Introducing Cider Grown. Cider by Cider Apples.

Some months back, not all that many actually, a few cider makers gathered for a hang in the bucolic lairs of Poverty Lane Orchards, home of fancy cider fruit and delectable Farnum Hill Ciders.  There was talk about the biz, sharing of ciders, and constructive discourse about the lay of the land for different layers of the cider market in the the United States.

One thing that struck us at the meeting was the general consensus among us, that only a tiny sliver of folks actually understand the differences between ciders.  And that drier ciders made in a wine-style fashion with fruit grown for the purpose of making cider seemed pretty new to the vast amount of consumers.   On a positive note though, there was also agreement among the table that these newbies were growing fast, and that there was a growing hunger and appreciation for these drier ciders.

So how do we help educate consumers and folks in the trade about these more orchard-based ciders?  We came up with the idea of showcasing the work of top cider makers, in an easy package, at a price point that doesn’t break the bank.  And thus “Cider Grown” was born.  Again not all that long ago.

So what the heck is “Cider Grown”?  Well you can visit the shiny new website for more info (www.cidergrown.com) but in the meantime I can rattle off the bullet points.

The Cider Grown philosophy:  Orchards + Patience make Cider Grown Ciders.  Basically, choose the right fruit, in this case apples high in tannins, acidity, and sugar.  Press this fruit when fully ripe and ferment with care.  Allow aging for flavors and complexity.  The same approach a winemaker takes when harvesting grapes.  Except their bottles sometimes sell for $100/bottle for some of the exclusive wineries.

The first release from Cider Grown is a “Cider Grown New England” collaboration.  This initial offering showcases three like-minded cideries in New England: Farnum Hill Ciders (NH), Eden Specialty Ciders (VT), and Stormalong (MA).  We all put together blends of our ciders that we felt showcased the cider fruit we have been espousing.  These ciders were then canned and organized into 4 packs.  One can from each cider maker, with the 4th can being a blend from all three cideries.

The stuff has been a constant in my fridge, and I would encourage you to grab a 4 pack where you can.  It’s a limited release, and these ciders are all one-of-a-kind.  Grab a 4 pack and share it amongst friends.  That’s the best way, it allows you to taste the differences between the 4 cans in a more profound manner.  You can start to understand and taste the nuances of the apple blends and techniques.

For those in the NYC area, feel free to join us Friday night, Oct 27th at Wassail in Manhattan.  We’ll have samples of Cider Grown for your tasting pleasure with a great group of folks and cider centrics in house.  All of us Stormalong lads will be there, as well as Mr. Steve Wood and Eleanor Leger of Eden fame.  WASSAIL!



A fine day for a cider.

The summer days have been pretty magnificent lately; that bluebird New England sky coupled with the earthy smell of leaf laden soil in the air.  Just a hint of Fall coming on now, but we’ll be sweltering still for a spell.  This dramatic change in season was something I dearly missed in my previous California days.  I can’t say I absolutely prefer one over the other as they both have their highlights.

In the words of troubadour Conor Oberst, “the story is in the soil.”  The transformative sway of the seasons from bustling green to dormant white greatly influences the fruit we pull from the ground around these parts.  That’s the first part of the equation.  I can sit here and rattle off name after name of apples that most have never experienced.  There are a ridiculous amount of apple cultivars out there in the world.  After much trial and error, I have narrowed my quest as a cider maker down to about 25 different varieties of these selected apples that we both grow and chase throughout New England.  Apples are pretty cool, the weird ones especially.

After spending the last several months pouring our ciders down the throats of thousands of potential customers at farmer’s markets, festivals, and other engagements, I have come to a few conclusions.  First off, the vast majority of people in our orbit have not experienced ciders made with a higher concentration of bittersweet apples.  We also find that a fair amount of folks assume that cider is not their favorite libation perhaps linked to a sickly sweet misadventure of their youth.

Secondly, we pour them a sample of Legendary Dry, they sip it down, ponder for a moment and typically respond, “Huh, I actually like this.”  Yep, thought you might.  Of course taste buds are all over the map, and we also experience those who prefer sweet or other alternatives.  There is also a pretty good contingency of cider initiated folks that are already fans of the category but may be new to  “wine” style made ciders.

I was recently in a meeting with 2 other cider producers and heard an excellent description from one of them regarding the world of cider.

Wine Style Cider: Cider made out of apples in the same way winemakers make wine out of grapes.  The process is pretty hands off with the use of whole fruit and no additonal ingredients.

