As the name of this blog post suggests, this is a list and a little toe dipping info into the world of my top 5 US cider makers and cideries that have influenced me in my cider making journey so far.
For a few years now I have been fascinated with American ciders and the American Craft cider movement. There is a real breadth of styles, and innovation from traditional European styles using local heirloom apples and wild yeasts to cideries or really just fermenteries taking delivery of tankers if fresh pressed juice from their local mills. Then with a beer brewers view, ferment this juice under such control, timing and science, creating in such consistent base ciders to be the foundation and flavour holder of there experimental approach to cider, pushing the genre to a new level and almost making it its very own category in the process.
These ciders and cidermakers interested me so much, in early 2019 I headed over the pond, and for two weeks traveled up the East Coast, going to as many as I could in the time I had, finishing off at CiderCon in Chicago. I didnt get a chance to visit all of the cideries below, but i did get to meet and share a few ciders with most of them in Chicago.
This blog post, however, isn't meant to be a review on US ciders, though if you want to know exactly how they have influenced me, read my blog New World Ciders & Me. It's not meant to be a bloody novel so to limit my waffling I set a target of 5! This may sound easy but it wasn't, there are definitely more cider companies that I cherish, like Angry Orchard Walden, Shacksbury, Farnum HIll, Cider Riot, and more, but rules are rules.
All of these amayzing makers deserve more than just a few paragraphs of my post, and maybe one day I’ll be able to do a whole post on each, but for now I want you to know who they are and what they do. And hopefully with my writing I can convince you to head to their sites, track down their ciders and find out more about them. So here they are in brief….!
-| Graft Cider - Newburgh, New York |-
Founded by brother and sister duo, Kyle and Sarah Sheerer on the bank of the Hudson river. Graft cider makes no secret of trying to make cider like beer. A craft cider for a craft beer world. Initially focusing on techniques used to make Gosé sour beer, which uses flavours such as citrus, herbs and salt, they have continued in their experimental journey in to using lactose (milk sugars) often used in milk stouts to give a creamy profile, to wood chips as well as large wooden foeder tanks imported from spain. These funky sour cider type cocktails are designed purposely to give the drinker a totally different experience.Yes they use fruit concentrates in some of their Dreamsicle series, not something I'm mad keen on, but their prgressive approach is directing them into a different non cider specific market. A space where nostalgia is ripe and you're transported to memories of sitting on a beach in summer sipping margaritas ( check out their Salt and Sand cider)
All wrapped up in imaginative and funky designed cans, oh like craft beer then! It might not be a purist cup of tea,I mean cider… but if you want to see where thought, innovation and knowing your customer gets you you need to seek them out. Oh and for you purists, they also have some very limited, barrel aged and wild fermented releases.
My favourite Native - wild native yeasts, basque / lambic style hommage- barrel fermented
-| Brooklyn Cider House, Brooklyn, New York |-
Well as you may have worked it out by the name, yep, they’re based in Brooklyn.. Well sort of. Yes they do have the most insane Basque inspired restaurant and fermentary in Brooklyn, NYC, but they also have a farm upstate where they grow their apples.
They're main site, however, is the one in Brooklyn, New York city. A place famous across the world, even before the Beckhams! A real foodie destination and trend setter. Home of many iconic brands over the years, and more recently in the craft beer world, Brooklyn Brewery and Torst bar. And now The Brooklyn Cider House.
Located in a large industrial estate about 30 mins from Williamsburg, their 500 seater restaurant and cidery boasts not only awesome ciders, but a great Spanish inspired menu and an insane cider and food pairing spectacular experience. As you walk from their bar and reception area to your table, you are taken past 6 huge old wooden foderer tanks imported from North Western Spain. This is where they're cider is matured and where your experience is made. Like in Basqe Spain, cider is paired with food and pouring it is a show piece and part of your dining experience. Here is no different, between each course your server will take you to the tanks to catch some cider, which style you have at that time is decided by which course you are on.
As you may have guessed the ciders they make are specifically designed to be the same or at least as close to their Spanish cousins as possible. Sour, tart, astringent and apply. Best poured from a height to capture as much air as possible to not only liven up the flavour profile, show off more tannin notes, but to give that mouth feel of a slight carbonation too.
