Sunday, November 10, 2013

Franklin County Cider Days 2013: A Few Photos and Highlights

Starting with a maple tree and not with apples? Sacrilege, I know, but I wanted to share the amazing atmosphere and weather that attendees of Franklin County Cider Days enjoyed. It was perfect, and all of the locations I saw were beautiful. I enjoyed the town of Shelburne Falls so very much with its cute local shops and classic rural MA houses and amazing fall foliage. It made a great setting for Franklin County Cider Days.

I'd been looking forward to this weekend full of cider events for a few months, and it did not disappoint. People were friendly, informative, and welcoming. I learned so much about cider and good event planning from this brilliant weekend, and I didn't get to see half of all the amazing events that had been put together. I recommend Franklin County Cider Days to any cider enthusiast. It is a mandatory event for professionals in any aspect of the industry. Next year will be the 20th annual Cider Days weekend, and I hope to see you all there.

The home brewers event was my first event of the weekend. People sampled home brewed cider, and discussed it. Judges critiqued and compared the ciders and folks got into the nitty gritty of fermentation science, fruit selection, and all sorts of facets to home brewing great cider. Since I've never made my own cider, I felt like an observer and not a participant, but this was a great window into a thriving and vibrant community that is clearly producing all kinds of interesting cider.

This picture is from the amazing apple table. At the marketplace, one vendor set this up and allowed people to taste from dozens and dozens of unusual and heritage types of apples. I must have fallen in love about ten times. This is a must try event for everyone because I know of no other way to try so many rare apples. It was amazing.

 Another fun thing worth mentioning, is the cool companies who represented their work in fun ways. I love this vehicle modification for the Urban Farm Fermentary, and though I didn't get a picture, Citizen Cider made a real impression by having a cadre of their folks all wearing the same cool shirt. This is a great opportunity for brands to build up enthusiasm before the Cider Salon, and it really added to the atmosphere.

The Cider Salon

Attending the Cider Salon has to be a highlight for almost everyone who comes to Franklin County Cider Days. It is one of the largest cider tastings that occurs anywhere with more than  75 cider producers and a handful of intrepid cider importers as well. The event is so popular that it has to be divided into two tasting sessions because the tent won't hold enough people for everyone to taste at once. Even with two sessions, people are crushed a bit. My brave companion and I attempted to work counter clockwise through the room, but didn't make it to all the tables. All the more reason to attend again next year.

I attended the second session and tasted ciders from all parts of the United States and a few from Canada, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom. We got a tasting booklet with information on all of the companies who sent cider which helped guide our tasting choices. There were simply too many ciders there to taste them all. It was a cider lover's dream. I learned so much in that hour and a half and recalibrated my palate tremendously. For anyone who fears cellar blindness (changed expectations of cider because of much familiarity with one brand or style) this is exactly the kind of event to fix that.

The volunteers were crucial to making this work, and they poured with enthusiasm and good humor. Many thanks to them. They were facing a lot of empty glasses in those two sessions.

The Harvest Supper

Right after the Salon, we made our way to the Harvest Supper. Everyone sat at long tables in the Shelburne Buckland Community Center and made friends with our tablemates (or already had enough cider buddies to fill a table). Volunteers served us delicious food. I'll include the official description of the meal and menu for the sake of accuracy.

"The 2013 CiderDays Harvest Supper was held from 7 to 9pm on Saturday, November 2nd, and includes seasonal savory and sweet New England themed cuisine. Chef Paul Correnty celebrates the fall harvest by incorporating as many local ingredients as possible into our annual feast."

The 2013 Menu
On the Table Appetizers
: White bean and garlic dip with rustic bread from El Jardin Bakery
Seared sesame tuna with Real Pickles

Cup of Chunky Harvest Vegetable Soup

: Late Autumn Greens with Cider Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne with Rosado Sauce and a side 
of Italian sausage
Apple Crisp with Bart's ginger ice cream and cider syrup 
from New Salem Orchards and Preserves 

And much cider left over from the Salon was poured and enjoyed. I especially liked the soup and salad, but everything was lovely. The meat eaters at our table spoke highly of the Italian sausage, and I will vouch for everything else. I left well stuffed and well cidered and very satisfied.

Spanish Cider Tasting

Because my schedule had some limitations, I just got to try one event on Sunday, the Spanish Cider Tasting. This was led by James Asbel who has been inporting Spanish ciders for three decades as Ciders of Spain. He did a fantastic job along with two featured tasters and a moderator and of course a selection of 5 Spanish ciders that ranged from the genteel to the wild.

This event was a must attend for me because I feel like the Spanish style of cider that frequently focuses on acidity and funk without pronounced tannins is a weak spot in my range of cider experience. This tasting really contextualized Spanish ciders for me and, better yet, showed everyone who attended a range within the style. Sidras vary. Some are more woody, some have sparkle while others do not. Some are produced with the intention of export, others are not. The event deserves its own entry; I took copious notes. But I'll only make it an entry if it seems like someone besides me would find interesting. In any case, the event was marvelous and so educational.

Sadly, I had to leave after that and drive back home. But Franklin County Cider Days was an amazing experience that I cannot wait to repeat next year!