Here’s the question: Why is Angry Orchard cider angry?
You learn that the name reflects the apple varieties used to make hard cider*, some of which are not as pretty as eating apples, and therefore “angry.” Or that the trees get gnarled as they age.
That might be true with the cider apples imported from Europe and their parent trees; but at a recent visit to an Angry Orchard orchard in New York State, we observed only charming groves with pretty apples hanging from pert apple trees. We’ll have to take their word about the angry part.
In fact, if you have the occasion to visit Angry Orchard’s new visitor center in New York State, you might call it “Happy Orchard.” There is much to make a visitor happy.
THE NEW INNOVATION CIDER HOUSE
The cider makers at Angry Orchard have been crafting ciders for 20 years, but had been looking to establish a cider research center. They found a 60-acre orchard located in the heart of the Hudson Valley, in New York State. They built a new space for the cider makers to conduct small batch experimentation, developing new cider styles.
After months of planning and constructing, Angry Orchard’s Innovation Cider House in Walden, New York has opened its doors and welcomed visitors to tour the facility. The experimental ciders they create are served exclusively at the cidery’s tasting room.
Above the cidery is a charming museum with tidbits about the history of cider, and actual equipment that was used before modern sorters, crushers and other equipment came onto the scene.
There is also a shop with cider-abilia and bottles of the hard-to-find ciders like the Cider House Collection (there’s more about it below). You can also take home growler of cider from the retail line. Both are wonderful gifts for cider lovers.
The Innovation Cider House has been open during select weekends in November, enabling visitors to learn about hard cider and try samples of the experimental ciders.
For the first season, dates and times are very limited. There’s one weekend left this year:
TOP PHOTO: Different cider apples. MIDDLE PHOTO: We tasted the apples (some yummy, some for blending but not for eating). BOTTOM PHOTO: A vintage pickup truck from the cider museum. Photos by Rowann Gilman | THE NIBBLE.
We were already fans of the retail line, and absolutely loved the experiments. We won’t say more about them under THE NIBBLE policy that if readers can’t get hold of it, we won’t focus on it.
The Cider Innovation House is located at 2241 Albany Post Road in Walden, New York. Take a left at the red barn and drive past the orchard to visitor parking. Everything is complimentary; to sample the ciders you must be at least 21 years old with a valid ID.
If you can’t get there in person, you can visit the orchard online.
Angry Orchard makes a variety of craft cider styles:
CIDER VS. BEER IN THE U.S.
During colonial times and beyond, hard cider was one of the most popular alcoholic beverages, due to the abundance of apples. Beer was much less important.
But in the 19th century, waves of beer-drinking German immigrants brought their lager recipes with them and set up shop. Soon beer became very popular.
Prohibition dealt a serious blow to hard cider production. Although beer was also proscribed, when Prohibition ended it was easy to buy barley, hops and malt and start brewing again. It took years to replant cider apple orchards and grow trees to the point where they bore usable fruit. Even today, traditional cider apples are hard to find in the U.S.
Cider has finally experienced a renaissance, which is gluten free (beer isn’t, although there are some gluten free beers).
Brands like Crispin and Woodchuck captured the interest of American quaffers, along with imports like Magner’s. Smaller American brands like Farnum Hill Extra Dry, Foggy Ridge Serious Cider and West County Cider have found broader audiences.
Creative cider makers like Original Sin press their apples with tart cherries (to create Original Sin Cherry Tree). Doc’s Hard Apple is an earthy style that pairs well with mushroom dishes and washed rind cheeses.
But the king of cider is Angry Orchard, a brand of the Boston Beer Company, parent of Samuel Adams beer. It launched Angry Orchard in 2012, and had the distribution and marketing power to quickly become the country’s largest cider brand.
Now, go forth and try as much as you can.
†These artisanal hard ciders represent three distinct styles, and are produced in small batches, using traditional cider apples from France and Italy and France and aged on oak. They are 10% A.B.V. (Alcohol By Volume), twice as much alcohol as the regular line, and are sold in 750 ml bottles.