By Raphael Beretta, with additional reporting by Janet Siroto
It’s not your imagination: The Hudson Valley is the premier hard cider hotspot in the country, with amazing, fermented options at every turn. “There’s such growth, progress, and education happening here, year after year,” says Craig Cavallo, co-author of American Cider and co-owner of Golden Russet Café and Grocery in Rhinebeck. “From the cider drinkers to the makers to the people working in the orchards, it’s a cultural endeavor that just keeps getting better. Everyone learns from one another.” Learn about the history of the industry, then taste the craft and creativity for yourself at these killer cideries.
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Few sectors of the beverage industry have the lasting impact that cider does. In the 18th century, it was the beverage of choice for just about everyone in colonial America, including children (since well water was often non-potable), and it remained popular through much of the 19th century as well.
Apple picking is a Hudson Valley tradition that remains popular to this day. Beloved “eating” and “baking” varieties like Pink Lady, Fuji, and Granny Smith thrive in the longer growing season that the Hudson Valley’s climate offers. As far as cider apples go, the Northern Spy has been a mainstay of the Valley since the colonial days.
Cheaper than other forms of imported hooch, cider was a favorite of early Hudson Valley residents because it made use of the rich supply of ingredients around them. Heritage beverages like Applejack emerged in this period as well. After pressing cider, these pioneer distillers would allow the mixture to ferment. The result was a highly potent spirit reminiscent of brandy.
Hard cider was immensely popular due to its low cost and high yield. By the 1920s, however, the temperance movement and Prohibition laws put the kibosh on cidermaking; church-going farmers cut down their apple trees before having their fruit turned into a “demon drink.” Even after Prohibition was repealed, cider production — which has always been a cottage industry — took years to recover, hitting a new stride in the last several years.
Riding the wave of the craft beer boom, cider production exploded in the Hudson Valley. Local producers blend American heritage traditions with newer techniques from countries like France to create a myriad of styles. Whether your taste buds prefer ciders that are bone-dry or ones that are honey-sweet, there is a glass for every palate in this region.
Like wine, cider is made by pressing the juice out of the fruit, and then allowing the natural sugars contained in it to ferment into alcohol. The taste of the final product is dependent on several factors, most importantly the varietal — or varietals — of apples used. Sweeter apples produce a more saccharine-tasting beverage; tart fruits yield a drier, more complex drink that is not unlike brut Champagne.
When should you drink cider? With an alcohol content generally ranging from five to seven percent, it’s is a suitable alternative to beer — especially for those who suffer from gluten intolerance, since it is gluten-free. But it is also a “food-friendly” beverage that pairs well with foods.
Craft cider fans rejoice! The Hudson Valley is home to every style of the apple-based beverage around. Many of these scenic locales offer outdoor seating with sweeping vistas of young apple trees.
An entire range of styles and farm philosophies creates a diverse beverage trail – just make sure you have a designated driver!
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Nine Pin Cider Works is a Capital Region standard. Its name draws inspiration from the legend of Rip Van Winkle, who took his famous slumber after a game of nine pins and a ton of cider. Like many cideries in the Hudson Valley, Nine Pin ensures that every piece of fruit used in its products is grown locally in New York State. Its commitment to local craft beverage development is well-known, as it was one of the first official farm cideries in the state.
If you’re looking for a different vibe than a pastoral paradise—something a little more downtown—check out Nine Pin. It’s a Granny Smith-green building sporting a mural of an orchard in the Broadway warehouse district. There are straightforward apple-centric ciders, plus inventive ones like Hunny Pear and Adirondack Maple. For more fun: join the 26er challenge and try all of the limited draft cider released over the course of a year (you’ll be rewarded with swag, discounts, and a special party). What goes great with Nine Pin’s ciders? Their sourdough pizzas, Bavarian pretzels, and house-made pickles.
Sip this: Ginger cider, made with Samascott Orchards’ dessert apples. It’s infused with ginger and orange peel and tells your tastebuds that fall is truly here.
Altamont hosts a truly agrarian cider-tasting experience at Indian Ladder Farms. A real tree-to-glass operation, it invites guests to gaze out at acres of bucolic farmland while tasting the literal fruits of 100-plus years of family-farm labor.
The tasting room itself overlooks the hop yard and fields of barley and oats, turn into beer onsite. On a tour, the star of the show is the 90-acre orchard, the site of cidermaking for over 50 years. More than 40 varieties of apples are grown onsite, along with pick-your-own berries and pumpkins when in season.
Ciderdelic, a wild fermented cider that features raspberries, and Golden Boy, a single-variety cider made from New York’s Golden Russet apple, are a few of the more unique offerings at Indian Ladder. Similarly, every cider hits at least six percent ABV and utilizes the very best of farm-fresh ingredients.
