Graft Cider isn’t new to the Hudson Valley. Up and running since 2016, it’s one of the OG cider makers in the region, sitting front and center alongside local producers like Angry Orchard and Nine Pin Cider Works.
Its founder, Kyle Sherrer, isn’t new either — to the cider scene, that is. A natural entrepreneur, Sherrer started Millstone Cellars, a Maryland-based cidery, with his father in 2011. Five years later, he and his sister, Sara, relocated to the Hudson Valley to introduce Graft’s signature dry, wild yeast-fermented drinks to an apple-loving population.
He settled the brand in Newburgh, on Ann Street to be exact, and began crafting can after can of Graft’s unusual, unforgettable ciders for distribution.
Now, Sherrer is ready to open a cidery just for Graft.
“It’s going to be a really cool indoor/outdoor space for Newburgh,” he enthuses. Although he settled upon the 142-146 Little Britain Road location earlier in 2019, he first learned about it when searching for his original production facility in 2016. After hearing about the 16-foot ceilings and curving brick structure from his landlord, he knew it would be the perfect fit for a brick-and-mortar cidery in town.
Located a short way away from Liberty Street and the Newburgh waterfront, Graft Cider’s new space will be both a tasting room for visitors and a production site. Sherrer plans to keep both locations, with the Little Britain Road venue dedicated to the Graft tasting experience and mass production while the Ann Street setting converts to a facility for niche and long-term aging projects.
As for the building itself, it once served as an old textile factory in the city. Since a portion of it overlooks a 40-foot creek, Sherrer plans to utilize that view by opening up the courtyard and installing seating above the water. Graft will claim 10,000 square feet of the property, with the remaining space in the mixed-use edifice currently being renovated for other tenants.
“Right now, we’re in a box of concrete block,” Sherrer jokes of the Ann Street location. “[The new space] be a good place for my employees.”
With construction underway, albeit with a delay due to COVID-19, Sherrer estimates that Graft’s tasting room will be open for business by spring 2021, although he hopes to move into the production part of the facility this winter. Inside, visitors will be able to sample the brand’s 40-plus ciders, many of which will be produced in the tasting room that rests nine feet below the main floor. They can sip the cider in the central courtyard or inside the cidery’s 3,500-square-foot tasting room, where a medley of Graft ciders and offerings from other Hudson Valley makers awaits.
“We want people from all walks of life to be able to enjoy it,” Sherrer explains. To add to the onsite experience, he plans to incorporate food to complement Graft’s eye-catching, illustrated cider cans. Depending on how the buildout progresses, this could mean anything from specials by visiting chefs to small bites from an inhouse kitchen.
And that’s just the big stuff. On the smaller side of things, Graft plans roll out a handful of niche projects that will leave the mouths of cider aficionados watering.
“We’ll be pressing onsite and doing small-batch things to show terroir,” Sherrer notes. “It will be a way to get away from extremely industrialized stuff.”
Want a preview? In addition to producing about 40 ciders a year, including its three core ciders (Farm Flor, Lost Tropic, and Seasonal Gose) and Book of Nomad line, Graft also makes dreamsicle-inspired Cloud City cider along with Shared Universe, a collaborative line in partnership with regional cideries and breweries. Earlier in 2020, it launched Hudson North Cider, an elegant, apple-centric drink that embodies the flavors of the Hudson Valley.
“It’s local apple juice that’s nice, crisp, and clean, with all the ingredients coming from the Hudson Valley,” Sherrer says. As with every Graft Cider, the drink is naturally gluten-free. Due to its apple-forward flavor, however, it has more sugar than the brand’s other low- or no-sugar sips. Graft sources all of its apples from New York State, with a majority coming from the Hudson Valley, and presses them at Minard Farms in New Paltz. As for the wild yeast, it’s fermented from the fruits and taken from a strain isolated off a wild apple tree outside of New Paltz.
Before the small-batch projects begin in earnest, Sherrer is 100-percent focused on getting the new space up and running. As Graft works toward its opening, it will continue to produce the sour, European-inspired, and yeast-centric brews for which it is known. Last winter, it teamed up with Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville for its winter edition of its Book of Nomad line, with Riesling Strawberry Cherry Cider in December, Cab Frank Black Currant Cider in January, and Gewurztraminer Apricot Cider in February.
“We’re always using #futurecider because we push the limits of what people think cider is,” he notes. He and his team of cider makers constantly look to experimental breweries for inspiration and don’t hesitate to apply craft beer production methods to see how they alter a cider’s flavors. That’s how they came up with Gose ciders, after all. With a pinch of sea salt, the sour bases pop with finisher notes like citrus zest and spice.
Of course, Sherrer has his eye on the big game, too. While he waits for the hyperlocal cidery to be completed, he’s working hard to launch Chinese and European distribution and extend Graft’s range to new corners in the United States as well.
“We’re trying to bring this sour cider profile to the masses,” he says.
One taste is really all it takes.