Weekend Trips for the Cider Lover
Plan your hard cider vacation with these must-do cidery tours, festivals and cider pubs.
Seattle, WashingtonWashington is a prime apple-growing region, with more than 50 cider makers in the state, and a growing number of places in which to taste them. Seattle Cider Company was the first cider maker to open in the city in 2013, and produces small batch, locally grown ciders. It currently offers 12 options, ranging from the year-round Citrus, to the seasonal Basil Mint, to the limited-edition Three Pepper. Sample these and more at The Woods, a tasting room that’s shared with Two Beers Brewing.
Not to be outdone, Capitol Cider, the city’s first cider bar, boasts 20 ciders on tap and more than 150 bottles from both the region and the world. Schilling Hard Cider does one better, claiming to offer the largest draft cider selection in the country with 32 ciders on tap. It also sells more than 300 bottles of craft cider. Schilling makes its own cider too; its high-demand Chaider (chai-spiced hard cider) is only on tap between November and January. If that’s not enough, cider-making classes are available one weekend a month. 960 1280
Lake Champlain, VermontVermont can be considered as the birthplace of the hard cider revival movement in the U.S. when Woodchuck Hard Cider launched in 1991. Eventually, more followed, and the Lake Champlain region has proven to be one of the best apple-growing spots in the country. Citizen Cider, based in Burlington, has a tasting room and the option to sample a tasting flight; the Dirty Mayor is a good option for ginger fans. Shacksbury Cider distinguishes itself by using “lost apples” from the Champlain Valley, which are defined as the type of apples that early settlers in the area used to make homemade hard cider. Be warned Shacksbury only makes limited-release runs with lost apples, and they are popular. Tours are by appointment only.
Champlain Orchards Cidery uses apples from its own orchard, and many of its ciders—Ginger & Spice, Honeycrisp—have won awards. You can stop by for a tour and tasting, or try Champlain and other area cideries during Vermont Cider Week. 960 1280
Finger Lakes, New YorkThe Finger Lakes region is another key player in the apple belt. Bellwether Hard Cider was the first on the scene in 1999, while Finger Lakes Cider House is considered the reason behind the renewed interest in hard cider. Besides offering local craft ciders in its full-service tasting room, it also serves its own Good Life Cider. Among the local cideries it serves, Eve’s Cidery is acclaimed for its sparkling ciders, which employ the Champagne Method. Eve’s also has its own orchard, and produces ice cider as well. Redbyrd Orchard Cider is also available at Finger Lakes Cider House, and the owners apply their wine-making knowledge to produce small batches. To try more cideries, attend Cider Week Finger Lakes, which attracts about 15 local cider makers. 960 1280
Portland, OregonWhere there’s good beer, good cider is sure to follow. Bushwacker Cider was the first cidery to open in Portland in 2010, and now has two locations in the city. The original Brooklyn spot sells more than 300 types of cider from around the world, as well as its own line. Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider deserves its cider renegade reputation thanks to its boundary-pushing ciders: the flagship Hallelujah Hopricot can best be described as a combination of beer, cider and wine. See for yourself at its cidery and taproom.
A few hours away in Bend, a number of craft cideries have set up camp among a plethora of established breweries. Atlas Cider Co. was the first and one of the best known; its flavor comes from the fresh-pressed apples used to make an all-natural product. Its new taproom hosts live music and offers arcade games. To cover the most cider ground, the Cider Rite of Spring festival in Portland features the best ciders in the Northwest, while Cider Summit PDX highlights the best artisanal ciders from around the world. 960 1280
Asheville, North CarolinaAsheville already has a booming craft beer scene, and now cideries are starting to move in. Urban Orchard Cider Co. usually tops the list when discussing North Carolina cidery makers. It’s known for experimenting with unexpected flavors such as habanero, and its full bar showcases cider while also offering wine and local beer. Noble Cider uses local apples to create two ciders: The Standard Bearer and The Village Tart, a popular, cherry-minded cider. Bide your time in the taproom while enjoying live music and access to a rotating lineup of food trucks.
