If you didn’t know, New England has a history rich in cider. To fully understand and appreciate Stormalong Cider in Masschusetts, one must have a knowledge of New England’s cider history.
The cider making roots in Sherborn, Massachusetts — the original location of Stormalong’s cidery — run deep. Shannon Edgar made the move to New England after living on the West Coast for nearly two decades. Familiar with the Boston area and having gone to high school there, Edgar and his family ended up renting a house on an orchard a couple miles from Sherborn.
“We had about 120 acres of trees in the backyard and one thing just led to another,” Edgar says of his own cidermaking roots. “I would see all these apples and I was like ‘man, what are they doing with all these apples?’”
His experimentation led to his discovery and appreciation for the broad nature of the world of cider. Edgar and his family eventually settled on a farm in Sherborn where he launched Stormalong in 2014.
“I knew there was a cider history in Sherburn but I wasn’t quite aware of the scale when we first settled in there,” he adds. “It was kind of a cool thing to discover.”
From the late 1800s up until the 1930s and the time of the Great Depression, Sherborn was home to the largest refined cider mill in the world. To give an idea of how big of an operation the cider mill was running, Edgar says it was producing 1.25 million gallons of cider each year.
Between a fire that burned down the mill, Prohibition and the Great Depression, the cider mill never fully recovered. But now Stormalong has become part of a long history of cider in the small New England town.
The legacy of Sherborn’s cidermaking history has found itself carried on by Edgar and Stormalong. Drawn to heritage varietals, Stormalong has a “Rare Apple Series” which includes a cider from the Kingston Black variety and the Boston Heirloom, a mix of Roxbury Russet and Baldwin apples.
“That’s fascinating to me that the apples from the 1600s are still kicking around,” Edgar says. “We can still grow them and basically have a very similar type of cider as they would have had then.”
Stormalong was never meant to be that big, Edgar admits they planned on keeping production limited to the old horse barn they converted into a cidery. However, in 2017 Stormalong expanded its production facilities to nearby Leominster where they produce their core ciders while the specialty ciders and ones that take over six months to ferment and age are still made on the Sherborn farm. Despite the recent upgrade, Edgar says they are already looking at scaling up again.
“We have a taproom in the works for the end of 2019,” he says. “I think when we have a retail channel we can bring people into our space and help educate them.”
Edgar recognizes the fact that cider has a lot of catching up to do to be on the same level as craft beer and wine. He says he is optimistic people are catching on to the cider craze and are becoming more willing to experiment. Stormalong is finding they sell as much of the tannic, full-bodied Legendary Dry as they do the off-dry, fruit-forward Mass Appeal and some of the semi-sweet offerings, which Edgar says is encouraging both for their product and the industry moving forward.
Stormalong may only be four-years-old but the history and apples that serve as its inspiration have roots that go much deeper into the New England surroundings. As consumers slowly become more educated in the cider world and make flexible choices, Stormalong also aims to help them discover some history repeating in this time-honored, regional beverage.
Photo courtesy Stormalong Cider