Kitchen Style Cider: Cider made more like a chef would approach making a dish.  The base is made out of cider, and then the cider maker adds additional ingredients – Cranberries, Cherries, Spices, Ginger, Hot Peppers (can’t say I’m a fan of the hot pepper thing), etc.  This style highlights the ingredients with the cider serving a supporting role.

The world of cider is all over the place in America currently.  That’s not a good or bad thing.  But it is evident from our observations, that educating consumers about the differences is crucial.  If they can’t navigate the choices, then one good experience and one bad experience will probably add up to a negative overall.  There are plenty of folks that are fans of kitchen style ciders, we make a dry hopped cider and I quite like it.  It seems to me anyways, interest in kitchen style cider is similar in context to the endless choices in craft beer these days.

Twenty some odd years ago Pete’s Wicked Ale and Sam Boston Lager were revolutionary.  The choice for consumers was between clear beer and brown beer.  It has taken craft beer over two decades to evolve.  Cider is maybe 4 years into it’s renaissance.  And it’s also good to remember that with all the wackiness, over 50% of craft beer is sold as India Pale Ales.  My point is that people like to experiment in craft beer, but they overall drink more of their preferred I.P.A.s.  Cider gets included in a lot of craft beer comparisons which is good for context, but pigeonholes cider as well.  This brings us back to wine style cider.  If you’re primarily a wine lover, the more wine style ciders will most likely be more appealing to your taste buds.

We have huddled under our 10 x 10 canopies pouring ciders and chatting with the curious, chipper, and cagey.  We have seen hearts and minds change, and it is always a delight for us to brighten up someone’s day with a sip of something pleasurable.  As a cautionary tale however, we hear an awful lot of feedback from folks that their initial impression of cider overall hinged on a few bad experiences.  These bad experiences could have resulted from a response to some crappy cider.  Let’s face it, there is some crappy stuff out there.  But just as plausible, the negative experience could likely have come from a misunderstanding of what the liquid was they were about the ingest.  If this same individual was able to understand and navigate the world of cider better, than the odds would be much better for a positive experience.

In some ways over the last 4 to 5 years we have gotten ahead of ourselves in our little world of cider.  With good intentions and a healthy dose of creativity, the market has been bombarded with too many choices lacking a foundation for consumers as well as cider makers to fully grasp.  As much as we might pat ourselves on the back as a cider community in America, we really have just started to understand what the heck we’re doing.   We don’t have our Boston Lager, or our Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that has paved the way.  We don’t have centuries of cider making experience like those in Normandy or Asturias.  But, that’s not all bad, I like the fact that we’re building from the ground up and putting our own spin on things like we tend to do in America.

With the soil, seasons, and fruit I alluded to earlier here in New England, we are distinctly “apple” advantaged in our neck of the woods.  There are some amazing varieties of apples here that we need to acknowledge, encourage, and grow.  For example, there is a lovely little crabapple called “Wickson” that is pretty much like a delicious sour patch kid when eating out of hand.  Mouth puckering acidity coupled with a dense sweetness.  These apples ferment and age into something that can give a finely crafted white wine a run for it’s money.  You take these acid bombs and combine them with the tannic rich bittersweet apples we have been lucky enough to ferment, and damn that’s some good stuff.  The point is, there is a whole world of wine style ciders of which Americans have barely scratched the surface.

For our part, we’ll continue to work on this more wine style of the fence.  That doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate and acknowledge kitchen style ciders.  If cider is going to continue to grow and truly become its own unique category independent of wine or beer, we believe it is important to support and educate about both sides of the fence.  It’s not based on some high and mighty position.  It is primarily based on the feedback from the thousands of smiling faces with whom we have shared our cider with over the summer days.

Welcome to our new home(S)

Greetings cider seekers, apple evangelists, and curiousity driven travelers. You have arrived at the new improved world wide web home of Stormalong Cider. There has been much activity behind the scenes and we are now ready to open the curtains. On our new website we will showcase all of our ciders and provide timely updates through the news section with the latest and greatest. We will also delve deeper into the history of hard cider in Sherborn, MA.  There is a wealth of information we have been studying and exploring with regards to the Holbrook Cider Mill that produced over 1 million gallons of hard cider in the early 1900’s. It is fascinating to learn more about this storied past and understand the ways it connects to the present. Additionally we have finally launched our online store and you will now be able to order our cider directly to your door! Well at least in most States. For those searching for our cider in stores, we are currently distributed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The locator section of our website has a pretty accurate list of stores, bars, and restaurants that carry our products. Please feel free to reach out through email, your social media communicator of choice, and visit with us at events and tastings posted.