Black Mountain Ciderworks + Meadery is among the handful of cideries along the Asheville Ale Trail. Stop by the taproom of this small-batch cidery (and meadery) to imbibe ciders made with Southern apples. Asheville also plays host to CiderFest NC, which features 20 hard cider makers from across the state and country. 960 1280
Boston, MassachusettsBoston Beer Company, the heavyweight producer behind Samuel Adams (which helped launch the craft beer movement in the states), also produces Angry Orchard Hard Cider. Varieties range from its signature Green Apple to the seasonal Elderflower, and it sources apples from its own orchard in the Hudson Valley. Downeast Cider House uses locally grown apples to create its year-round Cranberry Blend and seasonal Maple Blend. You can tour its cidery without advance booking, but be forewarned that drinking is restricted to its cider garden, which isn’t climate controlled. Bantam Cider is a craft cidery just outside of Boston in Somerville. The classic Wunderkind is its first cider, and since then Bantam has experimented with slow roasting apples to create the unconventional Smoked Saison. 960 1280
Sonoma, CaliforniaA fledgling cider scene has emerged amidst Sonoma’s wine dominated landscape. Sonoma Cider is a father-son operation redefining hard cider. It uses organic apples to create core offerings such as The Anvil, a bourbon cider. Keep an eye out for experimental limited runs, which currently include Absinthe and Habanero Lime. Tilted Shed Ciderworks also uses local organic apples in its small batch creations. Visit the tasting room for barrel-aged and barbecue-smoked ciders. Devoto Orchards Cider uses apples from its own orchard in Sebastopol, a longtime apple-growing region, to make three different organic ciders. It’s closed to the public, but you can find its dry and semi-dry ciders at specialty stores in the area. 960 1280
Austin, TexasArgus Cidery was the first to open in 2010; in a bit of an unusual twist, it uses apples from Texas and Arkansas to produce its sparkling hard ciders. Though not a cider, don’t pass up the chance to try its Tepache, a sparkling pineapple wine, at its tasting room. Newish Texas Keeper Cider has garnered press for its small batch ciders; you’ll be able to sample them soon at its new tap room, complete with a picnic area. Austin Eastciders is another young, small-batch cidery that differentiates itself by employing bittersweet and bittersharp apples in order to create just three options: Original Dry Cider, Texas Honey Cider and the recently added Hopped Cider. It plans to offer factory tours and a tasting room in the near future. 960 1280
Hudson Valley, New YorkThe Hudson Valley has a long-standing reputation as one of the best apple growing regions in the country, and is home to some of the country’s oldest cider makers. The now sizable cider community started in 1994 with Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery when it launched Doc’s Draft Ciders. Sample both its cider and wine at its rustic tasting room while enjoying live music. Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider is another long-time establishment, and specializes in European techniques.
