Every year we have an event that takes us to New York City in the fall. You can imagine my excitement when we found out that this year’s trip just happened to coincide with NYC Cider Week 2017, organized by the New York Cider Association and sponsored by Angry Orchard and The Cider Project, a Glynwood program. Here are the highlights from our week of tasting some of the best craft cider New York has to offer.
Day 1: Bad Seed Cider’s Grand Opening in Brooklyn
We landed at JFK around 4 pm on Saturday and were seated at the bar in Bad Seed’s new Brooklyn taproom by 7 pm (if you’ve been to New York, you know this is an accomplishment considering we checked into our hotel and had dinner before going to Bad Seed.) This was only the second day that Bad Seed had officially been open, so we were excited to check it out. Bad Seed has taken a unique approach to their taproom. The twelve ciders that are on tap are all their own creations, but they also have eight additional taps dedicated to beer.
We weren’t here for beer…so we started off with a flight of four ciders, which was followed by another flight of four, with a few tasters or full pours mixed in between. Needless to say, we ran the taps and tried all twelve. They also had a few ciders in cans. With the taps all sampled, I opted to try two Graft Ciders. I started off with Book of Nomad: Escape From Orion and followed that with Farm Flor.
Bad Seed’s Brooklyn Taproom has a great energy to it and a very inviting atmosphere. When we finally left at the end of the night, we were a little sad that we wouldn’t be able to return on this trip.
Day 2: A Cheesehead & Cider Lover’s Perfect Fall Afternoon
Sunday started as all good Sundays do in Manhattan when the Packers are playing at Kettle of Fish, a cozy bar in the West Village. I originally hail from the land of cheese and can attest that this is one of the finest Packers bars in the world.
I know what you’re thinking, “how is this cider related?” Well, they do have cider available, though the only cider option is Magners. I had hoped to chat with the owners about some of the cider options coming out of Wisconsin, but it just didn’t work out. Really this is just included because it’s probably my favorite place in the city. It really is a little slice of Wisconsin in the Big Apple.
Our only official Cider Week stop on Sunday was at Murray’s Cheese Bar, just a few blocks away and naturally the next stop for a proper cheesehead. Murray’s featured event was a cider pairing hosted by South Hill Cider and Phonograph Cider. Steve Selin, owner & cidermaker at South Hill Cider, was in attendance and floated from patron to patron discussing his ciders.
From South Hill we tried: Bluegrass Russet, Pack Basket Still & Dry, and their Pommeau
From Phonograph Cider we tried: Greening and Bucatta
All of the cheese pairings with the ciders were spot-on and really highlighted the best attributes of each cider.
Day 3: Funky Blends & Specialty Craft Ciders Quietly Shine
The first stop on Monday was at Upright Brew House for the Graft Cider Tap Takeover. They had four ciders on tap, and one more available by the can. On tap were:
- Hop Tropic
- Hop Cider – Ingredients: NY apples, Citra hops, grapefruit peel, lemon peel
- Book of Nomad: Siege Over Orion
- Hopped Guava Soursop Papaya Cider – Ingredients: NY apples, guava, soursop, papaya, milk sugar, Vic Secret hops, Ella hops, and Denali hops
- Mountains and Valleys
- Gose Cider
- Shared Universe: Strange Lands – collaboration with Aslin Brewing
- Hopped Peach Gose Cider – Ingredients: NY apples, peaches, Citra hops, luplin powder, ginger, sea salt, and vanilla
After sampling all four draft ciders I moved on to a 12 oz. can of Book of Nomad: Escape from Orion to close out this event. Escape from Orion is a Hopped Pineapple Strawberry Guava cider, with Citra, Eldorado, and Vic Secret hops.
My simple takeaway from the event? Graft makes some of the most unique, one-of-a-kind, ciders that I’v ever tried. In some cases, I have to work hard to find something I like about a cider; this wasn’t one of those instances. I found Graft’s ciders to be full flavored and full bodied, not unlike sour beers. For me, they’re not necessarily a sessionable cider, but definitely a cider that I would have again.
One of my personal cider missions is to seek out ciders that could be passed off as a beer. My sole purpose for that mission is to find ciders that can be recommended to craft beer drinkers to get them to try a craft cider. I have met a lot of craft beer drinkers who won’t try cider because they, “don’t like sweet drinks.” I have also introduced a lot of craft beer drinkers to cider and I love watching in amazement as they discover a whole new world to explore.
Following Graft Cider’s event, I hurried across town to Hemlock for an intimate dinner and cider pairing with Eden Specialty Cider and East Hollow Cider. They had prepared an Herbal Spritz featuring Orleans Herbal, an Eden Cider apple wine that has been infused with herbs. Refills of the spritz continued through the appetizers.
Seth Jones of East Hollow Cider, started the first course with a pour of his Thistle HIll Cider. Thistle Hill is a wild fermentation of wild apples that has been bottle conditioned with honey. As a lover of funky farmhouse ciders, I was in heaven.
Eleanor Leger, Eden Specialty Ciders, introduced the second course with her Two Ellies cider, which is a collaboration with Tilted Shed Cider. Two Ellies is a special cider that was produced with equal parts of Gravenstein apples from Sonoma County, California and Esopus Spitzenburg apples from Vermont.
Unfortunately, a review of this cider will have to wait. At this point in the evening, my palate had reached its limit and the socializing at the table had reached a crescendo. If there’s one drawback to attending cider events, it’s the having to choose between taking notes on ciders and socializing with fellow cider enthusiasts.
Seth concluded the evening with dessert paired with his imperial cyser named A Bee and the Tree.
