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Terry Bradshaw Vermont Calais, VT Orchard-Crafted Hard Cider in the New American Tradition

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Don't even ask, it's NEVER for sale (the hard cider, that is...)

It's not wine, nor beer, and it sure isn't 'hooch' anymore....

The real reason behind this site is my love of cider and cidermaking.   I define cider by the traditional, old-world term where it is the fermented juice of  apples.  Here in North America cider tends to refer to raw or at least minimally processed unfermented apple juice, but I reserve the terms 'apple juice' or 'sweet cider' for that product.

I don't mean in any way for this section to be a definitive tutorial on cider and its making, but rather a snapshot of what works for me and what I may try down the road.  Anyone looking for a basic yet very thorough primer on cidermaking should visit the excellent website which Andrew Lea runs. There is also an email list, Cider Digest, run by Dick Dunn where cidermakers can share and acquire knowledge on the subject. There are also a couple of great books on the subject:

Proulx, Annie and Lew Nichols. Cider: Making, Using, and Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider. 2nd Edition. Pownal, VT: Storey Publishing, 1997.

Watson, Ben. Cider Hard and Sweet: History, Traditions, and Making Your Own. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 1999.

'Hard' cider in my neck of the woods (northern New England) has taken on two very different meanings referring to substandard product.  The first and most   refers to the New England farmhouse cider tradition which has waned in the past century.  I have tasted many ciders made in this style, some very good but unfortunately many not so.  As we lost our farmhouse orchards and neighborhood mills we lost the knowledge and infrastructure to continue to make great farmhouse ciders.   Some people who carried on continue to use questionable equipment (vinegar barrels, anyone?) and poor apples gleaned from commercial orchard culls or drops. Much of the lore behind this style of cider lives on only in oral tradition, where legend of Uncle Eddie's 'give you the shits' cider and numerous headache potions lives on. Often these tales are spread by succeeding generations of people who have never tasted the product themselves.   The myth behind the old cider tradition and its knock-you-to-the-floor liquors is a real impediment to finding appreciation of good craft ciders.

On the other hand we have the some modern commercial cider styles in which little apple juice is used and the product is a sweet, fizzy alco-pop marketed toward the old wine cooler set.  These 'ciders' offer no complexity of flavor and have no real link to a cidermaker's craft, but rather fill a market segment, and a very competitive one at that. Picture a product that is going up against Mike's Hard Lemonade, Zima, Smirnoff Ice, and the like, and you'll see a completely manufactured drink that does no service to the cider name.

So how do I define  real cider?  Again, it is the fermented juice of the apple.  There are numerous techniques that can be used to develop styles of cider, and I will discuss these in further sections.  There is enough goodness in the sweet cider base to make a truly refined, high quality drink worthy of being served alongside wines in the finest restaurants.  But make no mistake- cider is  not wine, nor beer, but its own drink which is worthy of distinction on its own terms. 

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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com