Newcomer Nine Pin Cider Works creates dry and experimental ciders using locally sourced apples, and offers a tasting room. Bad Seed Cider Company is another relative newcomer. You can tour its factory in addition to exploring dry ciders in its tap room. If possible, detour to NYC for Wassail, the city’s first bar devoted to hard cider (and apple-related drinks). It also holds regular events such as monthly meetups for amateur cider makers. Descendant Cider Company, based in Queens, is one of the only hard cider makers in the city, and its apples are sourced from no other than the Hudson Valley. 960 1280
Minneapolis, MinnesotaCider is slowly starting to make inroads amidst a craft beer boom. Sociable Cider Werks is the city’s first cidery, and its industrial tasting room has quickly attracted a loyal following. It sources apples from the Midwest, and adds hops and grains for a dry and well-balanced finish. All of its ciders are named after bike terms, like the dry-hopped Hop-A-Wheelie. You can also tour its cider house and enjoy eats from The Curious Goat Food Truck. Newcomer Lionheart Cider just opened this past summer and only makes one European-style cider at the moment; you can find it at the Muddy Pig in St. Paul. Meanwhile, gastropub Republic MPLS offers the largest selection of craft ciders around, and provides an excellent opportunity to try local ciders from across the state, including Sweetland Orchard, Milk & Honey Ciders, Wyndfall Cyder and Sapsucker Farms. 960 1280
St. George Spirits; Alameda, CaliforniaSt. George is stretching the boundaries of traditional styles of gin, very successfully. More than 30 years ago, a young German man named Jorg Rupf fell in love with the Bay Area’s food culture and the quality of fruit growing in California, and subsequently founded St. George Spirits in 1982. He began making eau de vie (a clear, colorless fruit brandy) from pears, raspberries, cherries, and even kiwi fruit before there was a craft distillation movement in the U.S. to speak of. A lot of early gin distillers here kept to a London Dry style, which is very juniper-forward, but as the editor of Bevvy.co notes, now distillers are creating modern gins that are a lot more diverse. “Citrus peel is one of the botanicals that has come to the forefront, and local herbs and spices are becoming popular with people who want to make gin with a bit of hometown pride. St. George Terroir Gin is a great example of that, it tastes like the California coast.” 960 1280
Koval Distillery; Chicago, IllinoisThe first distillery in Chicago since well before Prohibition, Koval was founded by a dynamic husband and wife duo who are changing the way America distills. Dr. Robert Birnecker and Dr. Sonat Birnecker-Hart have won countless awards for their dry gins, 100 percent Midwestern grown organic rye whiskey, millet-based bourbon, and more. The power couple also prioritizes education, hosting a selection of cocktail classes and whiskey workshops at their North Ravenswood Ave location. Talent seems to run in the family—their distinctive laser-cut labels have also received a lot of attention, designed by Sonat’s sister and her firm Dando Projects. 960 1280
Seven Stills; San Francisco, CaliforniaTim and Clint of Seven Stills Distillery started out by coming at everything backwards—no one was pushing whiskey from the beer angle, but a huge craft beer segment in the San Francisco Bay Area along with their extensive beer knowledge provided a nice segue into making whiskey from extremely high-quality craft brew. Now their robust road map of spirits includes “a still for every hill” in San Francisco using a different artist to design each bottle (Chocasmoke is made from a chocolate-oatmeal stout in honor of Twin Peaks, and Fluxuate is distilled from a coffee porter to celebrate a rapidly-changing, post-Gold Rush Rincon Hill), to add to their collection of small-batch, seasonal bitters like Meyer lemon, prickly pear, and cranberry. 960 1280
Clear Creek; Portland, OregonFor the past three decades, Clear Creek Distillery has been honoring the intimate marriage between farming and distilling, utilizing the world-class fruit from the farms around their Portland, Oregon home base. Well known for its eau de vie (a clear, colorless fruit brandy), Clear Creek’s diverse portfolio of more than 25 products rivals the best of their European counterparts, and is anchored by the flagship Williams Pear Brandy, which has been named one of the top spirits in the world. 960 1280