Sip this: For a true New York cider experience, look to Golden Boy, produced from the Golden Russet apple, a.k.a. New York’s first native variety. It’s full of wonderful apple flavor, with light honey notes that make it lightly sweet with a full body.
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Tucked off a winding road in Hillsdale, Little Apple Cidery has an expansive lawn where you can sit and contemplate the clouds. But it isn’t just a beautiful location—the orchard is certified organic, and the ciders are spectacular. In fact, Floraison, a seasonal, naturally carbonated sparkling cider, recently won gold at Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, the largest in the world. Stop by to sip some of owner and cidermaker Ron Bixby’s creations, and why not have a cheese plate as well? Mark your calendars for Ciderfest on October 9. It’s a free event with music, a barrel-rolling contest, and Aloha Tacos food truck—oh, and plenty of cider.
Sip this: Little Apple is one of the very few locations where you can find quince cider—see if you can snag some.
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A sleeping giant in the Catskills isn’t the only legend inspiring cideries in the Hudson Valley. Sundog Cider may just be the preferred beverage of the chariot-driving sun god Ra.
Inventor and environmentalist Jody Rael founded the 100-percent solar-powered and carbon-neutral Sundog Cider in 2013. He utilized the clean energy innovation from his company Sundog Cider.
During COVID-19, the tasting room in Chatham is closed to the public, but the Sundog Cider team offers curbside pickup for bottles and growler fills. Other Hudson Valley destinations carry the traditional unfiltered Sundog Cider.
Sip this: Traditional – Unfiltered, solar-powered, and refreshing, this is the cider of a greener future.
The venerable Fishkill Farms orchard provides the apples that are the stars of the show at Treasury Cider, billed as “tree to bottle Hudson Valley hard cider.” You can have a glass or flight on the porch, overlooking the orchard, with the Catskills soaring in the distance (reservations recommended). Varieties might include Counterpane, a delightful dry cider co-fermented with sweet and tart cherries; Colony, a mead-style cider; and Wild at Heart, a semi-dry cider that is steeped with wild foraged sumac. Another good reason to stop by: The calendar of events, including live music, “Sip and Stretch” yoga, and open mic night.
Sip this:Pucker up with the Centennial cider—unfiltered, tart, and dry. Want something a little milder? You can’t miss with Homestead, a semi-dry with Mcintosh, Ida Red, Golden Delicious, Jonamac, and more in the mix.
From humble beginnings, anything is possible in the Hudson Valley beverage market. Left Bank Ciders began with a food processor and pillow cases, an operation turning unwanted market apples into something potable.
Left Bank Ciders has quite the badass backstory: It began when two out of three co-owners gathered castoff apples, foraged some more, and then used a food processor and pillowcases to grind and squeeze out and ultimately ferment their cider. Today, Left Bank still uses apples from abandoned orchards, donated fruit, and pounds upon pounds of apples from growers within 100 miles of their Catskill home base. They describe their ciders as “dry and complex,” and you can taste a rotating selection at their tap room, accompanied by pizza thanks to a new partnership with Be Golden Farms in Berne.
Sip this: Bell Hill, a hyperlocal star. “It’s made exclusively from foraged wild apples from Greene County and created with native yeast, so the whole process is just what we’re getting from nature,” says co-owner Tim Graham.
Angry Orchard is one of the most recognizable destinations in the Hudson Valley. Outdoor seating, eclectic food trucks, and an honest-to-goodness treehouse await at this scenic landscape in Walden.
The 60-acre orchard is a local spot gone big-time: They often capture half of the national cider market. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Hudson Valley, check out their home base: Visit the taproom and try their renowned ciders—Crisp Apple, Pear, Rosé, Green Apple, and unfiltered—plus whatever else may be brewing. The kitchen serves up shareable appetizers, and food trucks drive by on weekends. Book a guided orchard walk or a treehouse experience, which will give you amazing vistas of the orchard and the Gunks. Devotees may join the cider club for discounts.
Sip this: You can’t go wrong with their Crisp Apple classic but see if Pommeau is available—it’s a traditional French beverage blending fresh-pressed apple juice and apple brandy with notes of vanilla and almond.
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What can’t the folks at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery do? Their wines have won awards, and their strawberry-pink Gin Pig is among the best of Hudson Valley spirits. Doc’s Hard Cider was born in 1995 and remains one of the biggest cider producers in the entire state. A slow fermentation and Champagne-style yeast are two of the secrets behind the award-winning ciders.
A visit to the massive site (home to over 60 varieties of apple trees) offers outdoor stages, al fresco dining, and open-air markets to explore. Speaking of the food, visitors can cure an appetite with wood-fired pizza, fresh-baked bread, and locally raised meats. Whether you grab a table or bring your own blanket, there are so many places to enjoy farm-to-table fare and fresh, cold cider on tap.
