In this regular column, I pose a single question to three cidermakers in an attempt to discover the similarities and differences between artists of the same craft. With autumn now upon us in the northern hemisphere, I thought something seasonal would be fun.
Here in Japan, autumn means food; think wild mushrooms, hot pots, or open-flame roasted chestnuts and sweet potatoes. For me, it’s the perfect season to explore cider and food pairings, as well as encourage others to do so, too.
What does this time of the year mean for you with regards to cider? Anything seasonal or special that you do from now until the end of the year?
Sean Harris, Co-founder and Cidermaker
Serpentine Cider (San Diego, Calif.)
The fall season is where cider-making begins. Plump, delicious apples are ripe for the picking! There are hundreds of different apple varieties to choose from. If you are in the part of the world that has good Old World apples, then I envy you! This is when I like making my traditional dry apple cider: no additional sugars, flavors or fruits — just pure fermented apples.
The fall season lends itself to a lot of other fruit harvesting, as well as traditional holiday spices. Every year around this time, I like making a Pie Series. I take some of my favorite dessert pie recipes and transform them into low-sugar ciders. Of course, Apple Pie Cider is the fan favorite, but I like to try and make at least two or three different pie cider flavors every year. This year, I will be making Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie and a tart Key Lime Pie Cider.
Ronald Sansone, Owner and Cidermaker
Spoke+Spy Ciderworks (Middletown, Conn.)
Since launching our cidery, the last quarter of the year for us has been key to our business. As the autumn leaves start to fall, the cider-drinking crowds come out and the best cider events take place around New England. It’s a special season for cider — as consumers are diving into drinking hard cider, the apples are ripening and the juice is starting to flow, fermentations are kicking off at the ciderhouse and the magic begins. During apple season we get some great single varietal juices that we can ferment into unique dry ciders, not the run-of-the-mill blends that are available year ’round. Lots of excitement grows in those stainless tanks.
During the pandemic the cider events sadly have been cancelled, the crowds aren’t coming out to the cider tasting room, we don’t get to meet enthusiastic new cider drinkers every week. It is slow but the apples are getting crushed and the cider continues to flow; We have hope that the future is full of cider. For us hardcore cider people, it is always cider season.
Jay Hildybrant, Head Cider Maker and Partner
Chain Yard Urban Cidery (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
I find myself anticipating the abundance of the apple harvest coming to our urban cidery in Halifax. I’m fortunate to have strong relationships with the growers and orchardists in Nova Scotia. While they gather the fruit here and there from backyard plots to high density commercial orchards, I’m dedicating time to discussing, testing and analyzing the fruit, paramount for planning the ferments that will take our production well into the new year.
Despite its humble size, Nova Scotia’s contrasting microclimates allow for a range of unique characteristics from orchard-to-orchard and within varieties, creating diverse, terroir driven styles. The element of surprise that comes with each year’s crop is fascinating and enjoyable.
Pairing my appreciation for our local fruit with the knowledge I’ve gleaned from consulting post-harvest in far-away places such as India has offered me inspiration from diverse tropical fruits that become creative and technical tools for new and existing products upon my return.
Lee Reeve is the owner-operator of inCiderJapan G.K. (www.inciderjapan.com), an importer/distributor, retailer, and producer of cider and cider-related goods. He is also the publisher of inCiderJapan, Asia’s first and only bilingual magazine dedicated to all things cider.
Lee Reeve can be reached at email@example.com.