The cool crisp air this September reminds me that I need to make plans soon. It’s time to visit some of the many New England orchards where ripe apples and craft ciders await. While I have always enjoyed a healthy slice of apple pie, the craft hard cider movement has captivated my attention to the point where I enjoy traveling and drinking as much as traveling and picking. (It should be noted for posterity that I always have a designated driver during these outings). Did you know that hard cider is the fastest growing alcoholic beverage in the US with production nearly tripling since 2011? For those of you who may want embark on a similar adventure, I’ve taken the time to highlight a few regional orchards that are pressing and crafting their own apples into delicious hard ciders. Here we go:
Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery – Located in Ashfield, MA, they offer apple picking and cider tasting. It looks like they are planning on having three ciders available for consumption and sale. The Farmhouse, an oak barrel aged cider made in the Colonial tradition of just fermenting apple juice. Their New England Hard Cider, a 12.5 ABV oak aged cider that has been infused with organic brown sugar and raisins… yes, sir may I have another! And a Hopped Hard Cider made with organic Goldings and Cascade hops grown on their own farm! This place is definitely worth the trip. Just make sure to check their calendar for picking and tasting times!
Carlson Orchards – Harvard, MA. Carlson Orchards is a wonderful family run operation that has been in the cider business for generations… odds are that, come fall, you can find a bottle of their farmstand cider in any decent supermarket in New England. New in 2018 is a launch into the hard cider market with their Oak Hill Blend hard cider, an unfiltered, cloudy, tart and semi-sweet cider full of fresh apple taste. The first test batches of this sold out very quickly from the farm in Harvard and for good reason. Carlson Orchards is also a great place for a family outing if you feel like bringing the whole gang along.
Carr’s Ciderhouse – Hadley, MA. Carr’s Ciderhouse is generally an appointment only operation, but I am listing it anyway because the husband and wife team of Jonathan Carr and Nicole Blum makes some of the best cider around. This couple owns some 2000 apple trees that they planted years ago on Mount Warner in North Hadley. From these, the Carr Ciderhouse produces some outstanding ciders including a Dabinet-Redfield Sparkling Cider as well as a pommeau fortified with apple brandy.