Some of the fruity variations on pure apple cider include peach, pear, raspberry, pumpkin, and black currant.
Sip this: Gold Rush – This offering is made for mature palates. Full-bodied and the driest of any cider produced onsite, it’s made with New York State Gold Rush apples.
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Like many other ciders produced in the Hudson Valley, Naked Flock has had a meteoric rise in popularity. It started as a side project of Applewood Winery and has cemented itself as one of the best sips in the entire region.
The original Naked Flock cider shows its winery roots; it is fermented with Champagne yeast and flavored with local honey. A draft variety, a rose, and a seasonal pumpkin make up the main offerings. The name and striking logo image were inspired by author Herman Melville, Moby Dick’s creator, who brought poppy seeds from Asia to a local pastor. A flock of geese ate the seeds and fell into a comatose sleep. During this state, local children plucked them clean of their feathers, hence “Naked Flock.”
Above all, a visit to Naked Flock’s headquarters at Applewood Winery yields countryside views and outdoor tastings. Reservations can guarantee a table to enjoy draft pours and delicious pizzas.
Sip this: Pumpkin – If you could enjoy fall flavors year-round, you’re in luck. Naked Flock’s pumpkin cider sits at just under seven-percent ABV and is full of spices like clove and cinnamon.
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The delightful rhyme scheme of this Orange County cidery’s name promises an equally delightful experience, and Orchard Hill Cider Mill truly delivers.
This compact, absolute charmer of a taproom is set inside a white-trimmed, barn-red building at Soons Orchards. They make two styles of Pommeau: the Ten66 (named for the year the Normans invaded England) and the richer, barrel-aged Ten66 Reserve. Reservations are recommended for the cozy, wood-paneled space which offers six ciders. Drink up and dive into a charcuterie board or cider-donut bread pudding. If you fall in love with their ciders and Pommeau, join Orchard Hill’s cider club.
Sip this: Say cheers to Bitters and Sharps. “We use a naturally carbonated methodology in champagne bottles to create a very rich, fruity cider with zero grams of residual sugar,” says co-owner Karl duHoffmann.
The southern Hudson Valley isn’t exactly known for its cider production, but Rockland Cider Works is changing that perception. The Orangeburg establishment crafts a range of dry ciders at Van Houten Farms. This farm setting was established in 1946, and the first batch of RCW cider was pressed in 2018.
Head to the county’s very first cidery at Van Houten Farms. Grab a glass of something crisp and refreshing at the Tollhouse Taproom and then take a seat in the garden center that’s awash in seasonal displays. You’ll have your choice of Rockland’s sugar- and gluten-free hard ciders made with 100 percent NYS apples. The flagship Dry Run is impressive on its own, but there’s usually a surprise on tap, too, from Ida Red to Pumpkin to Butterscotch. Live music and food trucks give you more reason to linger as afternoon turns into evening. They have a second location farther north in Gilboa.
Sip this: Try Bounceberries, a dry, tart, but smooth cranberry cider that is full of fall flavor.
If you love apples, architecture, and all things eco-friendly, Seminary Hill will delight you. The 12-acre orchard, with 60 varieties of apple and pear trees, uses holistic, pesticide- and herbicide-free methods. The sustainability ethos continues in the stunning, stone-and-timber production facility and tasting room, which is the first cidery to meet passive-house standards. Overlooking the Delaware River, Seminary Hill is so gorgeous, you may not want to leave. Of course, the main event is the quintet of ciders produced: Baldwin Pippin, Beechwoods, Delaware Dry, Northern Spy, and Susan’s Semi-Dry, all with little-to-no residual sugar. Turn up on Sundays at 1 p.m. for a tour and tasting; you can also dine on chef Jack Tippett’s seasonal menu that pairs well with the cider.
Sip this: Susan’s Semi-Dry 2020. It has the apple flavor and a touch of sweetness that many cider drinkers crave, along with peach and rose notes and a nicely astringent finish.
This Woodstock-based cidery performs a greater good in the Hudson Valley by reclaiming abandoned orchards and utilizing backyard apples in the Catskills for delicious ciders.
A couple of years ago, two hobby cider makers, Eric Childs and Martin Bernstein, set to work reclaiming abandoned orchards and crowdsourcing apples from backyards across the Catskills. Up and running as a commercial enterprise since 2017, Abandoned Cider still uses detective skills to sniff out the best heirloom apples in the area to craft their bone-dry ciders, many of which are small-batch. Visit one of Abandoned Cider’s three outposts—in Woodstock, Red Hook, and Kingston—to learn about their craft (and perhaps study a map that shows precisely where their apples came from).
Sip this: For the beer lover who’s new to cider, Hopped is the perfect, crushable introduction.
