard. While hard cider most certainly isn’t beer, it’s been gaining popularity in the craft beer community and is widely available.

While hard cider most certainly isn’t beer, it’s been gaining popularity in the craft beer community and is widely available. A few years ago, a hard cider by the name of Angry Orchard (owned by Boston Beer Company) introduced itself nationwide. I didn’t think much of it and never thought to buy any, even if it was available on tap at the local pub. I’d always opt for a beer. However, when Angry Orchard hit the market, it sparked a memory long forgotten—only ordering Woodchuck Cider on my weekends out in Armory Square way back when. It was crisp, light, not too sweet and just tasted good. Fresh out of college and learning about beer, I opted for British selections such as Harp Lager and the mighty Guinness Stout. These were some of the choices that helped shaped my affinity for craft beverages; I quickly learned about the Snakebite, a drink made of equal parts hard cider and lager or stout. What a delicious combination!

Hard cider has given me reason to take notice once again—the variety, for one, has grown beyond Woodchuck and Angry Orchard. Local apple farms are making their own delicious ciders worth trying. In an attempt to broaden my horizons and learn something new, I’ve been drinking more ciders for the past few months than ever. I don’t really like sweet beverages of any kind, but with the slightly sweet and tart qualities that many ciders have, it’s been pretty easy to enjoy these fermented apples. Critz Farms in Cazenovia’s Harvest Moon Cidery produces various hard ciders with different flavor profiles. Thanks to a generous donation, I tried Heritage Hops, a cider with a touch of hops (one of beer’s main ingredients). Four Screw is a sweeter cider made with a combination of apples and maple cider. I also had Critz’s Double Vision, a cider made with a blend of aged and fresh pressed ciders. Delicious! Another local gem to try is Beak & Skiff’s 1911 and 1911 Founder’s Reserve ciders. Located in Lafayette, 1911 offers ciders such as raspberry, ginger, hopped, Honeycrisp and Rosé. We are so fortunate to live in an area where we can enjoy these hometown creations and support our local businesses. These ciders and more can be found at grocery and convenience stores, restaurants and bars. Just like craft beer, not all hard ciders are the same. Some are sweet, some tart, dry, with added fruits and/or hops. And just as New York breweries are on the increase, so are cideries, from Buffalo to Long Island. 

Beak & Skiff’s 1911 and 1911 Founder’s Reserve ciders are local gems.

Also worth mentioning is a distinct quality that hard cider has (and beer doesn’t): it’s gluten-free. I didn’t think about it until a cousin of mine mentioned it to me. She has Celiac Disease, which is an autoimmune disorder where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. One of the first things she had to eliminate was beer. It was through her that I tried Angry Orchard and didn’t completely dislike it. I remembered my Woodchuck days and how those days weren’t so bad. However, now with an experienced palate and more ciders to choose from, I’m able to enjoy a different type of cider on a regular basis if I so choose. If you haven’t given hard cider a chance, or if you did only a handful of times with the same one, try a new one. Try a local one. Try a hoppy one. Just try one! Cheers!

Gloria Rakowsky