House Spirits Distillery; Portland, OregonBeloved and very well respected in the industry, House Spirits Distillery is making whiskeys that have been listed among the best in their categories. Their Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey matures in new American oak barrels for at least two years, allowing Oregon’s dry, hot summers and wet, cold winters to contribute to its rich, smooth flavor. Accompanied by Aviation American Gin, Krogstad Aquavit, and Volstead Vodka, almost everything in their line of spirits is ideal for mixing a cocktail. Their new distillery and tasting room on Portland’s famous distillery row opened to the public in November 2015, and hosts regular classes on making whiskey, cocktails, and bitters. 960 1280
Kings County Distillery; Brooklyn, New YorkThe founders of Kings County Distillery quite literally wrote the book on making whiskey a thome. Their Guide to Urban Moonshining is a look at America’s indigenous spirt, from the whiskey made by the early colonists and sprawling distilleries of Kentucky to the adventurous, modern-day craft distillers across almost every state. This is all quite fitting, as they run NewYork City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery, the first since Prohibition, located in the iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard and just steps from the legendary site of the Brooklyn Whiskey Wars of the 1860s. Their moonshine, bourbon, peated bourbon, and barrel strength bourbon have all won numerous awards, along with their recent accolade of being named Distillery of the Year in 2016 from the American Distilling Institute. 960 1280
Corsair Distillery; Nashville, TennesseeCorsair founders Darek and Andrew are Nashville natives who have been collaborating since high school. They began by home brewing beer and wine in Darek’s garage, but soon decided that whiskey would be “much more satisfying.” Their adventurous, innovative, and big-flavored craft whiskeys—including a quinoa whiskey, a handful of rye whiskeys, some malt whiskeys, and more—consistently receive high marks among respectable critics, along with countless international spirit awards. Ones to try: Triple Smoke Malt Whiskey and Wry Moon Unaged Rye Whiskey. 960 1280
Few Spirits; Evanston, IllinoisNamed after suffragette and temperance advocate Frances Elizabeth Willard (FEW), Few Spirits is a true grass-to-grain distillery, sourcing all of their grain (corn, wheat, rye, and barley) from no more than 150 miles away. It is also the first (legal) alcohol-production facility of any kind in Evanston, a city that banned alcohol sales for four decades beyond the end of Prohibition. Their bottles show up everywhere among the craft spirit community, and their rye whiskey has received acclaim as Whisky Advocate’s 2013 Craft Whiskey of the Year, as a gold medal winner in the 2014 World Whisky Awards, and was rated one of the top five whiskies in the world by the Beverage Tasting Institute. 960 1280
Death's Door Spirits; Middleton, WisconsinWhat was once a robust potato farming region, Washington Island, Wisconsin fell prey to vertical integration in the potato industry in the early 1970s. More than 30 years later, two brothers started growing wheat on the island and soon Death’s Door Spirits was born, focusing from the beginning on how to support local and sustainable agriculture on the island. Death’s Door pioneered white whisky, which became very popular as a cocktail ingredient, featuring an 80:20 ratio of Washington Island Wheat to malted barley from Chilton, Wisconsin. Other Death’s Door family members include a London Dry style gin, a double-distilled vodka, and Wondermint Schnapps Liqueur—the first and only artisan craft peppermint schnapps in the world. 960 1280
Montanya Distillers; Crested Butte, ColoradoMontanya Distillers are best known as purveyors of high-altitude craft rum, distilled in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains. Not surprisingly, their ingredients list reads as an ode to America’s inspiring outdoor beauty: Non-GMO sugar cane from family farmers in Louisiana who grow and mill for them; water from one of the purest spring and snowmelt charged aquifers in the USA; and they even heat their building from the alembic copper pot stills. Award-winning Montanya Platino and Oro rums are joined by a limited-release Exclusiva rum that is aged for 30 months in American white oak barrels and then finished in French oak barrels that previously held Sutcliffe Vineyards’ Port. 960 1280
Portland, OregonOregon is a major player in the nation’s craft beer scene, with almost 200 breweries across the state. There are at least 60 in Portland alone, earning its “beervana” nickname and (unofficial) title as beer capital of the world. Widmer Brothers Brewing was among the first on the scene in 1984. Award-winning Deschutes Brewery, based in Bend (another craft brew hotspot and with its own ale trail) operates a brewpub in downtown Portland, while Hair of the Dog Brewing Co. is heralded for its unusual beers. With 99 craft beers on tap, beer hall Loyal Legion is a great way to sample local offerings, including newer brewers Burnside Brewing and The Commons Brewery.
