13 Cideries Perfect for the Booze Traveler

Beer has been America's brew of choice for the last century, but cider is sneaking back into hearts and minds, and cidermakers all over the country are making magic with apples. If you’ve got an autumn road trip on the calendar, channel your inner Jack Maxwell and visit these can't-miss spots. 

Photo By: Jen Lee Chapman

Photo By: Max Photography

Photo By: Jason Koski

Photo By: Good Beer Hunting (http://www.goodbeerhunting.com)

Farnum Hill Ciders: Lebanon, N.H.

“We’re trying to make cider that’s dry but has a very bright acidity and fruit for miles, with a tannic underpinning and a bright, clean, fruity finish,” explains Stephen Wood, co-proprietor of Farnum Hill (and a 2014 James Beard Award semifinalist). On the cidery’s Growler Days in September and October, visitors can stop by the cider room, purchase a glass jug for $3, and fill it with one of Farnum Hill’s kegged offerings for a mere $10; you’d be hard-pressed to find a finer celebration of fall. 

Virtue Cider: Fennville, Michigan

On Michigan’s Cider Coast, former Goose Island brewmaster Gregory Hall and co-founder Stephen Schmakel use traditional farmhouse production methods to produce European-style craft cider with fruit from local family farms. Virtue Cider’s tasting room, bottle shop and farm market are open every day; guests who are 21 and over can make reservations for a tour on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. The cidery’s cat is named Pippin, of course.

Alpenfire Cider: Port Townsend, Washington

Washington State’s first organic cidery welcomes humans and a fairly astonishing array of local creatures; Alpenfire’s orchard is cornered by mason bee houses and attracts wild birds, deer, coyote and bobcats (“along with the less welcome rabbits and voles”). The cidery’s tasting room is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December, and “visitors are always encouraged to visit the orchard and most of the production,” says cidery co-owner Nancy Bishop. “For serious tours we like to schedule ahead.”

Albemarle CiderWorks: North Garden, Virginia

The orchardists at Albemarle CiderWorks draw inspiration from their love of vintage tree fruit varieties; they first planted an array of apples in 2000 and began fermenting and bottling ciders in 2009. On November 5th (for its Harvest Festival) and the 19th-20th (as an open house for Cider Week Virginia), Albemarle will be offering tours of its space; its tasting room, in turn, is open every day.

Citizen Cider: Burlington, Vermont

Citizen Cider is making its way from Vermont across the country—it’s currently available in the eastern U.S. and heading west—but its cellar ciders are only available at its tasting room in Burlington. Citizen’s offerings range from limited-edition varietals like Northern Spy to the non-traditional ginger-and-lemon Dirty Mayor; all of the fruit in its ciders hail from local orchards. Citizen Cider’s Cheray MacFarland suggests pairing a glass with a local cheese: “Vermont-crafted cheeses are great on their own, but add our cider to the mix and it’s a solid winner.” 

AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery: Burlington, Wisconsin

At AeppelTreow, visitors are welcome to stop by and watch the cidermaking team work or to stroll through the orchards and picnic at their leisure, says ciderwright Charles McGonegal. AeppelTreow produces sparkling, draft, still and fortified cider, perry (that is, the pear analogue to cider), and whiskey and brandies; its tasting room offers a chance to try them all. Don’t let the sophisticated offerings lull you into a false sense of formality, though: “We’re located in a barn on an apple orchard, after all.”

Argus Cidery: Austin, Texas

The Argus team began production in 2010 because they wanted to make the kind of cider they wanted to drink—that is, dry, bright and effervescent. They now produce small-format ciders with Washington State apples and large-format, limited-edition ciders with apples from southern orchards; none of their ciders are pasteurized or back-sweetened. The cidery’s tasting room offers weekend visitors both flights of its current pressings and a glimpse of what might crop up in future years.

Redbyrd Orchard Cider: Trumansburg, N.Y.

If you run into Redbyrd’s co-founder Eric Schatt at the picturesque Finger Lakes Cider House (home to the fruits of five cideries’ labor), he’ll probably tell you to try the Cloudsplitter. “[It’s] a blend of our very favorite cider apples, mostly European bittersharps and sharps which gives the cider bright, vibrant acidity and plentiful tannins. Cloudsplitter is also a true expression of the terroir of our two hilltop orchard sites.”

South Hill Cider: Ithaca, N.Y.

South Hill cidermaker Steve Selin produced 1,250 cases of cider last year with apples from his hilltop orchard—and apples from other small orchards, abandoned orchards and wild apples. His “Packbasket” cider gets its name from its harvest: “[W]e found one stand of wild trees in a high valley with a good crop. These hidden trees were far enough from the dirt road that we could only retrieve the fruit by hauling it out on our backs.” South Hill’s ciders are poured at the Finger Lakes Cider House and are available in New York and by mail.  

Black Apple Crossing: Springdale, Arkansas

The Shiloh Museum of Ozark History—which happens to be down the street from Black Apple Crossing’s production facilities and tap room—helps its neighbors name their ciders.  They gave the 1904 its moniker as a nod to the World’s Fair held that year in St. Louis, where the Arkansas apple exhibit won 209 medals; the cider is an all-Ozark blend. As owner and cofounder Leo Orpin notes, northwestern Arkansas was once known as the “apple belt” of the United States; he and his partners are doing their part to bring the business back.

Castle Hill Cider: Keswick, Virginia

A young Thomas Jefferson once frolicked at Castle Hill, where the tasting room serves ciders made on the property and visitors can retire with their beverages to an elegant octagonal porch. Castle Hill’s orchard is “only” 80 years old, but its Levity cider is fermented in kvevri (vessels that have been used in wine production since sixth century B.C.); all things considered, there’s a lot of history in Keswick.

E.Z. Orchards: Salem, Oregon

E.Z. Orchards has been growing apples in the Willamette Valley for nearly a century; its cidermaking, in turn, dates back to 2000, and the orchards now grow American, English and French heirloom cider apples. Visitors can stop by its farm market on Saturdays and Sundays, and orchardist and cidermaker Kevin Zielinski will be pouring cider at the Portland Nursery Apple Tasting Event on October 7-9 and 14-16.

B. Nektar Meadery: Ferndale, Michigan

B. Nektar is the largest meadery in the country; it’s also one of the most playful cideries out there. The 22 taps in the modern-industrial serving space just down the road from its production facilities feature everything from Zombie Killer, a cider with mouth-puckering tart cherry juice, to The Dude’s Rug, with seasonal spices that “really chai the room together”. For this year’s HallowMead costume party, the team will be blending The Dude’s Rug with pumpkin purée in its slushie machine.