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16th Annual Franklin County Cider Days 2010 ~ Part 1 of 3.

A couple weeks back it was my pleasure and honor to be able to travel back east to Western Massachusetts and attend Franklin County CiderDays. This is part 1 of a 2 part recap chronicaling my experience. For those that don't know, Franklin County CiderDays has got to be the premier cider event in all of North America. I was able to go to CiderDays thanks to a generous invite and offer from Tieton Cider Works. They offered to help me get there and in doing so becoming the very first Old Time Cider Travel Sponsor. Appreciation and graditude to Sharon, Craig, and crew at Tieton.


Friday November 4th 2010, the day before CiderDays...

I flew out of SeaTac airport late Thursday night only to arrive very early Friday morning in Boston. I took the Red-Line into Boston where I was able to find some excellent espresso and explore for a short while before eventually meeting up with friends Sharon and Craig Campbell owners of Tieton Cider Works to make our 2.5 hour drive to Western Massachusetts. During my trip I heard multiple times that we were a couple weeks too late for the full congregation of Autumn splendor which might have been the case but I found the area was still alive with the ripe colors and smells of Fall.


Although no official CiderDays events are scheduled we left Boston en-route for Greenfield MA that Friday early to meet with some of the country's leading cidermakers for what could be called a sort-of "state of cider" gathering. Each major cider producing area was represented more or less in what was from my perspective a collegial discussion revolving around basic cidermaker concerns. Category development, marketing/labeling hurdles, and Federal legislation issues were all discussed at great length.


Farnum Hill Cider's Steve Wood sharing his toughts.

Judith Maloney of West County Cider Sharon Campbell, Tieton Cider Works


Attending the meeting was educational and obviously thought provoking. The general sentiment seemed to be that cider has certainly come a long way in recent years but to develop as an official category of our own we have quite a but further to go. I got to meet lots of great folks from all over. Represented at the meeting was Wandering Aengus Cider Works, Tieton Cider Works, Foggy Ridge Cider, Uncle John's Fruithouse Winery, Black Star Farms, Eden Ice Cider, Tandem Ciders, Tideview Cider, Bellewether Cider and… Farnum Hill Cider. Ben Watson organizer of CiderDays.

Mike Beck from Uncle John's Fruit House Winery in Michigan


James Kohn of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks

Cidermakers at Hope & OliveAfter the meeting we adjourned to meet at a local restaurant  Hope & Olive for some eats and cider tasting. Soon after sitting down I had to leave to meet up with my buddy Al Yelvington who I was roommates with for the weekend. It was probably a fortunate time to take off. I know I would have had a blast but was dead tired and wouldn't have been 100% for the bug day on Saturday had I stuck around longer.


Saturday November 5th 2010, CiderDay

I was told that CiderDays used to be CiderDay. However with an expanded schedule there are now over 30+ events held on both Saturday and Sunday. All events occur in and around a handful of towns in Northwestern Massachusetts. Greenfield, Old Deerfield, Shelburne Falls, and Ashfield.


Apple Pancake Breakfast in Greenfield MA

CiderDays events list is varied from the family-friendly like Apple Pancake Breakfasts, Orchard Rides, Cider Press Demos, Apples for Baking, Identifying and Conserving Heritage Apples and even a Wassail-Orchard walk with none other than Michael Phillips author of The Apple Grower. To the right is Michael Phillips on the Cider Salon floor tasting ciders and talking apples.

Folks with cider of the fermented variety on their mind had plenty of tough choices to make. There are more cider related events scheduled than one could possibly hope to attend. Intro to Cider Making, Blending Apples for Cider, Making Barrel Cider, Home Cidermaker Tasting, Ice Cider Tasting, Apple Brandy, Pear Brandy Calvados and Scrumpy. Let's not forget the Cider Salon and CiderDays Harvest Supper in the evening. Cider tastings of all sorts all throughout the day. Cider tasting even at events you may not expect cider tasting to be at.

Shelburne Buckland Community CenterAs expected selecting from the overwhelming number of cider and apple events was a real chore. I stayed the course and attended events closely related to cider and cidermaking. As it turned out the cool white building in the picture above is the Sherburne Buckland Community Center where all my daytime events occurred. They had craft sales inside the community center in one room, the workshops and discussion took place in the main auditorium. Just outside the front doors you would find rare and heirloom variety apples sales courtesy of Scott Farm Heirloom Apples as well as an apple wood smoked bbq stand.


Lots of interesting varieties of old apples from Scott Farm Heirloom Apples To see more click on the image and check out the event set.

