If you’ve ever been to Vermont, specifically the Burlington area, you’ll know that they have a huge cider industry. Earlier this month, I (Julia) took a trip up to explore what Vermont’s “cider scene” has to offer, large and small. There are so many different cideries with so many different styles and backgrounds. I tried to get a feel for all things cider in Vermont by visiting a variety of different businesses. I visited six cideries in total, each very different from one another, but with one common interest…delicious hard cider. The biggest thing I noticed at these places was the sense of collaboration and overall mutual support for one another. None of the companies I visited seemed to think of each other as “competition”. In fact, many of them actually collaborate, whether it be with products, canning, or shared orchards. The feeling of community I experienced was unparalleled and made me both proud and excited to be a part of this industry!
Our first stop of the trip was at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury. Cold Hollow started off as a small family run business in 1974 making apple cider with a traditional rack and cloth press from the 1920’s. Since then, Cold Hollow has changed hands and grown drastically. They now not only produce farm fresh apple cider, but also fermented hard cider along with baked goods, maple syrup, jellies, cheeses, and even have their own restaurant! Their hard cider production began in 2015 with their single flagship cider, Barn Dance. Barn Dance is a semi-dry cider made with a blend of McIntosh apples and Cold Hollow’s own cider syrup. In 2017, Cold Hollow expanded some more and added three other hard ciders to the mix, Soul Shifter, Good Attitude, and Grateful Sled, all of which we were able to sample at their tasting room!
Next, we continued our journey right up the road to Stowe Cider. Stowe recently moved and upgraded their tap room and production facilities. They broke ground in May 2017 and officially opened their new taproom later that October. Stowe is now located just off of Mountain Rd at 17 Town Farm Lane in Stowe, VT. If you’re into beer as well, be sure drive just a bit further to The Alchemist and von Trapp Brewery. While once just a small countertop bar in a “shack” on the side of the road, Stowe now has a much larger space with lots of seating, oh, and a large variety of ciders (and beer) to choose from! In addition to their staple ciders, they had Smuggler’s Reserve Rum and Bourbon Barrel-Aged ciders, various berry ciders, red and white grape ciders, and a very interesting selection called “Dry Ice,” a honey crisp, bourbon barrel aged cider coming in at 15.5% ABV and tasting just like a smooth bourbon with just a hint of sweet apple flavor.
Our last stop of the night was at none other than Citizen Cider, right in the center of Burlington. Our good friends at Citizen never fail to disappoint! I was brought along for a full tour of their production floor, with a quick peek into R&D and all, and even got to try a few tastes from the barrels, including the limited release of Full Nelson, Citizen’s original hopped cider. After learning a bit about their history and the process of cider making at Citizen Cider, I sat down for a flight and tried a few “tasting room exclusives”. I decided to go for some selections that I hadn’t had before. Some of my favorites were Cash on the Barrel Head, a cider aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels, Tree Tapper, a maple cider (in true Vermont fashion) aged on oak chips with Belgian candi syrup, and Disco Inferno, a blend of cherry juice and cider spiced with vanilla bean, cinnamon, and cardamom. Lucky for me, I was able to snag a few bottles from the Citizen Cellar series to bring home to Massachusetts. If you aren’t local and find yourself in Burlington, definitely stop by for their limited releases!
We started our Saturday early with an hour and a half drive south down Route 7 to Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, VT. They were super accommodating and had their cider maker come in on his day off for us. We got to sample through each cider they have to offer in their new tasting room, the original farmhouse on the property that has since been transported and redesigned. We got a sneak peek at some new things coming out soon and got to pull a sample from a tote of something yet-to-be-released. The property itself is beautiful. They grow all 110 varieties of apples used in their products on-site. In addition to hard cider, they have a farm market that is opened year-round selling local Vermont goods. On our way out, we each grabbed our favorite cider. Mine was Somerset, a traditional dry cider with an unintentional hint of fresh lime.
After our visit with Champlain, we trekked back up north to Windfall Orchards, a small backyard cidery in Cornwall, VT, just ten short minutes south of Woodchuck. Windfall Orchards was founded in 2009 and is run practically out of the owner’s home. The apple trees are located in his backyard, where they are currently undergoing a long and tedious grafting procedure. The tasting room, which just opened last fall, is located on the same property and is an adorable, quaint room complete with cozy seating and a fireplace. If you think that sounds nice, then wait until you hear about their outdoor patio. The property also has a patio space overlooking the orchard with the Adirondacks in the background. During the spring, summer, and fall, Windfall hosts “local nights” with local pizzerias, taco joints, and other local eateries paired with their very own ciders. Windfall Orchards makes their own bottle-conditioned cider which is absolutely divine, they also partnered with Eden to make an ice cider, and have what I think of as a cider-liqueur. Every few years they also make a perry; unfortunately, they didn’t have any available at the time, but I’m looking forward to trying their next batch in the future.
Last, but certainly not least, is Vermont’s own cider powerhouse, Woodchuck Hard Cider. We’re currently partnering with them to cover their new Tank Series and were very excited to incorporate them into our trip. Once we arrived at the cidery, we each started with a flight followed by an extensive tour of the facility. We saw all of their giant fermentation and holding tanks, tried to make some sense of their organizational methods, learned about the process of cider making at Woodchuck, and got to walk the bottling line…all two football fields’ worth of it! After the tour, we tried a few more ciders by Woodchuck, Gumption, Vermont Cider Company, Magners, and Wyder’s, all cideries that partner together and are served on tap in the Woodchuck taproom. We ended our stay with a pint and some conversation with the bartenders. Thanks to them, I’ll be attending Ciderstock this year, so go check out the line-up, purchase some tickets, and be on the lookout for our preview article! Hope to meet some of you there!