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Hitting the Road with Cider Heads Around the Hudson Valley

Around 55 BC, Roman Emperor Julius Caesar discovered that Celtic Britons were making a delicious drink from native crabapples. They weren’t the first—human beings in other pockets of the globe likely began turning locally grown apples into an intoxicating drink millennia earlier.

But those pockets didn’t have a Caesar-sized mouthpiece.

It’s never a bad thing, when, in the course of shaping history, a historical figure discovers a product he loves and spreads the word about it in other parts of the world he conquers. So, in a sense, Caesar may have helped pave the way for the hard cider renaissance currently underway in the U.S.

Here in New York State, home to more than 125 licensed cideries, that not only means big flavor, it means big business. The New York Cider Association estimates that New York cideries deliver a $1.7 billion annual economic impact, with more than 6,100 direct jobs. Thousands of acres of apples are cultivated, and growers and cidermakers are defining and shaping the culture. Tastemakers around the region and in New York City are taking notice.

“The Hudson Valley has been a leader and trendsetter this time around,” says drinks expert and Hudson Valley resident Carlo DeVito, author of the 507-page Drink the Northeast: Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries. “And really, the Hudson Valley has a strong and long history of cidermaking dating back to the colonial era, when people used old English techniques to make Ciderkin or Scrumpy.”

But while Caesar may be the O.G. cider influencer, there are many others shaping the palates of contemporary cider drinkers. We reached out to a handful who know the best places to find fermented apples, and tapped them for their insights.

For more inspiration, hit the New York Cider Association’s new Cider Finder app, and with guidance from our cider experts on the next few pages plan a trip to target several cideries in a day or long weekend getaway.

And hey, if you find a new place we need to try, let us know. We’re always thirsty.


The Lower Hudson Valley

The lower Hudson Valley area encompasses Orange County and skims the border of Pennsylvania. The charming area has become a favorite destination for serious cider aficionados and locals alike.

Cideries to hit:

PENNINGS FARM CIDERY: Siblings Victoria and Stephen Pennings founded the cidery to leverage their farm roots (the farm has been in their family for four decades) while also growing a modern and economically viable model for future generations. Their high-quality, American-style hard and fresh ciders are made with orchard-grown apples, pumpkins, hops and peaches. On the weekends, there’s often live music and events, plus a killer wood-fired pizza menu.

“Pennings is my favorite date night spot,” says Adrian Luna, a mixed martial artist-turned-cider-head. He recently became one of the first 100 certified Pommeliers in history. Follow his explorations on @HardCiderGuy on social media.
“In fact, it’s the last place I took my wife before she had our baby. It’s always a good choice, and in addition to the 12 taps, they have great food and fun games.”

DOC’S DRAFT CIDER: Perched in the foothills of Warwick, the 120-acre estate offers wine (Warwick Valley Winery), spirits (Black Dirt Distillery), and operates the oldest cidery in New York (Doc’s Draft). The orchard was planted in 1990, and Doc’s Draft Cider was born in 1994. They now have one of the most diverse orchards with 65+ varieties of heirloom and modern apples. Ingredients are sourced locally, and farm-to-table scratch fare is available at their onsite café.

Doc’s Apple Cider is crafted from 10 different apples and fermented with Champagne yeast for a sophisticated and refreshing cider that has won the love of locals and the praise of critics. Check out Doc’s Pear Cider or Framboise for a delicate, fresh expression of other fruits. Beer fiends will love Doc’s Dry Hopped Cider.

SHREWD FOX BREWERY: This farm brewery offers craft ales, lagers, and artisanal cider—making it an ideal pick for anyone traveling with a group that wants options. Everything here is locally-farmed, grown, and produced without chemicals or additives. The tap rotates, but award-winning sips include the European-inspired Queens Guard (an English-style cider), Monastery (a Belgian Trappist cider), and the straight-out-of-fantasyland Zorro Astuto (aged in Tequila barrels).

Creative cider flights at Naked Flock.

NAKED FLOCK: This family-owned cidery crafts all of its cider from locally grown apples. The charming tasting room and Cider Café (open weekends)has multiple, small-batch experimental ciders and meads on tap, so visitors can always experience something different. Naked Flock is an offshoot of the popular, hyper-local Applewood Winery, and their devotion to a wide range of flavors shines through in their diverse range of estate-made beverages, and in their cocktail program, which incorporates their ciders and meads.