Blending Apples for Cider with Claude Jolicoeur

Claude Jolicoeur Pouring Claude Jolicoeur's cider samples

My first official event for CiderDays was one that I was really looking forward to. Blending Apples for Cider with Claude Jolicoeur. Claude's presentation covered the key elements of blending ciders. He highlighted the importance of accurate note taking and the recording measurements such as brix, pH, acidity and even tannin early on in his talk. Claude also discussed was the important balance of sugar, acid, and nitrogen for healthy fermentation and also how acids and tannin (soft and hard) influence cider flavor. Claude showed how to map out and plan a blend, which types or flavors of apples to look for, how ripe, sugar content, tannins, and so on. It was a really great presentation and although I certainly didn't expect it we got our day's first taste of cider early. Claude brought some of his own cider to pour, a really nice example of a French style cider from his home in Quebec.


Pouring Claude Jolicoeur's cider samples

Cider sample from Claude Jolicoeur


Home Cidermaker's Tasting

Home Cidermakers Tastings

Man did this discussion and tasting pack 'em in… Possibly the promise of several free samples of cider. It was led panel of 4 well seasoned, experienced home cidermakers who led a discussion on small scale cidermaking at home. I think some of the panelists pressed their own apples but there was a lot of discussion about custom cider pressings done by local cider presses like Pine Hill Orchards. Pine Hill Orchards appeared to be regionally known for pressing specialty batches for the cider hobbyist blended with fermenting in mind.


Selection of home cidermaker ciders

There was lots of discussion about making "New England" style ciders, and adding fruit to ciders and such. Fresh fruit, frozen fruit, boiled fruit even dehydrated fruit. A gathering like this wouldn't be complete without the eternal topic of which yeasts to use. Are beer yeasts okay? What about natural yeasts? The cider samples were pretty interesting, some good… One stand out in flavor and strength was a cider concoction heavily fortified with Laird's Applejack.

Check back for Part 2. Conversation and Cider Tasting with Leading Cidermakers.



I'd like to mention that this weekend wouldn't have happened and was all made possible for me by the kind folks at Tieton Cider Works who offered to take me along and by doing so becoming my first ever "Cider Event Travel Sponsor". Super special thanks to Sharon, Craig, Cindy, Fred, and Marcus for their support. Their award winning ciders are becoming easier and easier to find every day.


Andrew Lea gives educational cider talks in Michigan December 7th and 8th 2010

Andrew Lea's book Craft Cider MakingMike Beck of Uncle John's Fruit House Winery sent me an email announcing that the man himself Andrew Lea from the U.K. is coming to Michigan for two days of educational cider talks at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO. Andrew Lea is the author of my absolute favorite cider making resource "Craft Cider Making". If you are a cidermaker or have aspitrations to be one you SHOULD ATTEND. If do make it to these events you will be receiving first hand information from one of the world's leading authorities on craft cider. If I wasn't half a continent away it would certainly be hard to keep me from attending.


Wednesday December 8th

High Quality Sweet Cider and Apple Juice - A Transatlantic Comparison - Featured Speaker - 9:00 a.m. - Andrew Lea, Wittenham Hill Cider, England

Sweet and Hard Ciders in England - History and Trends - 10:35 a.m. - Andrew Lea, Wittenham Hill Cider, England


Thursday December 9th

Dr. Andrew Lea of Wittenham Hills, England will be the primary speaker for this session. Dr. Lea is a retired chemist/plant biochemist/food scientist and an amateur cider maker. His work in cider began at the Long Ashton Research Station near Bristol, England where received his Ph.D. When the station closed its cider research program, he moved to South Oxfordshire and planted a small cider orchard. After 40 years in and around cider, he has a tremendous amount of knowledge and understanding of hard cider production. He will draw on his publications, scientific background, and experience to present a terrific two-hour session followed by a short workshop on evaluating and improving hard cider. This year’s event is a must attend for anyone interested in, about to embark on, or already making hard cider.

 The Science of Craft Cider Making: From Juicing and Fermenting to Customizing Cider to Correction when Things Go Wrong - 9:00 a.m. - Andrew Lea, Wittenham Hill Cider, England

Evaluating and Understanding Hard Cider Quality- 11:00 a.m. - Andrew Lea, Wittenham Hill Cider, England


Vashon Island Cider Fest 2010 is coming. October 9th 2010

Dr. Bob Norton Apple Identification - Fascinating Work!