Or join an organized beer tour: BeerQuest PDX offers walking tours, Brewvana provides small bus tours, and Pedal Bike Tours combines the best of biking and tasting. For festival buffs, the Oregon Brewers Festival, now in its 29th year, attracts 80,000 beer aficionados to one of the longest-running craft beer fests in the country. 960 1280
Asheville, North Carolina
Although there are more than 100 breweries and brewpubs across the state, Asheville is the epicenter with the most breweries per capita, earning it the title of “Beer City, USA” four times in a row. As such, beercation options abound. You can start by following the Asheville Ale Trail, which provides options by car, bike or on foot. Wicked Weed Brewing is a favorite for its hoppy ales and barrel-aged sour beers. Visit its Funkatorium location, a barrel house and tasting room all in one.
Download the Dig Local app for the city’s latest beer happenings, or let an organized tour, whether the original Brews Cruise or small group Asheville Brewery Tours, do the work for you. Depending on the time of year, try to include the long-running Brewgrass Festival for live music alongside favorite local brewers, or the Winter Warmer Beer Fest to partake in some of the best breweries from around the state.960 1280
Milwaukee, WisconsinMilwaukee was once considered the beer capital of the world, but few of the old guard, such as MillerCoors, remain. Though the city may have lost certain bragging rights, a strong craft beer scene has emerged. The new guard includes Sprecher Brewery, the city’s first craft brewery, Lakefront Brewery, a microbrewery that pioneered organic and gluten-free options, and Brenner Brewing Co., a newer brewer heavily involved in the arts and music scene. Even better, each one offers tours.
Take your pick of festivals: the Wisconsin Craft Beer Festival, held at the Harley-Davidson Museum, is a weekend–long event with classes and tasting sessions with the top nationwide craft beers. Admission to the Milwaukee Brewfest includes unlimited sampling of more than 100 craft and major name beers, while Where the Wild Beers Are focuses on wild and sour ales, generally defined as tart-tasting beers brewed with “wild” yeast. 960 1280
Denver, ColoradoAs one of the top U.S. producers with more than 200 breweries crafting the whole gamut, this beer-soaked state is awash in suds. Choose between the Denver Beer Triangle, a trifecta stretching between Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins and home to at least 60 brewers, or follow the Denver Beer Trail, with a more manageable 20 breweries. Highlights along the latter trail include award-winning Great Divide Brewing Company, beloved for favorites like Yeti Imperial Stout, and must-stop Breckenridge Brewery, which was among the state’s first craft breweries when it opened in 1990.
Crooked Stave is newer to the scene, but has already won awards for its sour Wild Wild Brett Rouge. Denver’s also home to the Great American Beer Festival, a Guinness World Records’ holder for the world’s largest beer festival. That record is hard to dispute since this year’s fest will feature more than 700 breweries offering 3,500 varieties of beer. 960 1280
San Diego, CaliforniaCalifornia and wine are synonymous, but the state is also a brewery heavyweight with about 500 statewide. San Diego alone is packed with more than 70 breweries; and standouts encompass Stone Brewing Co.: its beautiful Escondido location offers 45-minute tours followed by a tasting at its outdoor beer garden. You can sample draft beers from Stone’s own line, along with some of the city’s other top brewers. Green Flash Brewing Company is notable for its West Coast IPA and 4,000-square-foot tasting room and beer garden. Stop by one of Ballast Point Brewing Company’s five tasting room locations for its award-winning Grapefruit Sculpin IPA.
Avoid drinking and driving by joining Brewery Tours of San Diego for either public or private tours of the city’s top breweries, or designate a driver and navigate this self-guided tour. If you fancy a festival, the San Diego International Beer Festival is the largest one of its kind on the West Coast, with more than 400 international beers from around the world, including some of California’s most highly regarded breweries. If you can’t commit, the San Diego Brewers Guild holds year-round events revolving around craft beer. 960 1280
Chicago, IllinoisChicago’s suds scene is quickly catching up to more established hubs, thanks to at least 50 breweries within city limits, and more than 100 in greater Chicagoland. Goose Island Beer Company has become synonymous with the city’s craft beer movement, and it’s still producing the coveted line of Bourbon County Barrel Stouts even though it was acquired by Anheuser Busch in 2011. Although it’s only been around since 2010, award-winning Revolution Brewing has already become a fixture; try the popular Anti-Hero IPA.