“Naked Flock is always whipping up super creative ciders, so I end up visiting them regularly to taste their latest creations,” says Luna.

ORCHARD HILL CIDER MILL: This premium cidery was founded back in 2011 by an actor, a musician, and a lawyer, and since then has become a hangout for locals because they love it. Critic Eric Asimov has even written about it in the New York Times. Inspired by great cider regions in Europe, and built on the legacy of the family-owned and operated apple farm Soons Orchard, the cidery creates dry, artisanal ciders made from apples grown for specifically drinking, not eating. (Eating apples are sweeter and have less structure and tannin than cider apples.)

“Orchard Hill makes an outrageous Pommeau in addition to their classic ciders,” DeVito notes. “It’s similar to an apple port, and is basically a mixture of apple brandy and fresh sweet cider. It is a fabulous aperitif, and while it’s very popular in Europe, it’s mostly a thing only cider geeks know about.”

And now, you.

While you’re there, taste:

If you want a good time with a side of killer food, head over to Eddie’s Roadhouse in Warwick. You’ll find imaginative comfort food like Deviled Cavi-Eggs (deviled eggs topped with Oscietra caviar), Fried Jerk Chicken “Sangwiches,” Miso-Maple Glazed Salmon, and more. Arlene & Tom’s in Port Jervis is another down-home family classic. Check out the daily specials (usually a mix of diner-style comfort food with a twist, like cheeseburger quesadillas).

While you’re there, check out:

Make a night of it and hit up the Warwick Drive-In. The cash-only box office and snack bar counter is a throwback in the best way.


The Mid-Hudson Valley

The Mid-Hudson encompasses some of the most popular and well-trafficked cideries in the state, given the central location and easy driving distance from Manhattan and the surrounding areas.

Cideries to hit:

BROOKLYN CIDER HOUSE: Siblings Peter and Susan Yi’s journey into cider began in the foothills of Spain’s Basque country and continued with their revitalization of Twin Star Orchards in New Paltz. At the time, they didn’t know a lot about growing apples and making cider, but in the decade since, the Brooklyn Cider House has transformed into a regional juggernaut. The pair built a cidery and tasting room, opened a farm store and created a popular line of dry, terroir-driven ciders that are revered up and down the East Coast.

BEDROCK CIDERY: Bedrock is the sister company of winery Quartz Rock Vineyard, and the focus here is on unfiltered, bottle-conditioned ciders made from the more than 20 types of apples grown onsite. You’ll find sweeter iterations like All Apple Hard Cider to creative, culinary creations like the Rye Barrel Hard Cider—a limited release aged in rye whiskey barrels that starts off orchard-crisp followed by notes of rye, malt, and earth. Wine and cider tastings are guided experiences led by knowledgeable staffers. You can also enjoy stellar Hudson River views, live music, and food pop-ups on weekends.

HUDSON VALLEY FARMHOUSE CIDER: Cidermaker Elizabeth Ryan studied cidermaking in England, so the farm-based ciders that are made here are crafted with European style and techniques, and Hudson Valley terroir. Apples are sourced locally from their orchards in New Paltz and Stone Ridge, both known for their eco-friendly farming practices and high-quality fruit. The orchards produce 100+ varieties of apples, including traditional cider varieties. Sample a range of styles in the tasting room, and snack on delicious wood-fired pizza. Check dates for their popular, cider-centric events.

Cidermaker Elizabeth Ryan focuses on European techniques and Hudson Valley terroir.

ANGRY ORCHARD: Angry Orchard in Walden is one of the largest operations in the Hudson Valley, and is celebrated for both its mass-market and cider aficionado appeal. Real cider made from real apples grown onsite, a scratch-made menu, fun tours and out-of-the box experiences (indulge in a treehouse tasting experience or an orchard walk) keep people coming back for more.

“While it’s the No. 1-selling hard cider in the country, it is also offers stellar, tasting-room only artisanal ciders,” DeVito says. “Nothing like what you’ll find at the store. Fantastic, experimental, and high-end.”

