The Hudson Valley is no stranger to cideries.
In a land abundant with apple farms, the region is practically synonymous with sweet cider donuts and autumn weekends spent picking. That’s why it’s maybe not surprising, but incredibly exciting that there’s a sweet new cidery for locals to love.
On a scenic bank above the Catskill Creek, Left Bank Ciders takes the natural approach to cider making. For co-founders Tim Graham, his wife Anna Rosencranz, and their friend Dave Snyder, making cider is all about stripping the process down to where it all starts: the apple. After all, that’s where cider making started for them.
While working for the local compost program at a neighborhood farmers’ market, Graham and Rosencranz would watch as a big orchard next-door regularly filled a compost bin with “bad” apples that were unsellable.
“Most looked just fine and, after doing all we could think of with these apples, week after week, eventually we got to making hard cider,” they recall. “Using a food processor and old pillowcases to grind and squeeze all we could from our formidable bushel of apples, we were left with about two gallons of juice, which we fermented, aged, and bottled.”
As a taste test revealed, their homemade cider was a hit. They kept at it, falling into a routine of collecting castoff apples on Saturdays and grinding and pressing them on Sundays. They had experimented with other fermented beverages like mead and fruit wines before, but cider felt like the most natural fit. In fact, it was such a fit that the duo couldn’t stop. In no time at all, they found themselves with a wealth of cider on their hands – not a bad thing to collect, as far as we’re concerned. Even though they passed it out to friends and family for sampling, their cider surplus reached a tipping point when a case burst under their bed and caused their whole room to smell like apples.
Recognizing that cider making was more than just a hobby, Graham and Rosencranz began thinking about a way to expand. Around the same time, Graham’s friend, farmer and orchardist Dave Snyder, moved to New York. When Graham began lending a hand on Snyder’s farm, a plan to collaborate and craft cider quickly took shape.
The trio chose the name Left Bank Ciders as a nod to their position on the left side of the Hudson River. Located across the river from more populated counties like Columbia and Dutchess, the Greene County cidery may be in one of the quieter corners of the Hudson Valley, but that doesn’t make it any less of an attraction. After all, it’s not every day one comes across a cidery specializing in small-batch ciders crafted from local, semi-foraged apples.
“Most of our 2019 apple harvest comes from wild trees we picked ourselves – from trees on roadsides and on public lands – in the Catskill Mountains,” the owners explain. “We have also befriended some extremely generous locals who have shared their beautiful and unique orchards with us. One such friend in the mountains has an orchard of rare cider fruit and antique varieties – some trees are over 100 years old – that were never sprayed.”
Along with those prized fruits, the trio blended crab apples and other local varieties to produce the distinct, inimitable ciders that now fuel their Catskill cidery. In total, they produced five batches and aged them for a year to allow the flavors to fully mature. Because their 2019 season was so strong – they spent nearly every day in October out picking apples – they harvested over 20,000 pounds of apples and produced approximately 1,000 gallons of cider.
And now, the Hudson Valley can finally drink it.
Open since July 10 (the owners had to delay their planned spring opening due to COVID-19), Left Bank Ciders’ cidery and taproom is Catskill’s newest community watering hole. The historic building, which dates back to 1875, sits behind Main Street with a view of the Catskill Creek. It’s equipped with a basement cellar below and a scenic outdoor patio overlooking the creek, making it perfect for production and enjoyment all in one place. Instead of going for a newer, industrial brewery design, the owners opted to preserve the space’s historic integrity. They hand-built the bar, tables, and booths from reclaimed wood found in the building and even went so far as to restore the old wire-glass window, brick walls, and lime-washed ceiling. And did we mention there’s a fireplace, too?
As far as what to drink goes, visitors can’t go wrong with any of the drinks on tap (or by the bottle, your choice). Purists will love the Wild Duchess, a wild-fermented cider made from Duchess of Oldenburg apples, or the Kabbin, another wild ferment of foraged mountain apples. Those looking to try something new, meanwhile, can pick and choose between the Byron, an heirloom blend, and the Tina, an unconventional mashup of uncultivated bittersweet and crab apples. Of course, it’s hard to beat the Cherry Baby Abey during the summer. A dry cherry cider, it sings of sunny days spent lounging on the patio.
Yet that’s just the half of it. Left Bank Ciders does low-alcohol ciders as well, along with smaller batches of mead. Its Ciderkin and Gingerkin ciders are made from repressing apple pomace that’s been rehydrated (think piquette), while the mead ages in Coppersea Distilling’s rye whiskey barrels. There’s also Left Bank’s cyzer, a hybridized cider-mead blend that harmonizes the tartness of the apples with the earthy sweetness of mead’s signature honey notes. The result drinks something like wine, with a higher ABV and more rounded sweetness than cider.
Now that the tasting room is officially open for business, Graham, Rosencranz, and Synder are ready to welcome Hudson Valleyites to their passion project in Catskill. Sure, visitors can get all the cider they crave. They can also sip on local beers, wines, and spirits or snack on charcuterie sourced from across the region. Left Bank is a must-visit during the summer months, thanks to its wide-open patio, but the owners anticipate that it will be a favorite come winter, too. With a large indoor taproom and a cozy wood stove, it’s ready to welcome guests with a crackling fire once the cooler temperatures arrive.
Left Bank Ciders
150 Water St, Catskill