Angry Orchard campfire in Walden | Photo courtesy of Angry Orchard
Local cidermakers utilize fresh fruit to craft a wide range of ciders, from honey-sweet to bone-dry, at scenic destinations along the Hudson River.
The Hudson Valley has become a premier destination for craft beverages of any kind, and especially cider.
Wineries situated on gorgeous estates produce award-winning Chardonnays, Rieslings, and a spectrum of other varieties. Breweries of all shapes and sizes line rail trails and hiking spots throughout the region. Drawing on the rich history of Prohibition in the Hudson Valley, distilleries craft spirits from New York State grain and grapes, contributing to an ever-developing local terroir.
Few sectors of the beverage industry have the lasting impact that cider does. In the 18th century, it was the beverage of choice for just about everyone in colonial America, including children (since well water was often non-potable), and it remained popular through much of the 19th century as well.
Apple picking is a Hudson Valley tradition that remains popular to this day. Beloved “eating” and “baking” varieties like Pink Lady, Fuji, and Granny Smith thrive in the longer growing season that the Hudson Valley’s climate offers. As far as cider apples go, the Northern Spy has been a mainstay of the Valley since the colonial days.
Cheaper than other forms of imported hooch, cider was a favorite of early Hudson Valley residents because it made use of the rich supply of ingredients around them. Heritage beverages like Applejack emerged in this period as well. After pressing cider, these pioneer distillers would allow the mixture to ferment. The result was a highly potent spirit reminiscent of brandy.
Hard cider was immensely popular due to its low cost and high yield. By the 1920s, however, the temperance movement and Prohibition laws put the kibosh on cidermaking; church-going farmers cut down their apple trees before having their fruit turned into a “demon drink.” Even after Prohibition was repealed, cider production — which has always been a cottage industry — took years to recover, hitting a new stride in the last several years.
Riding the wave of the craft beer boom, cider production exploded in the Hudson Valley. Local producers blend American heritage traditions with newer techniques from countries like France to create a myriad of styles. Whether your taste buds prefer ciders that are bone-dry or ones that are honey-sweet, there is a glass for every palate in this region.
Like wine, cider is made by pressing the juice out of the fruit, and then allowing the natural sugars contained in it to ferment into alcohol. The taste of the final product is dependent on several factors, most importantly the varietal — or varietals — of apples used. Sweeter apples produce a more saccharine-tasting cider; tart fruits yield a drier, more complex drink that is not unlike brut Champagne.
When should you drink cider? With an alcohol content generally ranging from five to seven percent, hard cider is a suitable alternative to beer — especially for those who suffer from gluten intolerance, since it is gluten-free. But it is also a “food-friendly” beverage that pairs well with foods.
Craft cider fans rejoice! The Hudson Valley is home to every style of the apple-based beverage around. Many of these scenic locales offer outdoor seating with sweeping vistas of young apple trees.
An entire range of styles and farm philosophies creates a diverse beverage trail – just make sure you have a designated driver!
Nine Pin Cider Works is a Capital Region standard. Its name draws inspiration from the legend of Rip Van Winkle, who took his famous slumber after a game of nine pins and a ton of cider. Like many cideries in the Hudson Valley, Nine Pin ensures that every piece of fruit used in its products is grown locally in New York State. Its commitment to local cider development is well-known, as it was one of the first official farm cideries in the state.
For ciders, expect light and off-dry drinks. Varieties like Ginger use apples from Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook. If you crave something a little sweeter, try the Belgian for tropical fruit notes and a creamy texture (from Belgian Abbey Ale yeast).
At Nine Pin’s tasting room, select sips from nine rotating taps and snack on sourdough pizza. Groups can reserve their own firepit to enjoy outdoor tastings in every season.
Sip this: Earl Grey – Nine Pin Cider Works experiments with a variety of limited-batch ciders. Aged on lemon peel and cold-infused with Short and Stout earl grey tea, this perfectly balanced cider is truly unique.
Altamont hosts a truly agrarian cider-tasting experience at Indian Ladder Farms. A real tree-to-glass operation, it invites guests to gaze out at 300 acres of bucolic farmland while tasting the literal fruits of 100 years of family-farm labor.
The tasting room itself overlooks the hop yard and fields of barley and oats, turn into beer onsite. On a cider tour, the star of the show is the 65-acre apple orchard, the site of cidermaking for at least 50 years. Many of the fruits grown are experimental cider varieties that take part in Cornell University’s trial program. The cider press even has a giant window that sheds light on the Indian Ladder process.