I always have the greatest time visiting Vashon Island and attending Cider Fest. This event was my very first "cider-centric" event 2 years ago.  In the morning through afternoon there is an apple tent showcasing the island's many old time and hard to find apple varieties. Got a mysterious apple on your property? Take samples with you and you will find one of Northwest's leading apple scholars Dr. Bob Norton identifying the mystery fruit.

Later on head over to Misty Isle Farms for some workshops, bbq and to taste the very best cider the Northwest has to offer.

See you there!

Here is the official press release info:

You’re invited to the Vashon Island CiderFest!

If you missed it last year, put October 9th on your calendar. CiderFest is a growing community event that promises to be loads of fun!

Activities on the Village Green are free, but you must have a ticket to attend the events at Misty Isle Farms. Space at the Cider Tasting, Barbeque Dinner and Barn Dance may be limited, so get your tickets in advance!
Also offered are raffle tickets for a one of a kind, custom made steel cider press made by Islander Bob Powell of to be raffled off on the Village Green by the Vashon Island Fruit Club.
We hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

10:00 AM - 4:00 PM on the Green
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM at Misty Isle Farms

- Vashon Village Green in Town Center
- Misty Isle Farms, 3 miles south of town at: 12011 SW 220th Street, Vashon, WA 98070

Hosted and Sponsored by:
Vashon Island Fruit Club
Vashon Island Growers Association (VIGA)
Vashon Island Park District
Vashon Island Rotary Club
Vashon Youth & Family Services

Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union
Winterbrook Realty / Vashon Property Management
For Contact or Sponsorships:
Carolyn Amick
CiderFest Coordinator
206.755.9972 /


Cider Summit N.W. in Retrospect.

Cider Summit N.W.

It certainly doesn't need to be said that "all cider" events are pretty rare here in the US. However consider an event where the overwhelming percentage of bottles poured and kegs tapped are from craft cider makers. Well it finally happened in Seattle. Last Saturday marked what I hope is the first of many Cider Summit N.W. events.

In what was near perfect Seattle weather at Denny Park next to the new Discovery Center cider was given a grand showcase the likes of which we haven't seen yet here in the Northwest. An almost complete line up of the Northwest's craft ciders were pouring their wares and sharing their love of the drink. In England where small craft and local cider makers are more abundant this isn't a new concept. Even back on the Eastcoast, and the Midwest they tend to honor cider with it's exclusive own events. In fact the Great Lakes 3rd Annual Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival, a 2 day event, was also held this very same weekend at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns just North of Lansing Michigan.

Cider Summit N.W.The Cider Summit N.W. boasted some 40+ craft ciders and they delivered. In attendance from the NW craft cider ranks were Blue Mountain Cider Company, Carlton Cyderworks, Eaglemount Cider, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, Red Barn Cider, Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works Vashon Winery/Irvines Vintage cider, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. We even had an extra special visit from my favorite BC cider maker Sea Cider. Visitors from abroad included Dupont & Drouin from France, and from England Aspall and Samuel Smith. I'd really love to see true English cider representation increased on the market and at the event.

Wildfire Cider - Pirate's Plank Bone Dry Cider, German Style Apfelwein, and Ember Semi Sweet CiderThe highlights? Oh man... Where to begin and too many to list. I've had the pleasure of drinking most of the ciders there and if I were to only name the highlights it might misrepresent the amount and quality of the craft ciders present. My favorite cluster of booths just happen to house my favorite regularly available cider selections. Snowdrift Cider Co., Tieton Cider Works, Wandering Aengus, Westcott Bay Cider, and Wildfire Cider. Luck of the draw? Nope alphabetical order. I used my ticket allotment sparingly and tasted some from each of course.

Full pour at Snowdrift Cider Co.'s booth.At Snowdrift my current favorite offering is their Semi-Dry but my favorites from SDC generally depend on the day, the direction of the wind, and the mood.

My favorite at Tieton, Harmony Reserve, is a small batch release and unfortunately wasn't present but I happily quaffed some Semi-Dry Wild Washington Apple Cider.

At the Wandering Aengus booth I found myself in the unique position to try their hard to find (in Washington) Wickson Crab single varietal cider, and the new version of their Dry Cider.

Westcott Bay Cider's Rich Anderson was missing but his lovely new partners Hawk and Suzy Pingree were present and pouring Westcott's Dry and Medium-Sweet ciders. I had both of course but the Dry Cider is among my all time favorites and a must try for any dedicated cider drinker.

At Wildfire... Well I drank all they poured. German style Apfelwein, Pirate's Plank Bone Dry, and Semi-Sweet Ember.