Apples grew for six generations at Wilklow Farms, but it wasn’t until a decade ago that Albert Wilklow and his friend Devin Britton began melding old and new techniques to create cider with zero grams of sugar. There are a few dozen taps (cider plus local beer) spread over two locations: The Taproom (at the cidery) and the Farm Bar (at the orchard). You’ll discover about 30 small-batch options per season, says Britton, like Plum Rose (blue plums are added for a tart blush cider); Pink Lady, a single varietal; and Old Elmer, a dry cider aged with American oak. Brick-fired pizza and poutine are on the menu, plus food trucks visit regularly. Bad Seed’s Fall Back Festival will be on November 5–6.
Sip this: Their flagship Dry Hard Cider. Fermented with a Sauvignon Blanc yeast, it’s akin to apple champagne.
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A European approach colors the cider-making at Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider. Run by a longtime farmer and cider-maker, HVFC seeks to return the region to its “rightful drink.”
The unfiltered, fresh cider is made in the French tradition and sips like a fine wine. Two iconic Hudson Valley farms provide high-quality experience for the operation: Breezy Hill Orchard near Rhinebeck and Stone Ridge Orchard near New Paltz. HVFC uses over 100 varieties of apple, grounded by tradition with the freedom to experiment and innovate.
Many of HVFC’s products grant the rare opportunity to taste single-varietal ciders. Northern Spy, Wickson, Golden Russett, and Esopus Spitzenburg are all recent ciders made entirely from one variety of apple. The bourbon-barrel blend spends time aging in bottles from Hillrock Estate Distillery. Fresh cider donuts make a visit to Stone Ridge even sweeter.
Sip this: Maeve’s – Anyone who has paid a visit to Western Europe knows how beloved golden pub-style cider can be, and HVFC brings that concept to the table with Maeve’s. Highly refreshing and delicately dry, this is as perfect as fresh-poured drafts can taste.
Outdoor seating is the name of the game at Twin Star Orchards. The season kicks off with the ever-popular pig roast event, a delicious foodie celebration complete with fresh pours of Brooklyn Cider House Ciders.
The philosophy at Twin Star Orchards emphasizes the importance of high-quality apples. Distinctly Hudson Valley drinks are elevated by wild yeast (and sometimes white wine yeast). They craft the resulting ciders with minimal intervention and tons of regional terroir. There is no better setting for these ciders than the site in which they are pressed. Gorgeous farmland sets the scene for funky, semi-sour pours.
A few of the more experimental creations from Brooklyn Cider House include the Three of Life, naturally sparkling and bottle-conditioned; Rosé, colored by sour cherry, wild raspberry, rose petals, and a touch of red wine; and Raw, the unfiltered option.
Sip this: Half Sour – There is more than meets the eye with this award-winning cider. Three partial fermentations over the course of six months imbue Half Sour with complex characteristics. Wild flower, pickled pear, and sweet honey balance out the sour and tart notes.
Sure, the rotating ranks of food trucks and live music nights are a big draw at Hardscrabble, but there’s no getting around the irresistible allure of their cider. Owned by the Covino brothers (Alex, Kevin, and Ben), the micro farm-cidery is renowned for its classic as well as its inventive drinks. Black Dirt has earthy beet notes, Jalapeño Cucumber suits those who like something spicy, and their Dry Cider is an all-around pleaser with Macintosh notes. Located at Harvest Moon Orchard & Farm, Hardscrabble is tucked inside the farm store. Grab your drink and head outside to the tables overlooking the pumpkin patch, a pond, and perhaps some frolicking chickens.
Sip this: You can’t go wrong with their straight-up ciders, but if you’re there on a weekend and feeling daring, try an Orchard Bloody—described as “basically a salad,” it mixes Hardscrabble’s dry hard cider, local vodka, and veggies.
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Thompson’s Cider Mill and Orchard uses more than 30 varieties of apples to produce unique artisanal sips. Apples have grown on Thompson’s scenic hilltop since the 1870s. Founder and owner Geoff Thompson expanded the gorgeous Westchester orchard to 520 trees today.
In the autumn months, this Croton orchard is an amazing place to visit. Though on-site consumption is only open during the fall, Thompson’s line of delicious ciders is available for pickup and on-tap locally all year round. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Crabtree’s Kittle House, Croton Tapsmith, Ocean House, and several other Westchester establishments serve the small-batch ciders produced by Thompson. Those with adventurous palates will be delighted by their signature apple wine. An heirloom blend gives a tour of the orchard’s varieties, and its apple-raspberry creation delivers a fruit-forward flavor.
Sip this: Apple-Blueberry – Could there be a more perfect spring and summer flavor pairing? Fresh heirloom apples and deliciously sweet blueberries make for satisfying warm-weather drinking.