Ciderdelic, a wild fermented cider that features raspberries, and Seckel Solution, a blend of the base Dry Hard Cider and highly tannic Seckle “sugar pears,” are a few of the more unique offerings at Indian Ladder. Every cider hits at least six percent ABV and utilizes the very best of farm-fresh ingredients.
Sip this: Lavender & Honey – Your search for the perfect springtime cider ends here. On the farm, honey bees turn pollen from blooming apple blossoms into sweet honey. This blended hopped cider combines early-season apples with raw honey and fresh English lavender plants. Plus, it makes a great alternative to wine when pairing with elaborate cheese boards.
A sleeping giant in the Catskills isn’t the only legend inspiring cideries in the Hudson Valley. Sundog Cider may just be the preferred beverage of the chariot-driving sun god Ra.
Inventor and environmentalist Jody Rael founded the 100-percent solar-powered and carbon-neutral Sundog Cider in 2013, utilizing the clean energy innovation from his company Sundog Cider.
During COVID-19, the tasting room in Chatham is closed to the public, but the Sundog Cider team offers curbside pickup for bottles and growler fills. Other Hudson Valley destinations carry the traditional unfiltered Sundog Cider.
Sip this: Traditional – Unfiltered, solar-powered, and refreshing, this is the cider of a greener future.
Little Apple Cidery’s property in Hillsdale is one of the cutest rural escapes in the Hudson Valley.
The cidery has been around since 2015 and crafts the adult beverage from several categories of apple: heirloom, cider, and wild apple varieties. Wild apples come from abandoned orchards near the farm. Fresh-bottled with local ingredients, the shopping sips in Hillsdale are reminiscent of hitting a farmers market. Past small-batches have used additions like quince or were aged in Hillrock Estate bourbon barrels.
Sip this: Taconic Gold – This semi-dry traditional cider features a classic blend of local apples. An upfront sweetness yields to a slightly tart aftertaste, perfect for late-summer/early fall tastings.
Hopewell Junction, 845.897.4377
Using over 100 apple varieties from the iconic Hudson Valley destination Fishkill Farms, Treasury Cider makes incredibly fine ciders. The team picks fruit as late in the season as possible to allow more complex flavors to develop. Apples are pressed in a traditional rack and cloth press and aged for 10 months before bottling.
Dryer and less carbonated than commercial ciders, the Treasury brand prides itself on using the rich glacial soils of the Hudson Valley to craft site-specific ciders. Local residents seeking to sample small-batch ciders can join the Treasury Cider CSA. Thirteen total bottles showcase the best of experimental vintages and guarantee a taste even in busy autumnal months.
Plenty of outdoor seating options grant visitors views of both the Catskill Mountains and the expansive Fishkill Farms orchards. Guests can order three ciders on tap, as well as craft cocktails that utilize fresh-pressed cider. “Favorite Farmer” blends the estate Homestead Cider with Averell Damson Gin to highlight botanical notes of herbaceous juniper and stone fruit.
Sip this: Burr Knot – Named after the mysterious formations that appear at the base of apple trees, this wild fermented cider uses a blend of heirloom, bittersweet, and crab apples to create a hazy, sparkling beverage. Hints of caramel and eucalyptus add to the complexity of this 10-variety cider.
From humble beginnings, anything is possible in the Hudson Valley beverage market. Left Bank Ciders began with a food processor and pillow cases, an operation turning unwanted market apples into something potable.
In 2018, an old building in Catskill became the base for Left Bank’s operation. After extensive renovation, fermentation began in the vast cellar and an atmospheric taproom opened to the public. Left Bank is one of the latest additions to the Hudson Valley cider game.
Mountainside orchards and wild roadside trees provide most of the uncommon heritage varieties that serve as fodder for sustainable sips. Adventurous palates can choose between the Byron, an heirloom blend, or Cherry Baby, which uses cherry skins in the ferment to a profile of apple, cherry, vanilla, and almond.
Sip this: Spyser – The Northern Spy has been referred to as the “unofficial apple of the Hudson Valley,” and this cider-mead (called cyzer) uses this iconic varietal to its fullest. Apple tartness, honey sweetness, and a robust ABV mark this one-of-a-kind beverage.
Angry Orchard is one of the most recognizable destinations in the Hudson Valley. Outdoor seating, eclectic food trucks, and an honest-to-goodness treehouse await at this scenic landscape in Walden.
