A guide to the best hard ciders in Connecticut
Published 3:46 pm, Tuesday, September 5, 2017
From micro-brewing to distilled spirits, the craft movement has won over many locally-minded drinkers. And now comes a new contender: artisanal hard cider.
There are more than 70 cider houses in New England, according to the Cyder Market, a website that tracks cider makers, pubs and retailers. In Connecticut, almost a dozen farm brewers are making their way into the mainstream, some of them producing hard cider with a twist.
Two pick-your-own-apples farms, Averill Farm and Beardsley’s Cider Mill, have been fermenting cider in the region since the early 20th century. If you've stopped by Averill Farm in Washington Depot this summer, you may have tasted its dry hard cider made with a mix of six different kinds of apples, all grown on the farm’s fruit orchards.
“We’ve had hard cider for a few years and it’s getting better,” said Tyson Averill, the owner of Averill Farms.
For those you want to jump on the craft hard cider train, Beardsley’s Cider Mill in Shelton is one of the best places to start. The apple orchard makes sweet cider from late October to early November and co-owners Dave or Dan Beardsley are ready to advice those who want to use it to make their own hard cider.
Outside of southwestern Connecticut, one craft cidery, New England Cider Company in Wallingford, has been experimenting with new flavors, adding locally-grown fruits to its traditional hard cider.
"It's definitely trending right now," said Miguel Galarraga, one of the founders of New England Cider Company, which opened in Connecticut last year. “People are using all different kinds of fruits, vegetables or herbs to make cider.”
Galarraga and his team makes cider out of apples, sometimes mixed with other fruits. They have new drinks in the works for late September, including a cider made with watermelon juice grown in Stone Gardens Farms in Shelton. Their peach cider, which comes out early September, combines peach juice from Hickory Hill Orchards in Cheshire and Bussa Orchards in South Glastonbury.
The cider house has also produced a variety of herb-infused cider, using either mint, hops, or lemon verbena as the base of its infusions. Galarraga is currently flavoring his apple cider with staghorn sumac, a tart, lemony spice.
"What people don't realize is that there is this wild staghorn sumac that grows around here, which native Americans grew to make teas," said Galarraga. "It's something different that you don't typically see."
New England Cider Co. distribute seasonal fruit and herb-infused ciders to bars and restaurants throughout the state, but cider enthusiasts can also sample as many flavors as they want on site.
"We realize that there is a flavor for everybody," said Galarraga. "Some people really liked mint, other people were not really too crazy about it but that's ok. That's what makes it fun."