Cider with a Sleepy History Befits from New Cider Law
By Nick Thomas
As the old Washington Irving story goes, a man named Rip Van Winkle wandered into the woods tracking the origins of a loud, boisterous noise. The source turned out to be a group of men enjoying a bottle of moonshine and playing game of ninepins—a bowling game popular in colonial America. After guzzling more than his fair share of booze, a drunken Rip stumbled into the forest for a quick “I’ve had a few too many” nap, but woke up 20 years later instead.
This folktale was the source of inspiration for Alejandro del Peral’s Nine Pin Cider in more ways than one. Aside from the obvious alcohol connection, the Albany, New York-based cidery draws parallels to the story’s setting of New York’s Catskill Mountains, and also its classic, old-timey feel, which is exemplified in its simple logo and label.
While some cideries struggle with state laws (“I thought I was making a cider, but because of the alcohol content, my state’s laws are telling me that I actually just made ‘table wine,’” said a cider maker somewhere in the U.S. just now), Nine Pins is actually doing quite well thanks to a new law that went into effect earlier this year.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation establishing a new license for “farm cideries” that gives a sales tax break for cideries, raises the alcohol by volume percentage limit from 7 to 8.5 percent and allows them to offer tastings and direct distribution to the public, so long as the cider maker exclusively uses local apples and produces less than 150,000 gallons of cider. (Read the full bill here if you’re a fan of legalese.)
Nine Pin was actually the first New York cidery to obtain this license and have been thoroughly enjoying the perks, namely the ability to open what’s essentially its own cider bar in the heart of a major city.
“We have a very unique setup where our cidery is in downtown Albany. Most other ciders, especially in New York state are out on the orchard—by the apples—but we have a different model where we have a great partnership with our local orchards but we actually make the cider right in the middle of the city,” del Parel says. “It brings attention to the cider year-round as opposed to just the three months when people in this area visit the apple orchards.”
A quick glance at Nine Pin’s 17 different cider varieties—including Cardamom, Sarsaparilla and Butternut—is impressive, especially considering the cidery is only a little over a year old, having been established in July 2013. Nine Pin’s taproom offers about four-five of these rotational flavors on tap at a time, and del Peral says he experiments with trying new flavors and coming up with new recipes to keep himself interested in his product.
Nine Pin is also a family-run business: del Peral’s mom does the company’s management, his dad is a handyman and tackles any construction, and his cousin does the sales and marketing side of things. For some, this might sound like an absurd idea because your family is crazy, but del Peral suggested at least one idea that is hard to refute: “A family business is a great thing because you know how to fight with each other,” he says while laughing.
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Photo courtesy of Nine Pin Cider