As we begin to recover from the excessive heat and humidity of summer, many of us struggle to say goodbye to ice-cold beers on the beach. But the transition is a little easier with the perfect drink to welcome fall—and it is definitely not a pumpkin spice latte. While pumpkin beer is arguably the premier alcoholic beverage for autumn, non-pumpkin heads also need a seasonal drink. Enter hard apple cider, which has gained a following in recent years by enthusiasts everywhere.
Although the fermented apple beverage only recently gained popularity in the United States, the cider industry is a cultural standby in countries across the world, with its existence tracing as far back as 60 B.C. Prepared in the same style as wine, cider was a popular drink in the United States, especially the Northeast—until beer eclipsed it, and Prohibition all but wiped it clear from the American map.
But in recent years, cider has resurged across the U.S., and with a 2013 law passed by Andrew Cuomo allowing cideries to use produce from New York, local cider is about to have its moment. These are not just the sugary Angry Orchards and Strongbows most of us are familiar with, and sometimes turned off by. Styles range from dry to semi-sweet, guaranteeing something for everyone. Manhattan may have New York’s first cider bar, Wassail, but Brooklyn is home to cideries that bring this ancient tradition to neighborhood bars.
Here are three of the best Brooklyn cideries (including one DIY version) that bring the apple orchard to our backyards:
Brooklyn Cider House Started by three friends who discovered their love of hard cider in Northern Spain, Brooklyn Cider House brings back the cider drinking days of Brooklyn before the Temperance Movement. Made with apples picked from their orchard in upstate New York, the cider uses the traditional European method of crushing the apples and leaving their juices to ferment. But these painstaking efforts are not an attempt to produce a beverage that needs to be savored. In the cidery’s own words, they are meant to be “gulped not sipped!” Currently, they offer four types of cider: Kinda Dry, Bone Dry, Half Sour, and Still Bone Dry (a zero-carbonation and zero-sugar drink unlike any other cider,poised to change the artisanal cider movement). There is more to come from this ambitious trio as Brooklyn Cider House is set to open a cidery, restaurant, and the first Brooklyn-based cider bar (in Bushwick later this fall).
Brooklyn Brew shop (aka Your House) Introduced in September 2014, Brooklyn Brew Shop expanded its home-brewing offerings to non-beer lovers and hard cider fans. For $40, their Hard Cider Kit provides all the tools to easily brew cider in a matter of weeks. Add apple cider (store-bought or homemade) to the provided yeast, store in a cool dark place, and two weeks later, your hard cider is ready to drink. Each kit produces three batches, and The Brew Shop now offers three different brew varieties. The original Dry, the easy-drinking Sweet, and the experimental Hopped. Additional refill packs are $12, so you can brew through the fall and beyond. Or, move beyond the kits and experiment with different flavor options. A few recommendations from Brooklyn Brew Shop include using different apple or cider types to make drinks sweeter or tarter; substituting pear cider in the brew; and adding cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla. If your friends and coworkers are not impressed by the local cideries mentioned above, perhaps your own home cidery efforts will change their tune.
Descendant Cider Company Opened in November 2014, New York City’s first craft cidery is owned by husband-and-wife team, Alexandria Fisk and Jahil Maplestone. In an attempt to craft a drink the two could both enjoy, the couple began their cider brewing as a hobby in the their Cobble Hill apartment. They now operate out of a 600 square foot warehouse on the border of Bushwick and Queens, with most of the machinery designed by Maplestone. The small-batch cider is made using apples from six different orchards in upstate New York, and combine as many as eleven apple varieties. Unlike the popular American brands, Descendant produces ciders similar to those in the U.K.—drier and more tannic. Their three current offerings are Succession Sparkling Semi-Dry, Pom Pomme Semi-Dry (a unique blend of pomegranate, apple and hibiscus), and Origin Ginger & Cardamom Sparkling Semi-Dry. They also offer limited batches of Descendant Dry and Pair. Since opening, business has grown swiftly for the couple; you can find their ciders in all five boroughs. ♦