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Apple juice is about as synonymous with after-school snacking as cookies and milk. But when school turns to a 9-to-5 job, beverages can use a little twist. And when the air is as crisp as a Fuji apple, hard cider is a quintessential sipper.
The hard cider trend, which peaked for large-scale brands in 2015, is going the way of beer and experiencing a big push from the smaller guys. Though overall sales saw a dip in 2017, regional and local cideries grew by 30 percent.
Riverhead Ciderhouse made its way to the North Fork that year, joining Woodside Orchards to make cider an alternative to wine and beer tasting. But sometimes, a change of scenery is nice, especially when shorter days and cooler nights signal hibernation season is near. Hundreds of cideries have found their roots in the northeast. Consider these seven the new apples of your eyes.
Carr’s Cider House, Hadley, Mass.
This small-batch cider house is home to 2,500 apple trees and sweeping views of the Connecticut River Valley. Launched by husband-wife duo Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum, visitors can take in the sights while tasting grown-up apple juice or sampling cider vinegar and syrup. The Bittersweet Blend serves a departure from the sugary-sweet hard ciders of earlier this decade. Aromatic on the nose, the bittersweet apples offer a pleasantly bitter taste to the finish.
Eden Specialty Ciders, Newport, V.T.
This abandoned dairy farm-turned orchard and cidery is known to have a little extra sparkle. Eden’s sparkling brut, a completely dry cider made from heirloom and bittersweet apple varieties, won gold at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition. On a milder day, go for the rosé, a juicy — but not sweet — cider, which took silver at the competition.
Finger Lakes Cider House, Interlaken, N.Y.
Frequent guests of Riverhead Cider House will enjoy this spot along Cayuga Lake. Located at The Good Life Farm, a working organic farm and orchard, guests can taste artisan ciders, including the house’s Kite & String. There’s also a bounty of options from New York State cideries, particularly those in the Finger Lakes, and food made from local ingredients. Live music provides the soundtrack to tasting.
Poverty Lane Orchards and Farm Hill Ciders, Lebanon, N.H.
Don’t let the street name fool you — this orchard and cidery boasts fruit and beverages rich in flavors. The ciders get high marks for being refreshing and dry. The Farnum Hill Extra Dry is gold and bubbly with a palate-cleansing balance of fruit, astringency and acid, making it a perfect companion for Indian and Thai foods. A stroll through the orchard is recommended for those traveling with little ones. Warning: the branches are low — expect to come back with enough apples for several pies if your tykes are pro-pickers.
Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Cellars, Trumansburg, N.Y.
Another Finger Lakes favorite, Bellwether produces ciders that range from dry to sweet. The semi-sweet and sparkling Black Magic is made with black currants, which keep it from going down like liquid candy while providing depth and acidity. The mulled hot cider is also not to be missed, especially when the mercury dips. Riesling, arguably the Finger Lakes’ signature grape, is also available to taste.
Citizen Cider, Burlington, V.T.
Travelers have been known to flock to Burlington just to check out this cult-favorite cidery. The vibe is friendly and laidback, and the knowledgeable staff is eager to help everyone from first-timers to regulars find a cider that suits their palate. The cidery recently released the Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, in 16oz cans. Made with basil from nearby Hallow Herbs, it’s off dry, aromatic and a perennial favorite. Like the Tulsi, much of the food from the menu is made with ingredients from local farms. The pigs in a puff — Citizen Cider’s version of pigs in a blanket — are served with cider mustard. Recommended pairing: Lake Hopper, which is made with local cascade hops.
Portersfield Cider, Pownal, M.E.
Set in a 19th-century farmhouse, owner David Buchanan steers clear of the sweet tastes of commercial cider. Instead, his ciders fall into the mildly sweet, sharp and bittersweet buckets. He’s not a stranger around the tasting room, either, and can be found chatting with customers about the beverages. The Original Dry, made from a blend of apples including Baldwin, Northern Spy and Jonagold, pairs well with a local cheese platter.