WESTWIND ORCHARDS: This artisanal cidery grows organically farmed estate fruit for all of their ciders, vinegars, jams, and seasonal dishes served onsite. Borrowing from European traditions, the team here has been planting new orchards of cider-only apples, and grafting heirloom dessert apple trees with bittersweet and bitter-sharp apples to create age-able, complex ciders. Westwind also utilizes wild cider apples, and bottle conditions the unfiltered cider without added sulfites or sugar. In addition to great ciders, here you’ll find small plates from local farms and fields (like oven roasted fingerlings with whipped lemon ricotta), local beer (West Kill Brewing and Rough Cut Brewing Company), and New York State wine (Benmarl Winery and Standing Stone Vineyards).

TREASURY CIDER: This is true tree-to-bottle Hudson Valley cider. You’ll find standouts like the Centennial, which is a mix of traditional russet and heirloom varieties, wild-fermented, unfiltered and bottle conditioned. Crisp, refreshing and citrusy, the Centennial is bone dry and ideal for warm-weather drinking. The cidery also works with local wineries to produce co-ferments. The Duet is a team effort made with Fjord Vineyards’ Cabernet Franc grapes pressed for rosé, and heirloom apples. It’s half ripe apples, half red wine, all bramble and wildness.

“I love their classic farmhouse approach to cider-making,” says Luna. “You really feel the terroir and environment around you, especially because it’s on top of a mountain and it feels so authentic.”

Find tree-to-bottle Hudson Valley ciders at Treasury Cider.

While you’re there, check out:

Rhinebeck has one of the most charming village centers in the Hudson Valley, with an array of charming boutiques and antique shops and grand Victorian estates that have been revitalized by loving owners. Visit the Wilderstein Historic Site, a Queen Anne mansion and Calvert Vaux designed landscape, or stroll Ferncliff Forest and climb the fire tower.

While you’re there, taste:

Get farm-fresh fare at Terrapin Restaurant (dine on the deck if the weather cooperates). The ever-evolving farm-to-table menu includes plenty of locally sourced beverages.
Or, eat at one of the many restaurants at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, the campus responsible for training some of the country’s most innovative and talented chefs (the late Anthony Bourdain was a graduate).


The Western Catskills

Delaware County offers outdoor adventure with lush valleys, high peaks, forests and fields, and quaint, small towns to explore.

Cideries to hit:

AWESTRUCK: Founded by a group of cider obsessives who are as enthralled with hard work and good times as they are by complex hard ciders, Awestruck offers unique taproom experiences in Sidney and Walton, with indoor and outdoor seating. You’ll find innovative ciders like Dry Apple + Oak (a lightly oaked cider with a hint of toastiness), Apples & Pears (orchard besties together in an enchanting sip), and Snakebites (their Apples & Pears cider blended with Northway Brewing’s Avenue of the Pines beer). There is plenty of great food to sample too, from Mac & Cheese Bites to Chicken Alfredo Flatbread.

Sample great food and innovative ciders at Awestruck.

SEMINARY HILL ORCHARD & CIDERY: The sleek cidery in Callicoon takes pride in creating cider from organically grown local apples. Seminary Hill is also the world’s first Passive House-certified cidery. The classic, bank-barn-style cidery is perched on 12 acres of orchards overlooking the Delaware River. There are more than 60 varieties of apples and pears grown onsite, and visitors can take part in tours, tastings, and meals at the full-service restaurant. Or book a room for a longer stay.

“Seminary Hill is a destination for its cider and its gorgeous space,” says Damin Sawyer, who runs @BoneAndBottleReviews, which
showcases his adventures tasting ciders and chicken wings. “It’s an upscale experience, with a piano in the tap room and some of the best
views in the Valley. They also take their food and cider pairings very seriously.”

Enjoy the views and the food at upscale Seminary Hill. Photo: Daniel Schwartz

 

While you’re there, check out:

On a trip to this stunning area, you’d be remiss to not take advantage of its many other charms. Along your drive you’ll find farm stands and boutiques, but be sure to venture along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, considered one of the most beautiful roads in the country.

While you’re there, taste:

The Bavaria Restaurant in Sidney has become a cult favorite for authentic, seasonally driven Bavarian cuisine. Think mini potato pancakes and sauerbraten finished with erdbeersahnetorte (layered sponge cake with strawberry mousse).


Around the Capital District

This region is booming thanks to its proximity to the state capital of Albany. There are dozens of excellent restaurants and breweries to visit, and a young, dynamic energy driving the culture here.

