Asturias has a centuries old tradition of making hard cider, or sidra natural, as they call it. Based in Northern Spain, about 3 hours west of Bilbao, the region of Asturias is right on the coast and has historically been a mining region.
The Asturian cider is produced with natural yeast and does not contain added sulfites or other preservatives. The ciders are bright, dry, and citrusy with some effervescence, and they pair very nicely with all kinds of different foods.
When the time is right, we will definitely add an Asturian cider to our lineup. For now though, we are focused on our first two ciders, the Hereford and the Basque.
On December 5, 1933, Prohibition ended with the passing of the 21st amendment. Unfortunately Prohibition was the last nail in the coffin for hard cider's early history in the US. After being the drink of choice for early homesteaders and key figures of the 18th / 19th centuries, like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, cider had a steady decline from the 1890s - Prohibition.
This decline resulted from a few different things:
- Urbanization - no access to land for growing apples
- Newly arrived German immigrants introduced their beer tradition
- Grain for beer would grow in a year versus the 10 - 15 needed for apples
- Coming out of Prohibition, farmers re-planted fields into grains because they'd immediately receive a harvest.
- Beer hit the ground running after Prohibition. Cider was gonezo.
Despite the 80 year gap, cider (round II) is back up and running now though!!
Looking for a great holiday gift for a cider enthusiast?? Check out Bill Bradshaw's new book which is the most comprehensive overview of the world's ciders to date. Bill has been taking beautiful photos of the cider industry for over 10 years - some of which are captured on his blog.
Beyond the photos, this book looks at key questions, like how the cider renaissance is coincidentally taking place on different continents at the same time for different reasons.
If you recognize the photo style on our home page, it's because Bill was kind enough to take some photos this fall at Simon and Hannah's cider house!
We attended our first ever public tasting. Appropriately the venue was America's oldest cider festival, Cider Days in Western Mass, and there about 60 other cider producers also pouring. The ciders were very well received by the crowd. People were enticed by the full-flavor of our ciders and the fact that both (the Hereford and the Basque) we were pouring were still.
We also had great feedback on our logo. It's a handlettered wordmark, done by the amazing Annemarie Buckley of Scout's Honor Co in Burlington VT.
The Quebecois fellow who is reputed for developing the process for ice cider, Christian Barthomeuf, originally tried to let the apples freeze on the tree, in the same way that ice winemakers let the grapes freeze on the vines. Because apples generally drop before they are frosted, over time, ice cider makers have taken to freezing apple juice as a means of concentrating the sugars.
Well, we will have our own, partially frosted lost apples that we just picked. The apples that have turned brown are the ones that have gotten the most frost damage.
We'll track this batch of cider separately so that we can see if the partial frost changes the finished cider.
All in, the news is: winter is coming. Woo-hoo!!
This tree is in the middle of a pasture with a tall grainy grass that I could not identify. It has this (seasonally appropriate) spooky quality to it. At first I couldn't determine what was causing this spookiness, but then I realized it's because this tree is LOADED with apples but there are NO leaves. Hence the fable about the leafless tree loaded with apples is born.
Probably this tree lost its leaves due to apple scab, a fungus that is prevalent in the Northeast. We have a friend who's a student at Middlebury College and doing some research on scab. We're anxious to hear her results as she is studying some of the trees that we are studying for cider production.
This is pretty much everything that we need for a really amazing night!
MIchael Lee from Twig Farm is poised and ready to shake these apples onto the tarp. After shaking each part of the tree above the tarp, we move the apples into a pile and then place them into a box. Both the tree and the box are carefully marked with a number and sometimes a letter for tracking purposes.
We were featured this week in Seven Days, Vermont's largest weekly newspaper!
Our approach to releasing cider is similar to that of the wine industry's Négociant.
A négociant is a merchant who purchases grapes, unfermented raw grape juice, or bulk wine from a small farmer or producer and then presses, ferments, and / or bottles the wine under the their own label, and sells it.
Although our original intention was to be cidermakers, making cider from Vermont McIntosh, Empire, and Cortland apples grown by my previous employer Sunrise Orchards, we realized after 2 years of testing that this fruit would not yield the type of full-flavored cider that we enjoy most. We need traditional cider apples to make the full-flavored ciders that we love, and those apples are only grown at a very small scale in the United States and mostly by companies who also make their own cider.
We developed two solutions to this apple conundrum: plant true cider apples and find full-flavored ciders, wherever they may be in the world, and bring them to the U.S.
To the first point, our orchard partner Sunrise Orchards is helping us out by getting the first ever wholesale cider fruit orchard planted that's not managed by a cidermaker.
And to the second point, we traveled to areas where full-flavored ciders have been continuously made for centuries. Regions like Herefordshire and Somerset in England, the Basque region and Asturias in Spain, and Brittany and Normandy in France. After trying dozens and dozens of ciders and touring an equal number of cider houses, we settled on two cidermakers, who we think make two of the best ciders in the world.
And, with that, we bring you the Hereford and the Basque.
This photo, taken at the Bulmer's Cider Museum in Hereford, depicts a French beam press from 17th century. The milled fruit, which cidermakers refer to as the cheese, would've been stacked where the hay is. Then several men would've used the wheel to crank down the press and squeeze the juice out of the cheese.