Carlton CyderworksBeyond those there were some other real cider stand outs.

First up Carlton Cyderworks. Oh man these guys are new on the scene and tearing it up in Northern Oregon. Their offerings run on the sweeter side, but the Citizen Cider is absolutely lovely. Great color, great complexity nice light tannins. They also featured their sweet cider "Carrie Nation", and Duke a blend that included blueberry. I hope Carlton's ciders find their way up North to Washington soon.

Sea Cider RumrunnerSea Cider! With all cross border trips to Canada now requiring a passport, and me not having one yet, I thought my chances of sipping some of their finely crafted ciders to be pretty thin. I heard rumor of them coming down. I even read it on the Cider Summit website. Low and behold when I arrived they were there and set up. Dream come true. Sea Cider brought along with them their Pippins and Rumrunner blends. I sampled them both. A number of time. Both delicious but the standout was Rumrunner. This year's Rumrunner was quite a bit different than the 2007 version I recently reviewed. AT 12% the new Rumrunner was pleasantly a little lighter in alcohol than it's 2007 predecessor was at 14.5%. Also because of the availability of rum barrels, the cider is now aged in bourbon barrels cured with a bit of rum. This cider is unique, an absolute winner and one of my favorites.

Tietin Cider WorksCider Summit N.W. was also the inaugural event for the Northwest Cider Association of which many of the names above are members or on their way to becoming members. I spent a great deal of time preparing materials for the booth and manned the booth from 12:30 to 2:00 with my girlfriend and cider tasting partner Heather. We had a blast doing it and our shift sadly over before we knew it. I absolutely love to talk cider and it was really great to answer all questions about what exactly makes a craft cider, exchanging favorites and suggestions, and passing out literature on future events Northwest Cider Association and it's members are a part of. We also handed our new Northwest Cider Association buttons, and were taking $1 donations for our newly printed NWCA letterpress coasters printed by Jamie at The Sherwood Press in Olympia.

Big thanks to Alan Shapiro and SBS Imports, Whole Foods, Seattle Weekly and the other sponsors for believing in craft cider and planning a first class event. There were many surprised folks won over to craft cider and we have them to thank for that. Thanks guys!

More great NW Cider events on the way. Check out Vashon Island's Cider Fest October 9th, Portland Nursery's Artisan Cider Festival October 9th-10th and 16-17th, and Ivar's Salmon House 3rd Annual Fall Cider Celebration coming in November.


Cider Summit N.W. in Seattle on September 11 2010

Cider Summit N.W. Seattle Washington September 11th 2010(Seattle, WA)  August 16, 2010   The Northwest Cider Association, SBS Imports and the Seattle Beer Collective are pleased to announce the First Annual Cider Summit NW Saturday, September 11, 2010 at South Lake Union Discovery Center Park from 11a-7p presented by Whole Foods Market.  The event will feature the area's largest ever gathering of artisanal ciders and cider producers.

Perhaps a hybrid of beer festival and wine tasting, Cider Summit NW offers guests an opportunity to sample some 40 elegantly crafted ciders from producers in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, England, and France.  The owners and cidermakers will be on hand to inform and guide guests through the samplings which will be available in 3-ounce and 6-ounce portions.  Each featured cider is made from 100% pressed apples (or pears) and is made without concentrates or other additives.

"We are very pleased to work with SBS and the Seattle Beer Collective on this event," noted Northwest Cider Association member Sharon Campbell.  "We expect this to be an incredible showcase of our efforts."

"I am thrilled that we have been able to assemble such a stellar collection of ciders for this event," added event co-founder Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports.  "With the vast majority of ciders available to taste at $2.00, it should be a great opportunity for attendees to sample many of the best ciders available in the United States if not the world."

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 (cash only) at the door and are available online via Brown Paper tickets and at the area's leading bottle shops. Admission includes a tasting glass and 10 drink tickets.  From 11a-12n arriving guests will receive 2 additional "happy hour" tickets.  SLU cardholders and WABL members will receive 2 additional drink tickets at any time (offers may not be combined).  Additional drink tickets will be available for sale onsite at $2 per ticket.  The event is 21 and over only. Dogs will be allowed on event grounds.  For more information including a list of participating ciders please visit

Cider Summit NW benefits The Institute for Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research (  IMBCR is one of the world's leading independent research organizations developing effective therapies to increase the quality of life and longevity of myeloma patients.  Cider Summit NW is presented by Whole Foods Markets with supporting sponsors Northwest Cider Association, Vulcan Properties, Seattle Weekly and Click Wholesale.