The first apples were planted on the 60 acres over 100 years ago, and the land’s history as a farm dates back to the 1700s. Most of the ciders produced for distribution are made at sites in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but the heart of Angry Orchard’s creativity resides in the Hudson Valley. It’s common for cider apples to look gnarled and deformed, serving as inspiration for the name, crafting delicious sips from “angry” apples.
A refreshing Crisp Apple, English-style Stone Dry, and a smooth Pear round out a few of the flagship offerings. No two tastings onsite at Angry Orchard are exactly the same; guests try new pours from an ever-expanding line of small-batch experiments. Recent creations include Edu, a Spanish-style funky cider, Newtown Pippin, a bubbly single-varietal, Wooden Sleeper, a barrel-aged bittersweet apple wine, and even a super-sweet Ice Cider.
Sip this: Though we recommend any of the experimental sips, there is something special about drinking Unfiltered on tap. This homage to traditional American cidermaking has a hazy appearance and an off-dry fresh apple taste.
What can’t the folks at Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery do? Their wines have won awards, and their strawberry-pink Gin Pig is among the best of Hudson Valley spirits. Doc’s Hard Cider was born in 1995 and remains one of the biggest cider producers in the entire state. A slow fermentation and Champagne-style yeast are two of the secrets behind the award-winning ciders.
A visit to the massive site (home to over 60 varieties of apple trees) offers outdoor stages, al fresco dining, and open-air markets to explore. Speaking of the food, visitors can cure an appetite with wood-fired pizza, fresh-baked bread, and locally raised meats. Whether you grab a table or bring your own blanket, there are so many places to enjoy farm-to-table fare and fresh, cold cider on tap.
Some of the fruity variations on pure apple cider include peach, pear, raspberry, pumpkin, and black currant.
Sip this: Gold Rush – This limited-edition offering is made for mature palates. Full-bodied and the driest of any cider produced onsite, it’s made with New York State Gold Rush apples.
Like many other ciders produced in the Hudson Valley, Naked Flock has had a meteoric rise in popularity. It started as a side project of Applewood Winery and has cemented itself as one of the best sips in the entire region.
The original Naked Flock cider shows its winery roots; it is fermented with Champagne yeast and flavored with local honey. A draft variety, a rose, and a seasonal pumpkin make up the main offerings. The name and striking logo image were inspired by author Herman Melville, Moby Dick’s creator, who brought poppy seeds from Asia to a local pastor. A flock of geese ate the seeds and fell into a comatose sleep. During this state, local children plucked them clean of their feathers, hence “Naked Flock.”
A visit to Naked Flock’s headquarters at Applewood Winery yields countryside views and outdoor tastings. Reservations can guarantee a table to enjoy draft pours and delicious pizzas.
Sip this: Pumpkin – If you could enjoy fall flavors year-round, you’re in luck. Naked Flock’s pumpkin cider sits at just under seven-percent ABV and is full of spices like clove and cinnamon.
New Hampton, 845.374.2468
The delightful rhyme scheme of this Orange County cidery’s name promises an equally delightful experience, and Orchard Hill Cider Mill truly delivers.
Harnessing the power of apples from Soons Orchards, this cider-making team has a real passion for food and drink. Charcuterie boards, artichoke and white bean salads, and grass-fed burgers will please any palate. Outdoor benches provide ample open-air seating for guests, and seasonal events (like an adult Easter egg hunt) can form new traditions.
After experiencing Orchard Hill’s beverages on-site, fans can keep their homes stocked with an expansive cider club subscription. Cases are shipped quarterly and include coverage of the entire offerings or hyper-focused selections of pommeau (a French-style apple brandy-cider hybrid).
Sip this: Verde – Distinctly bright and bubbly, Verde is extremely crisp and refreshing. This dry cider has big floral notes and subtle hints of grapefruit zest. Just as good next to high-end Indian fare as a humble burger, this is a pairing cider through and through.
The southern Hudson Valley isn’t exactly known for its cider production, but Rockland Cider Works is changing that perception. The Orangeburg establishment crafts a range of dry ciders at Van Houten Farms. This farm setting was established in 1946, and the first batch of RCW cider was pressed in 2018.
Wooden stands and a lush garden mark the guest experience at RCW. Patrons sip fresh pours outside as they frequent food trucks and fire pits. Apples from the nearby Dr. Davies Farm in Rockland County fuel a line of sugar-free and gluten-free ciders. Past unique flavors have featured ingredients like jalapeño, peanut butter, black currant, and much more.