Their ciders are simply named and created with this food painting in mind, Basque done New York style. Offerings include, Raw, Kinda Dry, Bone Dry, Half Sour, etc.
My favourite Wild Rosé, is a blend of cider and red wine.
-| ANXO - Washington, DC |-
Like BCH, Anxo ( pronounced Ancho) is a cidery and restaurant, well three restaurants now, based on and around Spanish Pinxos from San Sebastian. Although there general theme is Spanish food and cider, here cider isn't all that Spanish. Instead, it's pretty modern and innovative and almost more British inspired than Spanish! Maybe that's just because of the collaboration they do with our friend and cider legend Tom Oliver, Hereford Gold.
“Made like wine and packaged like beer” is one headline used to describe Anxo ciders, and if you’ve read my New World Ciders and ME blog, you'll see that these, Dry, low cal, low sugar and low carb ciders are right up my street. Fermented apples juice with either wild, or wine yeasts, and packaged up in bold, bright, and almost brutally designed cans, which are unmistakably ANXO. My favourite is their District blend, a blend of their wild and wine yeast fermented ciders, dry, tart and moorish, this only just edges ahead of their Rosé.
I have had the pleasure of meeting the team, both this side and the other side of the pond but haven't been able to visit them in Washington yet, but it's on my bucket list.
My Favourite so far :- District Dry - Bone Dry, WIld and wine yeast blend. 6.9% Abv
-| Artifact Cider Project - Florence, Massachusetts |-
If you dream of positive wondrous idyllic moments of your life, snippets of dreams, and what style of cider you'd like to have in those moments, Artifact has probably made one.
Founded in 2014 in their garage, friends Soham and Brett set out to make small batch individual, innovative ciders which showcase their region of the North West of the US. pairing progressive cider making techniques with eclectic ideas and packaging design. The total package in my opinion is just perfect. I first tried Artifact ciders at Imbibe london, at a tasting given by our friend Gabe Cook aka The Ciderologist. Wolf at the Door was my first experience, a high acid forward drink, dry and tart, grown up cider, then I dipped my toe into the Magic Hour, a softer, smoother style cider, for that after work, chill out, sunset, first drink of the night kinda vibe.
Their methods and techniques respect the traditional and the local varieties of apples but are fully forward thinking, perception changing and innovative, from conception to delivery. Wild yeast (or as they call it their ‘house cultivated yeast) don't feature massively in their ciders, but their ciders are far from being one dimensional. They certainly put the consumer at the heart of every creation from conception to consumption.
A cider for each moment, and beautifully designed packaging to take you there a little faster.
My favourite so far is - Taking Flight - Semi Dry - Easy Session - 5.4% Abv
-| Eve’s Cidery, Finger Lakes, New York |-
Eve's Cidery is based in the hills of Van Etten, a small town near the Finger Lakes and the Northern Appalachian Plateau in upstate New York.
Unlike the above cideries, Eve’s is a small family run farm producing naturally fermented ciders. They grow their own fruit organically and wild-forage apples and pears from near by.
I suppose you could say that their ciders are the closest of all the ciders I've featured to a British cider bottled fine cider. And you’d be right, and this is why I love them. Don't be fooled though, they are not the same as British cider, or let's be honest it would be a bit daft to feature them in this list. What i find so interesting and inspiring about their ciders and cider making techniques and style is that they follow closely the lines of traditional European small batch cider making techniques, yet they do it with real New World panache and flair, but with a subtlety and class that you’d expect fo ciders in this, cider is wine / fine cider format.
Small batch ciders, from a small town, resulting in BIG ciders. For me Eve’s ciders show off perfectly the importance that terrior plays in natural cider making. From the soil the fruit is grown in, native and heritage varieties grown to the wild yeasts present on their skin and in their surroundings. These ciders can't be replicated anywhere else, and to a point not even replicated by them, as each season will leave its genetics in that season's vintage.
My favourite is Darling Creek 2017, an off- dry Traditional method style, complex bitter-sweet cider but like most of their ciders once that vintage is gone it's gone.
I hope I’ve convinced you just a little bit at least to go and try out some of these amazing ciders. They're a bit tricky to get hold of still here in the UK, but keep an eye out in our shop, both online and at The Cider Tap, as we hope to bring you some epic guest cider selections.
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