”What do you think?” my tour guide asked me as he slid me another short pour, my third taste of the day, of a cider produced at Angry Orchard’s Innovation Cider House in Walden, New York.
“Well, it’s literally been more cider than I’ve had in my entire life.” That was the “funny,” flippant answer, but it wasn’t necessarily the truth. The truth was that these samples were surprisingly good.
To say that I know very, very little about cider is perhaps an understatement. I certainly wouldn’t have visited if not for the encouragement of a good friend. But walking through the orchard, seeing the production facility and the equipment used to process apples and ferment cider, walking through the basement with oak barrels and foeders for aging, and now tasting these, I could appreciate the subtly, delicacy, and nuance that were present in these small batch, traditional ciders.
Spearheaded by Head Cider Maker Ryan James Burk, the ciders from Walden are an entirely different breed that the twelve-packs you might find on the shelves of a local grocery outlet. Instead, they are as “craft” as perhaps any “craft” beer you might be familiar with. The fermentation character stood out, especially, as something that resonated with me, a familiarity that I recognized from mixed-fermentation beers (often with fruit additions).
The sunny day spent at the orchard was enlightening and refreshing. And leaving with a trunk filled with cases of specialty cider, I’m glad that my friend had sent me there to pick him up some bottles.