Tag Archives: local

Serving Up a New Tradition at the Finger Lakes Cider House

Twelve years off and on in Ithaca, NY, has given me plenty of time to observe the beer, wine, and food scene of the Finger Lakes region change and evolve. Wine has been going strong for the past few decades, craft beer has enjoyed an impressive growth in popularity, and the occasional craft distillery graces the landscape. Add to that all the local honey, fruit, bread, meats, cheese, and the like, and you have a veritable moveable feast to take with you as you explore the lakes of the region. FLX CiderHouse - glass

And now we have something new to add to our picnic baskets: artisanal cider. Or should I say new again. Cider was a staple of the early U.S. colonies, and enjoyed a three-hundred year run before Prohibition put a cork in the jug. Sound familiar?

But as with craft beer, so, too with cider. Between 2008 and 2012, hard cider production in the U.S. increased by roughly 73% per year. And just as the rise of craft beer in places like Upstate New York has spawned ancillary industries such as grain and hop cultivation, the prodigious growth in cider production has sparked a renewed interest in apple cultivars suitable for making quality cider. Orchards growing apples for cider now dot the shores and slopes of the Finger Lakes where vineyards once reigned supreme. Lest we forget all those budding enthusiasts on the consumption side, shelves and walls of cider have also become more prominent fixtures of local bottle shops.

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I’ve had my share of ciders over the years, but have only recently turned my attention to the finer points of this particular “genre” of liquid sustenance. If you’re in a similar situation, a taproom dedicated to cider is just the place to visit. Fortunately for me, Finger Lakes Cider House opened its doors in May 2015 at the Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY –– right in time for my summer visit to the region.

The Cider House is not the first regional establishment to provision thirsty travelers with cider. Perched on a ridge overlooking the western shores of Cayuga Lake, Bellwether has been producing hard ciders amongst the wineries for about as long as I’ve lived in the area. But Finger Lakes Cider House is uniquely appealing, for it brings together five cideries under one roof to sell their wares: Eve’s Cidery, Black Diamond Cider, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, Good Life Cider, and South Hill Cider. IMG_3767Set amid bucolic meadows, a working organic farm and orchard, and the occasional vintage farm implement, the Cider House is a charming addition to the Cayuga Lake beverage landscape. Tastings at the sleek wooden bar get you 5 samples for $4, while flights (not to be confused with tastings) go for $12 and feature more substantial pours (5 X 3oz.). Ciders run the gamut from still to sparkling, and bone-dry to lusciously sweet, with the occasional fortified cider and ice cider making an appearance. All ten that we sampled were fermented in the British or northeastern American style, with none of the funky wild fermentation notes that characterize some French or Spanish ciders.IMG_3761

The dry Rabblerouser from Black Diamond Cider features rare red-fleshed apples, is leesy, chalky, reminiscent of quince, and finishes pleasantly tannic. Their Hickster, redolent of spiced stewed apples, vanilla, and a hint of that Normandy muskiness, is another good choice. South Hill’s semi-dry and Bluegrass Russet brings with it aromas of pear and spring blossoms, and is lightly musky with a touch of mint on its crisp palate.

One of the most compelling ciders was one I thought I wouldn’t like: Redbyrd Orchard’s Wickson-Manchurian Crab. Pressing the apples after freezing them in the cider barn concentrates the sugars enough to balance the native tartness and acidity of the crab apples.IMG_3766 The result is a medium-dry cider that evokes peach, ginger, and lime, with a pleasant balance of tartness and residual sugar rounding out the palate.

When it comes to cider, I have a bit of a sweet tooth, and Good Life’s Honeoye offers up plenty of ripe red apples, a dusting of baking spices, and honeyed unctuousness. Not to be outdone, Eve’s Cidery’s Ice Cider contains a hefty 15.5% residual sugar (compared to the 5% residual sugar in the Honeoye), and is homemade apple pie filling in a glass –– sparkling, of course. Apples-and-spice aromas of nutmeg, allspice, and vanilla blend seamlessly with honeyed baked apple, all lifted by a crystalline acidity reminiscent of a late-harvest Riesling.

Last Drops

*Opt for the $5 tasting if you’re interested in tasting a wider variety. And make sure to order the charcuterie plate featuring a seasonal selection of locally crafted delectables –– a steal at $10. Our spread came with salami, rillettes, cheddar, pickled garlic scapes, cherries, rustic bread, and farm-fresh butter.