Half Acre Beer Company, known for its rough micro beers, is another one of Chicago’s beloved craft makers. Moody Tongue Brewing Company, which calls itself a culinary brewery, represents the newer creative class (e.g. Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner). Many individual brewers also offer tours. For something different, beer snobs can geek out at the Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers, where more than 90 breweries will be serving 300 barrel-aged beers. Chicago Craft Beer Week is another great introduction to the best in local beer. 960 1280
Seattle, WashingtonWe’d be remiss to leave Washington off the list, as it’s currently the leader in hops production, stouts and IPAs. There are more than 300 breweries dotted across the state, and at least 20 call Seattle home. Founded in 1989, The Pike Brewing Company is an early pioneer, and offers tours of its 30-barrel brewery. Newcomer Holy Mountain Brewing Company has already developed a cult following for its seasonal and limited-edition lagers, while Fremont Brewing is popular for its beer garden and award-winning beers, from barrel-aged to pale ale.
Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in particular has experienced a brewery boom: nano-brewery Populuxe Brewing might have a limited selection, but if possible, order its award-winning Cinderblock CDA. For tours, Road Dogs provides a good overview of the city’s craft scene. Time permitting, detour to the Yakima Valley for the annual Fresh Hop Ale Festival. 960 1280
Portland, MainePortland, Oregon might be considered the beer capital of the world, but with 17 microbreweries for less than 100,000 people, Portland, Maine ranks as one of the highest per capita. Allagash Brewing Company, nationally known for its Belgian-style beers, helped launch the city’s craft scene in 1995. Of those that followed, Peak Organic Brewery is known for its hoppy organic beers, while Bissell Brothers Brewing Company has also garnered acclaim for its hop-forward ales. To navigate, Maine Beer Tours offers numerous tours of the city’s breweries. Now in its 23rd year, the Maine Brewers Festival is a celebration of all things craft beer. 960 1280
Brooklyn, New York
Believe it or not, Brooklyn was once one of the country’s top beer producers at the turn of the 20th century. As with the rest of the country, Prohibition was one of the major factors behind the industry’s decline. Brooklyn Brewery heralded the industry’s resurgence when it opened in 1996, and today its beers, including the popular Brooklyn Lager, can be found nationwide and abroad. Venture to hipster-haven Williamsburg for a free tour and tasting.
Other breweries that you can visit include Threes Brewing, which consists of an on-site brewery and a full bar with 20 taps. Recent newcomer Other Half specializes in IPAs and gives appointment-only tours. Tørst has become a destination for craft beer imbibers; across the river in Manhattan, Blind Tiger Ale House, one of the city’s best craft beer bars, serves a curated tap selection that includes renowned Brewery Ommegang from upstate New York.
For guidance, Urban Oyster offers craft beer walking tours and craft beer crawls. True beer lovers shouldn’t miss the annual NYC Beer Week, a 10-day event celebrating local beer with everything from trivia nights to secret events.960 1280
Grand Rapids, MichiganGrand Rapids’ craft beer industry may still be in its infancy, but beer experts are keeping a close eye on the city that gave birth to internationally acclaimed microbrewer Founders Brewing Company, and is home to more than 40 breweries. Of these, Brewery Vivant is a sustainable producer of Belgian-style beers operating out of a former funeral home. The Mitten Brewing Company resides in a Victorian-era firehouse and adds a twist on classics—for example, Label Up is a brown ale made with toasted pecans and maple syrup.
Harmony Brewing Company represents the up-and-comers, and now has two locations serving IPAs, stouts and lagers. For more, consult the Beer City Ale Trail for a self-guided tour, or hand the reins over to Grand Rapids Beer Tours. Either way, factor in visiting HopCat, regarded as one of the best brewpubs in the county for its extensive collection of local craft beers (and equally beloved for its beer-battered "Crack fries"). For even more options, the annual Winter Beer Festival features more than 100 Michigan breweries pouring about 1,000 different craft beers. 960 1280