Cider is experiencing a renaissance in the U.S. By cider, we’re referring to hard cider, fermented apple juice, not the fresh-pressed sweet brown juice sold in plastic jugs in the fall (which we also love, particularly if it’s that ever-more-rare unpasteurized stuff). Hard cider’s golden age in America was colonial times, when it was easily made at home, on the farm. Interest died out long ago, and only very recently has America’s interest in hard cider been piqued. Now it seems as if every major brewery has a bottled cider offering. They tend to be sweet and simple, with flavors that lean more towards Jolly Ranchers than real apples.
But it’s not just the mass-market ciders that are hitting the big time. Small producers are making serious cider, dry and complex, using apples more suited to fermenting than eating. One of our favorite cider-makers is Farnum Hill Ciders in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Farnum Hill is made by Poverty Lane Orchards, which refers to itself as “a 21st-century apple farm with a 19th-century variety mix.” Many of the apples they grow are “weird-tasting” (their words) cider apples. Check out this partial list, with tasting notes, of their apples. Fascinating!
Farnum Hill’s bottled ciders are produced from blends of apples or, occasionally, single varieties. (They also, on occasion, make perry, made from pears. Very good and interesting, too, but don’t call it cider.) The ciders vary in taste but the one thing they all have in common is dryness. As they say, “none of our ciders is ever sweet. They range from radically dry to plenty dry.” Many of them are quite tannic, and very aromatic. Some are sparkling, some still. Most, in our experience, are wonderful with food.
What’s especially fun are the Dooryard Ciders. Some of these are bottled but most are available in kegs. What you do is stop by the farm, bring a half-gallon growler or buy one there, and taste from the kegs they’ve tapped that day. Sometimes the cider is familiar in taste, sometimes it dances on the fringes, but if you love good cider, it’s always interesting. You can find the details of each dooryard blend online. After you’ve decided on a cider they’ll fill up your growler, maybe hand you a fresh apple, and send you on your way. Talk about farm to table!98 Poverty Lane Lebanon NH 03766 603-448-1511 Farnum Hill Cider’s Website Farnum Hill Cider on Facebook