*Cider is a versatile beverage that will appeal to craft beer lovers and wine aficionados alike. If the battle lines are fairly firmly drawn in your respective circles, split the difference and head to a cider house. IMG_3807Related Tempest Articles

Five Ways to Become a Better Drinker in 2015

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Back-Road Craft Beer Tour

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

Images

Finger Lakes Cider House glass/logo: http://www.fingerlakesciderhouse.com/

Remaining images: F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Sustainable Homebrewing

Earth Day 2015 is now receding in the rear-view mirror, but it’s worth keeping the Earth Day ethos in mind whenever we fire up our brewing systems. With the annual Big Brew festivities rapidly approaching, we may even want to challenge ourselves to put some of the following ideas into practice.

The folks over at CustomMade have put together a helpful infographic in conjunction with a ten-step plan for sustainable homebrewing, and have been asking beer writers and bloggers to spread the news. Since it’s been a busy month in Tempest Land and I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to writing about beer (to say nothing of brewing!), I figured now would be the perfect time to post their ideas here. I encourage you to read all of Abby Quillen’s “10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing.” In the meantime, here’s a quick outline of what you’ll find, followed by a brief commentary on a few points:Barley Field (Wiki)

  1. Transition to Grains
  2. Use Sustainable Equipment
  3. Go Local and Organic
  4. Grow Your Own
  5. Reuse Spent Grains
  6. Reuse Yeast
  7. Chill More Efficiently
  8. Reuse Water
  9. Downsize Container Waste
  10. Green the Clean

In terms of sustainability, perhaps the most important concerns are Points #7 and #8 on water consumption. Between cleaning and sanitizing, brewing, and cooling, the beer-making process uses a prodigious amount of water.IMG_1409 My partner in crime urged me to think of ways to cut back on water waste, so I started collecting my cooling water in empty plastic carboys. To my surprise, it took roughly 14 gallons of water to cool 3 gallons of wort from boiling to around 70F. We used that water to keep the trees, lawn, and garden happy, but it was still a lot of water. So I came up with a pump system that recirculates ice water from a bucket through my immersion chiller. I add a combination of ice cubes and ice packs to a cooler, and use the chugger pump that I bought for the day when I build a larger system. An aquarium pump would achieve the same purpose. Now it takes only 3-4 gallons of ice water to cool the same 3 gallons of wort that once took 14 gallons to cool. That leaves enough to water our herb planters.IMG_1408

With regard to Point #5, I’d caution against the occasional rock or pebble that gets into grain. I may be the only person this has happened to, but the first time I made black bean veggie burgers with my spent grain, I chomped down on a pebble and nearly broke my tooth. What I do now instead is use my spent grains to feed the squirrels during the winter, and add it to the compost heap at other times of the year.

I have a tendency to go on at length about the merits of lagers and other beers brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, but over half of my own brews are experiments that go well beyond the strictures of the Reinheitsgebot . Growing your own or buying locally are great ways to go. So far, I’ve used home-grown lavender and basil in a few of my beers, and have plans to grow a gruit concoction of herbs at some point. I’ve been the beneficiary of home-grown hops, and have also bought peanuts, pumpkins, and honey for my brew days from the local farmers’ market. One of these days I’ll put together a comprehensive post on my experiences using various ingredients in the brewing process.

Without further ado, here’s the CustomMade infographic.

Click to Enlarge Image

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing
Infographic by CustomMade

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Stay tuned for my post on bottles versus cans in the coming weeks. I’ve been working on it forever, but it’s almost done.

Related Tempest Posts

Pinning Down Place

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

A Bavarian in Texas: Franconia Brewing Company. Dennis Wehrmann of Franconia (north of Dallas) has been so successful with his combination of solar energy and bio-fuel electricity generation that he sells power back to the grid. That’s quite something, considering how much power breweries need to heat the kettles and keep the fermenting beers cool.

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company. When I completed this article on Chris Asher’s brewery in the northern reaches of Boulder, Asher was still the only one hundred-percent organic brewery in Colorado.

Images

A Field of Ripening Barley, The Palouse, USA: Viktor Szalvay (Wiki Commons).

Water recirculation system and diagram: F.D. Hofer.

Sustainable homebrewing infographic: Abby Quillen.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.