Cideries to hit:

NINE PIN CIDER: This urban cidery in Albany offers 18 taps, with a rotating selection of 9 premium and limited, small-batch ciders, alongside other local beers and cocktails. You can pair cider with gourmet sourdough pizza and small plates like pulled pork nachos, empanadas, and Bavarian pretzels. Nine Pin offers fun events too, like Monday Date Nights and Friday Night Wing Nights.

“Nine Pin is really fun because while they use all locally grown apples, the fact that it’s in Albanysets it apart,” Luna says. “It also offers an open look at their production facility, which you don’t always find with cideries. And I love their lighter 100-calorie cider options, which make for a great nightcap.”

INDIAN LADDER FARMS CIDERY & BREWERY: This farmhouse destination is located at the foot of the Helderberg Escarpment, surrounded by fields of apple trees. The cidery started small in 2016, but word spread quickly and the project grew.

In addition to artisanal ciders, you’ll find a Biergarten that hosts live music, fire pits, and great views of the farms and hop yard. The farm grows fresh produce and offers locally-made products in its farm store. The bakery has become a magnet for its cider donuts and other goodies, including honey from bees that pollinate their orchard.

“They offer great tours there, and have great flights,” Damin says. “When the sun is out, check out the outdoor seating area, because you really get a feel for what goes into the ciders.”

HELDERBERG MEADWORKS: This award-winning craft meadery and cidery uses all local and raw ingredients. Curious drinkers will also appreciate the braggot, a beer and mead hybrid made with grains and hops. The team at Helderberg began making cider to create semi-dry expressions that echo the experience of biting into a fresh, crisp apple. Their versions are imaginative and whimsical, from the Maple Cider to the best-selling Cherry Cider.

You can visit Helderberg Meadworks in Esperance or their satellite Meadhall in Troy. Viking aficionados will embrace the all-things-Nordic vibe at both—from traditional mead to the enthusiastic rabble-rousing. Their summer Mead Weekend is a must-do event.

Visit Helderberg in Esperance or their Troy tasting room.

ROCKLAND CIDER WORKS: Rockland Cider Works was born on Van Houten Farms, which has been a community staple in Rockland since 1946. Adding the cidery was a way to honor their roots, while preparing the family farm for the future.

The dry hard cider is made from all New York apples, and is naturally gluten-free with no added sugar. Alongside great cider, you’ll find a selection of local cheese and meats, with frequent food truck pop-ups. On the weekends, there is also live music.

SCRUMPY EWE CIDER: This cidery makes artisanal hand-crafted dry cider from their own estate apples and long-term growing partners in the Finger Lakes. Apples are hand-picked, and are sometimes used as stand-alone varietals, or part of strategic blends. Ryan McGiver, the proprietor, orchardist and pommelier running the operation, began planting European and American heirloom cider varieties in three test orchards in Schoharie County more than a decade ago.

He now nurtures 800+ trees, with 17 cider varieties tended by a flock of Jacob sheep and Sebastopol geese providing natural fertilizer and weed control. Scrumpy Ewe ages in stainless steel tanks and / or barrels for 6 weeks to 16 months.

“Ryan is so in tune with his orchard and animals,” observes Damin. “And the tasting room itself is small and quaint, even though it’s fairly new. I love how high-tannin his ciders are, and he always has a great selection of local meats and cheeses too.

While you’re in the area, check out:

Strap on our hiking boots and head over to Thacher Park in Voorhesville, with 13 miles of hiking trails, or hit up the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, one of the best places to bird-watch, hike and learn about nature.

While you’re there, taste:

If you’re in the mood for a rarefied brunch experience, head straight to the Iron Gate Café in Albany. Perched in a mansion with plenty of outdoor seating, you’ll find fantastic breakfast cocktails and spine-stiffening fare like the Elvis Memphis Scramble (three eggs with bacon, sausage, green peppers and onions, pepper jack hollandaise, grilled cornbread and home fries). Just need a quick snack? Cider Belly Donuts serves up scratch-made fun, seasonal treats (like Blueberry Pineapple Margarita and Peach Cobbler).


Now it’s your turn to explore and taste the variety of styles, flavors, single varietals and blends—while enjoying a day of culture, incredible food and views for days in the country. Start here with the New York Cider Trail App as your GPS-friendly guide, and see where you end up.

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