From Orchard to Bottle: The High Country’s Cider Culture


From Orchard to Bottle High Countrys Cider Culture

Cider making begins by cultivating orchards with varieties known to yield delicious tasting cider, then harvesting those apples to begin the fermentation process.

Remember that while temperance turned from moderation to teetotaling, it did not eliminate hard cider as a beverage choice – rather, whiskey, vodka and beer became easier to produce than hard cider production.

The History of Cider

Cider is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, dating back to Roman times. It became increasingly popular throughout Western Europe and England where it remains one of the world’s most consumed hard cider beverages. Emigrants from these regions brought with them cider apple trees and brewing practices when they moved to America during the 17th and 18th centuries – eventually making cider one of our most common drinks!

However, cider gradually lost favor. A combination of factors – from industrialization and immigration reforms, through changing demographics and Temperance movement, to beer drinking’s growth as a widespread practice – contributed to its decline. By Prohibition’s end production had declined to 13 million gallons.

Cider has recently seen a surge in interest, becoming one of the fastest-growing segments in the alcohol industry. Cider makers across the nation are rediscovering this forgotten beverage by creating everything from fruity sweet varieties to dry barrel-aged products.

Cider-making begins in orchards. Apples are collected by hand-picking or crushed using a wheel that rotates around troughs to break up pieces into pulp before pressing for yielding liquid that can then be stored for fermentation and aging in barrels.

Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of cideries taking advantage of local fruit and botanicals to craft delicious beverages. Some, like Angry Orchard, feature exotic tropical fruits like pineapple or mango in their ciders; Treasury Cider co-ferments heirloom apple varieties with Montmorency and Emperor Francis cherries from Dutchess County farms to craft Counterpane, an irresistibly delicious sparkling rose cider.

Other houses specialize in blending old-style varieties and experimenting with various flavors, using the one-carboy-per-experiment rule to quickly assess whether an idea will work before committing to larger batches. A busy tasting room also gives immediate and valuable feedback on new blends; Cider Sangria is one such blend, consisting of Chancellor, Traminette, Concord grapes as well as New York apples with subtle orange citrus to create its distinctive character.

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The Apple Varieties

Apple breeders must carefully consider all of the ideal characteristics required for producing both sweet and hard cider when choosing which varieties to cultivate, including sweetness, acidity, phenolics (acid and tannin content) and juiciness. Each variety also possesses its own distinct flavors and aromas – thus the many variations available today.

Sourcing cider is an inexact science, similar to winemaking in that local terroir, climate and growing seasons all play an essential role. For instance, apple trees grown in England’s West Country produce sweeter fruit than those in the Midwest due to lower acidity levels, creating lighter fruitier cider that ferments easier.

Cidermakers create ciders that reflect local flavor profiles, as well as capture moments in time, by drawing inspiration from their surroundings and using local apples as raw material for blends, spices and pears – with over 1,000 varieties being grown across America for eating or cider production alone!

Scott first discovered Montezuma County’s historic orchards while training for ultramarathons on its dusty county roads, where he found thousands of acres with diverse fruit that had largely been ignored by modern commercial orchards. Scott used this fruit when starting EsoTerra Cidery; their apple harvest has resulted in more than two dozen small batch options such as Plum Rose (made from blue plums for tart blush cider) and Hoppy Passion (fermented using Amarillo hops).

Colorado’s prolific cider producers produce an array of ciders made exclusively from locally sourced apples, many of them heritage varieties once popular in Colorado’s orchard industry. Schuenemeyer and his wife Addie collaborate with local farmers and dig through old county fair records in search of rare varieties like Colorado Orange that are becoming rediscovered favorites with new generations discovering their distinct taste and versatility.

The Brewing Process

Hudson Valley apple-focused ciders are an intriguing study in regional terroir, featuring minimal intervention and unique flavor profiles. Seminary Hill Cider offers an exquisite facility and tasting room, built to Passive standard standards and with views overlooking the Delaware River in New Paltz. Here they use both wild yeast and white wine yeast for fermentation; their apples come from local orchards. Each one of their 12 cider varieties – such as O Tannin Bomb and Beechwoods – boast low or no sugar levels for optimal production.

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Cider was more popular than either whiskey or beer during the 1800s in many areas of America, making it the beverage of choice in stories like Rip Van Winkle’s. Unfortunately, several unrelated factors combined to destroy most cider production and consumption: (1) Industrial Revolution encouraged families to move cities where jobs and cheaper food could be found more readily, while (2) temperance movement/Prohibition outlawed hard cider production while forcing farmers to either burn down or cut down trees that produced it.

Few cider makers remain, but those that do are constantly evolving the drink. While some follow tradition, others use innovative techniques like adding additional fruits or botanicals for complex flavor profiles in their ciders.

At Harmony Orchards in Washington State, owner Craig Campbell takes great pleasure in producing the highest-quality apples. Not afraid of trying anything new – including changing how he irrigates his 400 acres and changing strains of apple plants he grows – he’s committed to producing only top quality produce.

While committed to traditional farming practices, he understands that farms must adapt with science, climate and consumer demand. That’s why he’s working toward producing certified organic cider at his third-generation family farm using apples grown by both grandfather and father.

Colorado cideries have experienced enormous success, selling their products both locally and nationally. While larger operations like Twin Star Orchards in Hotchkiss produce large-scale, national sales operations, there are also many smaller operations with local ingredients and quality in mind, like Twin Star Orchards of Hotchkiss producing unique ciders from its orchards – such as Ginger Cider which contains real ginger root and orange peel as well as Hoppy Passion featuring whole Amarillo hops – that specialize in crafting unique ciders just for their orchards!

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The Taste

At cidermakers have become adept at experimenting with flavors. While apples remain the primary component, most producers offer a flavored bottling to cater to thirstier and more adventurous drinkers who are discovering this genre. Such additions may include black currants, blueberries, orange citrus peel or even hibiscus flowers – usually through co-fermentation – so as not to overpower its base pomme-fruit character; creating an effective balance of fruit notes but still leaving behind a crisp mineral finish.

Flavored ciders are helping expand the cider drinking public’s palette, with an exciting and diverse flavor range, combined with an increasing interest in healthful drinking, driving growth in this category and breaking through to new drinkers.

Cider makers must be wary when adding flavors to their cider because they must not dilute or overpower its signature apple taste. Yet they have quickly taken advantage of local fruits and vegetables to add unique seasonal notes that complement apple-based beverages; one successful example being Junction Orchard & Cidery in Yamhill, OR which has created its Cider Sangria with grape varieties such as Traminette, Chancellor and Concord to create a refreshing sweet-and-tart summer sipper.

Many smaller producers can provide experimental ciders to their patrons in their tasting rooms for immediate feedback on what works and doesn’t work, allowing for immediate assessment of what might become crowd favorites or Limited Release category ciders as these small batch trials gain popularity and gain market acceptance.

Larger producers are pushing the envelope when it comes to flavors and styles available in their ciders. Many have introduced bolder, higher ABV variants in order to engage and challenge mainstream consumer palates; examples being Angry Orchard Tropical Fruit Cider and Peach Mango Cider from these innovations.

Big-name producers are driving interest with an expanding lineup of heritage ciders, defined by the USACM as those made with traditional bittersweet or bittersharp apples, older heirloom varieties, wild-foraged fruit and crab apples. Their aim is to showcase this historic beverage’s complexity while supporting its revival in US markets.