WALDEN, N.Y.—Hard cider continues to climb in popularity and now the largest producer in the country, Angry Orchard, has its own place to welcome customers.
After breaking ground in March, Angry Orchard, part of the Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams and Twisted Tea, welcomed its first visitors in early November to the 60-acre farm that it purchased last year. With only a little advance preparation and some notices in local papers, more than 2,500 visitors streamed through to learn about the cider making process and taste the core lineup, as well as some special batches, which will be this location’s main purpose.
The Hudson Valley is know as New York’s apple belt, and Walden, an idyllic farming town about 90 minutes from Manhattan, was just the kind of spot the folks at Angry Orchard were looking for when they decided to buy a farm. The orchard they found is on a farm dating back to the 1700s, becoming a full-time apple producer in the 1950s.
Officially the location is known as the Angry Orchard & Innovation Cider House, and upon arrival visitors see a striking red barn, painted with the cider’s logo. But visitors are encouraged to drive past the barn (it is only used for cold storage) along a paved stone driveway, through the orchard, to the newly constructed two-level building. Inside is a self-guided interactive tour, which traces the roots of cider in America; explores apple varieties; features Angry Orchard trivia; and offers a peek at the apple processing room and stainless steel fermenters. Then a quick walk downstairs take visitors to the gift shop and tasting room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking a sprawling yard (complete with fire pit) and a view of the orchard.
That’s the real star of the attraction. With 45 working acres, some of the orchard’s trees date back 100 years, and currently focus on culinary apples like McIntosh and Rome. Working with local growers, universities and other cider makers, Angry Orchard plans to begin planting historic and more cider-specific apple trees on the property.
“We’ll do it slowly, a few acres at a time, working with the growers,” said Ryan Burk, the head cider maker, standing near a two-acre spot that will soon be planted with bittersweet and bittersharp varietals.
Boston Beer has long been making cider, first under the brand known as HardCore. Angry Orchard was launched in 2012 and since then it has grown tremendously. It currently accounts for approximately 60 percent of the U.S. cider market, although a spokeswoman for the company would not reveal how many barrels the brand produces.
The vast majority of the company’s main brands will be produced at the Boston Beer facility in Ohio, with the focus of the new location being experimentation and small-batch only recipes. A tranquil spot for a familiar brand, the Angry Orchard will be open select weekends through the end of the month and then will re-open to the public in the spring.
John Holl is the editor of All About Beer Magazine.