This past Saturday, I bundled some friends who happen to be fellow cider nerds into the car to make the trek up to Albany for the Fourth Annual Gathering of the Farm Cideries. For a little background, this is a New York even that Nine Pin hosts yearly to celebrate the birthday of their own business, but also to celebrate a whole generation of young NY cideries that operate under New York's Farm Cidery license. Nine Pin was the first to open as an official NY Farm Cidery, so it makes all the sense in the world that they gather everyone to Albany. I love that these cider companies are forming a community and sharing their huge range of beverages with the public together. This is crucial cider education!
Each year, more cideries work under this license and are thus eligible to take part. This year around 17 cider companies participated by setting up a table, sampling, introducing and selling their ciders under one warehouse roof. That's one of the things I love about the gathering. Some of these operations are either quite young or quite small, and many self distribute to a very limited local area. This may be the only chance many people have to buy anything from Roger's Cideryard(https://www.facebook.com/RogersCideryard/), and it was assuredly my first tasting with Ithaca's newest cider producer: New York Cider Co. (https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkCiderCompany/).
When we arrived, about 20 minutes after doors were due to open, there was already a line stretching around the corner from the cidery's entrance. One of the things to note about Ninepin is their extensive and agile menu of limited release ciders. Several of these are only ever available in their tap room and only around for a short time. These run the gamut from this year's Ashmead's Kernel single-varietal to the wildly inventive such as their Blueberry Peach Cobbler. And I think their adventurousness has rubbed off on Albany's cider scene more generally, hence the folks waiting for doors to open on Saturday.
Once inside I tasted and chatted and listened to what other folks were saying about the sold-out event.
I didn't get to try everything; I never manage to, but I did find several things to take home. But here are four highlights of what I did get to try.
Nine Pin Ciderworks,
This is a soon to be officially released cider and it was astounding! Cascara is the berry of the coffee plant, but this cider struck me as tart and spicy more than anything else. This cider is the result of a collaboration between Nine Pin and Joe Bean Coffee Roasters. It uses Cascara Coffee Cherry Tea and the hulks of Bolivian Cascara fermented with New York State Apples. I bought a four pack of cans to take home because this spicy, fruity, high acid cider exhibits what I love about experimental ciders. The apple flavor remains present but does something new with these additional flavors.
Here's a link to Joe Bean and Nine Pin's Release party coming up soon on February 24th: https://www.facebook.com/events/147819415930296/
The official description reads:
A careful mix of apples from our family orchard, Fishkill Farms, was selected to make the hard cider in this bottle. Heirloom varieties, proper harvest timing, ecological farming, and traditional wine-making methods all come together in our cider. Our name is an homage to the farm's founder Henry Morenthau Jr., who served as Secretary of the Treasury under FDR. It also celebrates the revival of hard cider in America.
Other descriptors include, “Dry and unfiltered / orchard cider / traditional method” and a list of apples, “Hyslop crab / Granny Smith / Pink Lady / Old-Growth Golden Delicious / Jonamac”
Wow! Just wow! I've had other ciders by this maker, but nothing in the past year. They've really matured and this cider shows their best qualities. Yes, I'm fond of a cider with crab apples, but the maker has to do know what to do with them. Treasury Cider certainly does!
I love their introduction to this cider.
Think of lavender and you imagine rows of sun-kissed purple, with a gentle scent of Mediterranean summer evenings. Our Lavender Hops is created to capture the same sensation of warm, fragrant summertime. We infuse our traditional hard cider with a secret blend of hops and sweet lavender. This adds a mildly bitter complexity which, together with the citrus and floral undertones, combines to produce a unique flavour. Like a summer evening, Lavender Hops is mellow - perfect for cider and beer drinkers alike
This one sold out entirely at the event! I loved it and one of my cider compatriots did too. The lavender tastes herbal without being soapy. The cider has zesty high acid that always goes well with hops. Its a balanced and full bodied cider. Other fruit notes were tropical fruit and berries.
Descendant Cider Co.
The limited release Descendant Dry is introduced like this by the cidery,
DESCENDANT DRY (6.9%) - 2016 Harvest availableDry" has strong ripe apple aromas and bright acidity balanced with bittersweet tannin. It is medium body and bone dry. It also has bright appearance as a result of the aging process.
What I like about this cider is both its body and its balance. It has some zesty acidity, mild astringence, and soft tannins. It also had some floral and spicy characteristics that really add to its complexity. Yum! I also picked up a few of their other ciders for future tasting.
Overall, it was a wonderful day. Yes, there were cider donuts! Nine Pin Ciderworks really knows how to host this event well. They managed a big crowd and avoided many of the common pitfalls to such events. I had a fantastic time and only wish I could visit these cider folks more often.