The apotheosis of the apple

Hard cider was once made and consumed throughout the country, but due to temperance politics and Prohibition, it eventually became a historical curiosity. Now, however, the beverage is making a comeback, featured in bars and restaurants all over the area, and regional promoters of the product have declared October 12 through 21 to be Cider Week in New York.

The celebration will be marked with a variety of events and hard cider tastings. The Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market at 61 East Market Street will hold a hard cider tasting on Sunday, October 14 at 11 a.m., featuring hard cider from Doc’s Draft of Warwick and Breezy Hill Orchard’s Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider, along with fall fruit crepes and hard cider sauce by chef Daniel Gendron. For more information, visit www.rhinebeckfarmersmarket.com or just stop by the Market.

On the same day, Sunday, October 14, the Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville will hold a cider-and-cheese-tasting from 2 to 4 p.m., with a selection of six or more Hudson Valley ciders paired with local farmstead cheeses. Andy Brennan from Aaron Burr Cider and other cidermakers will talk about the history of cider and share their passion and knowledge. The cost is $25 per person. For more information, visit www.aromathymebistro.com or call (845) 647-3000.

On Friday, October 19 at the Peekamoose Restaurant in Big Indian, they’ll have a three-course tasting menu in the taproom featuring hard cider, both in the preparation of the foods and as a beverage to go with them. The cost is $40 per person, including dessert. For more information, visit www.peekamooserestaurant.com or call (845) 254-6500.

Also on Friday, October 19, Hudson Wine Merchants in Hudson will hold a tasting of Warwick Valley cider and spirits, presenting Chris Carbone from Warwick Valley Spirits, who will offer several options from its line of hard ciders to sample, and will have bottles available for purchase. For more information, visit www.hudsonwinemerchants.com.

So, for the uninitiated, what is hard cider, anyway? According to the cider experts at www.ciderweekny.com, the word “cider” means fermented apple juice, just as the word “wine” means fermented grape juice. Hard cider is frequently confused with beer, but real cider isn’t brewed. There is no grain and no cooking involved.

“Serious” cider is all apple juice, they say, pressed from apple varieties that you would never eat or cook with. Cider apples contain high levels of sugar or acid (too sour-tasting to eat) or can even be bitter. Many of the ciders are made by blending apples containing several of these elements. Climate and soil conditions play their parts, too.

In the interest of doing proper research when writing, I tried the hard cider made by Doc’s Draft in Warwick. I’d never tried hard cider before, and have no idea where I got my preconceptions from, but I have to say that it tasted nothing like I thought it would. I expected to pour out a thick and pulpy beverage from the bottle – one that would taste sweet and be dark brown in color, and maybe beerlike in taste. The reality was a crisp and effervescent beverage much like a sparkling wine, with a beautiful clear pale yellow color and a rich essence of apple flavor without being overly sweet: very refreshing – and by the way, very reasonably priced as well. I’ll definitely finish the bottle, and try another maker’s cider soon.

I’ll have lots of options to choose from: Doc’s Draft is one of many hard cidermakers in the region. Clintondale has Bad Seed Cider, and Staatsburg can boast of Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider, made without sulphites, produced by Breezy Hill Orchard. Aaron Burr Cider in Wurtsboro is produced from a small homestead farm dating to the early 1800s, and Kettleborough Cider House in New Paltz is a newcomer to the field: an estate cidery set to launch this fall.

So check out the Cider Week website, www.ciderweekny.com, for more events and information about hard cider, and ride the wave of the so-old-it’s-new-again beverage that’s coming to your town, and soon.

Visit www.ciderweekny.com for a list of local restaurants that serve hard cider, as well as cider-related tastings and events in the Hudson Valley. The Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market will hold a tasting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 14; the Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville will have a cider-and-cheese-tasting for $25 on Sunday, October 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.; the Peekamoose Restaurant in Big Indian will have a three-course tasting menu featuring hard cider in the preparation of the foods and as a beverage to go with them for $40 per person on Friday, October 19; and Hudson Wine Merchants in Hudson will hold a tasting on Friday, October 19 of Warwick Valley cider and spirits.

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