Day 4: Diving Into a Casual Night of Cider Tasting
Looking through the options for cider week events on Tuesday, we’d planned to attend Cider By Hand at As Is NYC, since it appeared to offer the best variety of ciders to sample. I arrived shortly after the scheduled start time of 7 pm to find a bar crowded with cider lovers and cider makers. For me, the stand out ciders from the night were Proper Cider’s Dive Bar and Black Duck’s Percy Percy.
I started in on my pour of Dive Bar before meeting Jeremy Hammond, cider maker and half of the duo that makes up Proper Cider. Dive Bar was cloudy with a full golden color and what I’m going to call typical carbonation, it wasn’t still and it wasn’t overly sparkling, just somewhere near the middle.
What struck me most about Dive Bar was its nose. I was immediately met with a unique aroma of fresh cut pine and aromatic cedar, something I have never encountered in cider. Taking my first sip of it I found an herbal and earthy cider with somewhat strong astringency, and the astringency grows more intense with each sip.
It was after I had already taken a few notes on Dive Bar that I met Jeremy and talked to him about it and cider in general. One of the most interesting items to come out of the conversation was that Dive Bar was made from apples harvested from a single 100-year-old tree that is growing over Samuel Morse’s grave. Samuel Morse is responsible for the invention of Morse Code.
Percy Percy was the very next cider that I ordered. I had met a couple earlier in the evening that had told me it was one of their all-time favorites, so it had gone on my to-drink list for the night. Percy Percy is one of the best examples of rich, funky, farmhouse ciders that I have tried. It was very cloudy with a deep golden color. Its aroma took me immediately to fall in an apple orchard and fresh pressed sweet cider, but it didn’t have that sugary sweet smell. It had a great funky taste that was still very true to the apple and an acidity that grew pleasantly with each sip.
Day 5: The Big Apple Spotlights Small Batch Craft Ciders
Wednesday turned out to be another two event evening. It started with Golden Apples, presented by Glynwood, Angry Orchard Hard Cider, and the New York Cider Association. It was an invite-only guided tasting through five ciders from five different award winning New York cider makers. Each cider was introduced by the cider maker who had produced it, along with a discussion of cider’s importance and future in New York agriculture.
It was an incredibly informational event with exceptional ciders and some very insightful thoughts from the cider makers. There were two quotes from the evening that really stuck with me.
“Cider needs to be part of the American table.”
– Autumn Stoscheck from Eve’s Cidery while talking about her cider, Darling Creek.
“We need to solve the problem of where cider belongs. It’s really a white wine made with apples, but it’s often positioned as an alternative to beer. How we solve that is yet to be seen.”
– Dan Wilson from Slyboro Ciderhouse while talking about his cider, La Sainte Terre.
Golden Apples then seamlessly moved to Hidden Stars, a cider festival-like event at Astor Place with more than 25 New York cideries in attendance. There were no drink tickets, just tasting glasses and however much a cider maker served you…my kind of event!
I used this event to visit some of the smaller cideries with limited distribution to sample some of the ciders I might not find beyond their own taprooms and hometowns. (I surely won’t find them distributed in the West!) Adding to the atmosphere, the band Bad Reputation was set up in one of the corners of the room with frontman Pierre de Gaillande crooning english translations of Georges Brassens. I was drawn into their music, but cider was the priority and I couldn’t linger too long.
Most unique cider award goes to Big Apple Hard Cider for their Hell’s Kitchen cider, infused with sriracha and tequila. I’ve sampled several chili pepper ciders and none of them have had the spicy heat that I’ve been looking for. (Twisted Pine Brewing, from Boulder, CO, makes a beer called Billy’s Chilis that has pleasant heat, and they also make Ghost Face Killah, which is Billy’s with ghost pepper added that will have your mouth on fire seeking out some sort of relief…and I like that.) So, I was anxious to give Hell’s Kitchen a try.
The nose on it was encouraging, providing that spicy tingle you get from smelling peppers. It definitely had that distinct sriracha aroma to it, with just the right amount of tequila behind it. The taste was very balanced and delicious, though it lacked the heat that I was hoping for (that’s not to say there was no heat at all.) Regardless, I was impressed with Hell’s Kitchen and I think it has enough to it to stand on its own. I would love to experiment pairing this cider with different foods; I suspect that pairing it with spicy foods could be very rewarding.
Other notable ciders from the night:
One of the ciders that Pennings Farm Ciders brought with them was their Ginger Beet cider. The earthiness of the beets was a nice compliment to the bite of ginger, and the bright pink color was kinda cool.
Diner Brew Co. had a very nice calvados that they had made. They were inspired to make a calvados after their grandmother passed away. After she passed they found roughly 40 bottles of calvados in her Paris apartment.
I was impressed with all of Descendant Cider Co.’s offerings for the evening. Their pomegranate hibiscus cider had intense aromas but a very balanced flavor profile. My reaction to their 2016 Harvest Descendant Dry turned a few heads when I commented that, “I would like a living room candle that smells like this.” It was perfectly dry and had just the right amount of funkiness.
Day 6: Coast to Coast with American Craft Cider’s Most Notable Apple
Our highlight of the week was The Old Adventures of Newtown Pippin event on Thursday evening at the Heritage Radio Event Space in Williamsburg. In a nutshell, this was a celebration of the Newtown Pippin apple and its rich history. Apples from all over the country were on hand for tasting and comparison. It’s amazing how much a Newtown Pippin from Virginia differs from a Newtown Pippin from Oregon.
The evening started with Gidon Coll (Original Sin Cider) discussing the history of the Newtown Pippin and its significance in American cider history. We were led by Dan Pucci (@danpucci), Ryan Burk, head cidermaker at Angry Orchard, and Darlene Hayes (@allintocider) through a tasting of 18 different Newtown Pippin ciders from across the US. There is just way too much to say about this event here, it deserved its own article, The Old Adventures of Newtown Pippin Apples.