Sip this: Dry Run – Rockland Cider Works’ flagship beverage is distinctly crisp. It is fermented with Winesap, Stayman, and Golden Delicious apples for a dry yet fruity cider experience.
New Paltz, 845.633.8657
Outdoor seating is the name of the game at Twin Star Orchards. The season kicks off with the ever-popular pig roast event, a delicious foodie celebration complete with fresh pours of Brooklyn Cider House Ciders.
The philosophy at Twin Star Orchards emphasizes the importance of high-quality apples. Distinctly Hudson Valley drinks are elevated by wild yeast (and sometimes white wine yeast). The resulting ciders are crafted with minimal intervention and tons of regional terroir. There is no better setting for these ciders than the site in which they are pressed. Gorgeous farmland sets the scene for funky, semi-sour pours.
A few of the more experimental creations from Brooklyn Cider House include the Three of Life, naturally sparkling and bottle-conditioned; Rosé, colored by sour cherry, wild raspberry, rose petals, and a touch of red wine; and Raw, the unfiltered option.
Sip this: Half Sour – There is more than meets the eye with this award-winning cider. Three partial fermentations over the course of six months imbue Half Sour with complex characteristics. Wild flower, pickled pear, and sweet honey balance out the sour and tart notes.
Cider fans can take their pick from two pastoral settings for outdoor sipping. Bad Seed Cidery is the base of operations and boasts 22 taps. Visitors can pair tastings with savory pub-grub like rosemary fries, garlic breaded cheese curds, and gluten-free pizzas piled high with pesto.
The Bad Seed Farm Bar brings the party right to the orchard itself. It serves wood-fired pizzas and fresh berry smoothies alongside ciders. Visitors can hang out at picnic tables, wooden barrels, and a picture-perfect outdoor bar.
Bad Seed’s flagship Dry Hard Cider is fermented with Sauvignon Blanc yeast and then can- and keg-conditioned. The team takes a brewer’s approach to many of its small batches. Hopricot pairs fresh fruit with dry hops, another seasonal variety ages in bourbon barrels, and another yet forms an IPA-like variation.
Sip this: Raspberry Reserve Cider – All the complexity of the flagship Dry Hard Cider is upped by a full pound of farm-grown raspberries. Tart, tangy, and gorgeous in color, this pour can’t be missed.
Stone Ridge, 845.453.0242
A European approach colors the cider-making at Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider. Run by a longtime farmer and cider-maker, HVFC seeks to return the region to its “rightful drink.”
The unfiltered, fresh cider is made in the French tradition and sips like a fine wine. Two iconic Hudson Valley farms provide high-quality experience for the operation: Breezy Hill Orchard near Rhinebeck and Stone Ridge Orchard near New Paltz. Pulling from over 100 varieties of apples, HVFC is grounded by tradition with the freedom to experiment and innovate.
Many of HVFC’s products grant the rare opportunity to taste single-varietal ciders. Northern Spy, Wickson, Golden Russett, and Esopus Spitzenburg are all recent ciders made entirely from one variety of apple. The bourbon-barrel blend spends time aging in bottles from Hillrock Estate Distillery. Fresh cider donuts make a visit to Stone Ridge even sweeter.
Sip this: Maeve’s – Anyone who has paid a visit to Western Europe knows how beloved golden pub-style cider can be, and HVFC brings that concept to the table with Maeve’s. Highly refreshing and delicately dry, this is as perfect as fresh-poured drafts can taste.
This Woodstock-based cidery performs a greater good in the Hudson Valley by reclaiming abandoned orchards and utilizing backyard apples in the Catskills for delicious ciders.
Abandoned Cider is a real-life Johnny Appleseed story. Rare and unique apple varieties from the most unlikely sources drive cider production. Taking the best techniques from wine-making, kombucha-brewing, and even tea-making, the team has crafted complex flavors since 2015. A visit to the ever-unique Woodstock Outpost can shine a light on the Abandoned Cider process.
Most of the releases use foraged apples to their fullest, highlighting mountainside varieties. Some are hopped, others are aged in bourbon barrels, and all feature a distinctly hazy apple bite.
Sip this: Vacation – This brew transports Hudson Valleyites to the tropics. Blending heirloom apples with wild varieties, Vacation also features passionfruit juice and guava puree. The bright nose of elderflower, jasmine, and berries truly takes the senses on a vacation.