They don’t call it the Big Apple for nothing. The craft cider industry is bubbling back across the country, drawing attention from beer and wine lovers alike. Dry, sweet, simple, complex, sparkling or still – there’s a cider out there to satisfy any palette. New York is particularly known for its fertile grounds and seasonal climate providing the perfect conditions for apple production. Thus, FARM + LAND had the duty of visiting cideries all throughout the state to bring you our top 5 favorites for 2020. Our criteria was based on product taste & quality, taproom experience, and origin story.
True to their name, the folks of Awestruck Ciders aim to instill awe in every guest. As such, all of their ciders are produced from equal parts apples, inventiveness, and imaginative genius. Co-founders Casey Vitti and Paul Wilcox created Awestruck after many years of global travels crafted a deep understanding and respect for quality goods and services. Combining their passion for fermented fruit juices, the duo decided to deliver their own premium product back home. Although they experiment from the apples of their own 80-tree orchard, Awestruck proudly sources from the very best orchards of New York State in support of independent farms and small businesses. The taproom in Sidney is the perfect place to sample their high-quality, uncompromising hard ciders, crafted from a slew of carefully selected apples all across the Empire State. Craft beers from nearby breweries are also on deck, as is a full menu of bar bites to compliment your sips. Altogether, the entire experience will, as promised, leave you with a sense of awe.
Brooklyn Cider House’s apples actually hail from Twin Star Orchards, a revitalized farm nestled in the heart of the Hudson Valley. The New Paltz orchard emphasizes a sustainable, organic, and biodynamic approach to production, but perhaps is most known for its “ugly apple” theory. This philosophy prevents any apple from being left behind, no matter how misshapen (or ugly) it is. Who really cares what the apples look like? Flavor, depth, and resilience are what it’s all about anyways, with appearance playing zero part in the final product. The result is an eclectic line of dry, sour, and raw ciders which have won awards and gained recognition and respect from cider authorities worldwide. You don’t have to be a pro to realize that these are top-notch ciders. Plus, they pair perfectly with a full food menu at both of Brooklyn Cider House’s New York locations, in New Paltz and Bushwick.
Bad Seed Cider has come a long way from its humble origins at local farmer’s markets. Guided by the ethos of “cider, not science,” Bad Seed has succeeded as the first American company to pour its dry cider into a can and distribute it across state lines. The trademark black cans are a smash hit, and have become synonymous with pure cider, free from any extra chemicals or sweeteners. Inside each of those cans are apples grown on co-founder Albert Wilklow’s sixth-generation family farm. It’s here, in Highland, that Bad Seed Farm Bar invites you to pick your own apples and guzzle cider made on-site. The Farm Bar is well worth a trip, but if you’re looking for less work and more drinking, just drive 5 minutes down the road to their tap room to try any of their 22 regular taps. After sampling the goods, their spot in Crown Heights will satisfy your cravings back in Brooklyn.
In the early 2000s, when a question was posed about the lack of premium cider, brandy, and Pommeau producers in upstate New York, the answer emerged in the form of an idea that would evolve into Orchard Hill. What began as two friends experimenting with apple brandy flourished into a haven for cider aficionados in Orange County. Here, Soons Orchard became the headquarters for Orchard Hill’s estate cider mill. With the Soons’ century-long legacy – along with seventy-five varieties of apples at their disposal – the Orchard Hill team specializes in “cider for wine drinkers,” with a dry finish that accentuates the best qualities of the fruit used in its production. And the result of this minimalist methodology is a refreshing line of four ciders and two barrel-aged Pommeau, all of which are available for sampling at their idyllic New Hampton location.
This mountain cider made deep in the Catskills is well worth a detour. Founders Alex Wilson and Irene Hussey joined forces after separately taking first and second prizes in a local cider competition (we won’t take a jab at the silver winner — he was robbed). Their unfiltered, mountain cider was first crafted in Irene’s parents’ garage. After outgrowing the space, they moved the operation into two renovated barns in the center of historic Andes. You’ll find Wayside’s taproom — and maybe even Alex and Irene — there today. Their apples are sourced from an orchard and nursery in East Delhi, which also supplies Wayside’s taproom with organic produce and pork. Altogether, these farm-fresh goods shape a creative menu of grub and drinks. The atmosphere is rustic chic in all the right ways, while still honoring traditional cider taverns of the past. Local influences — and, of course, damn good cider — make it a worthwhile weekend stop for a great drink, a hearty bite to eat, or a bit of both.
Abandoned Cider does not have a taproom to visit just yet. However, their product and story is just too good not to mention on this list. Abandoned made a name for itself in the cider community by salvaging wild and abandoned apples all across the region. Like turning lemons into lemonade, only with apples. The production of Abandoned ciders is a collaborative, community effort. The vast majority of apples are crowdsourced from backyards and defunct orchards across the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. This rewards apple contributors for the fruits of their labor with one of three hard cider varieties: hopped, classic, or barrel-aged. Repurposing reclaimed and wild orchard apples has always been the heart of Abandoned, and their cider can be enjoyed in restaurants and markets all throughout New York State.