Apples are a major crop in New York State. So, when the Boston Beer Company, parent company of Angry Orchard, opened the Angry Orchard Innovation Cider House on a 100-year-old apple orchard in Walden, NY, this relationship between the Empire State and apples was only solidified.
The cidery recently announced the release of its first year-round specialty hard cider, called Walden Hollow. The cider is made exclusively with apple varieties from New York State. These include ‘Golden Russett,’ ‘Northern Spy,’ ‘Newton Pippin,’ ‘McIntosh,’ ‘Braeburn,’ and ‘Rome.’
“This cider is all about New York State fruit and a lot of it is dependent on what is available,” says Ryan Burk, head cidermaker for Angry Orchard. “Our location in Walden is where we’re developing all our ciders. It gives us an opportunity to participate in the growing economy,” he says.
The cider will be released in the spring, and will vary slightly based on New York’s harvest the previous year. Burk says this is a great opportunity to show off New York apples. Wild fermentation techniques were used to create an earthy farmhouse cider flavor. Heirloom apples used bring a tartness to the medium-sweet cider.
Walden Hollow is one release in the Angry Orchard Cider House collection. Others in the collection include The Muse, which is inspired by slightly sweet demi-sec champagne and sparkling wine; Strawman, an American spin on a French farmhouse cider; and Iceman, which similar to ice ciders of Quebec. The first three ciders in this collection use traditional cider making apples from Italy and France and are aged on oak.
“The project will focus on those varieties proven to be great apples in New York State,” he says. “It was a really fun project. I’m really excited to be using New York fruit; we’re really happy with the way [Walden Hollow] turned out. It’s quite different than most cider drinkers have had. In our portfolio, it’s the driest cider we’ve made.”
As far as apple varieties are concerned, Burk says there are some varieties that have fallen out of favor with the fresh market, and are being pushed out. Although, he hopes growers might recognize the potential for some of these apples within the hard cider industry. These varieties, Burk says, lend special characteristics to ciders.
“Older varieties with interesting character are what I’m interested in,” he says. “As the cider industry grows, these apples are only going to continue to increase in demand. It is my hope these varieties are going to stay around.”
Burk says as growers consider turning over orchards to more popular fresh market varieties, they could think about having conversations with cidermakers about the blocks they have in production, before pushing them out.
“If they have varieties they’re thinking of taking out, I bet my life on it a cidermakers would want that fruit,” he says.
‘Newton Pippin,’ for example, is a single-varietal cider Angry Orchard developed. Burk says that’s a testament to the type of fruit used – and it’s something he says he couldn’t do with a ‘Red Delicious.’
“We’re really telling that story of that apple,” he says. “It is my hope is we can return some of these older varieties return to their original glory.”
The Angry Orchard Cider House has been open for almost a year now, and Burk says the reception has been great.
“Every weekend we’re seeing more people than the weekend before. People are asking to try new things,” he says.
Being in an orchard setting helps educate the staff and visitors on apple varieties, and “continues to tell the story of apples first and how important they are in [cider].”