Local Ciders Usher in Fall in the Berkshires

It can be hard to let go of summer’s warmth, fresh heirloom tomatoes and dipping your toes into a shaded creek. But fall offers its own pleasures, and here in the Berkshires we’re lucky to have fantastic orchards, wineries, and cideries that make the seasonal transition something to celebrate.
The brand new Berkshire Cider Project, located within the Greylock Works complex in North Adams, released their first batch of dry, sparkling hard ciders this year. “We take a very seasonal approach to cider-making,” says Kat Hand, one of the project’s co-founders. They ferment each fall’s harvest over the winter and release new cider batches in the spring and summer, offering dry ciders that try to stay “true to the apple”. It’s been a challenge to source local apples for their dry ciders: the specific varieties with high tannins that are good for cider are less common than the sweeter varieties most people are familiar with. The Cider Project works with local growers like Windy Hill and Hilltop Orchards, and they have a partnership with Hancock Shaker Village, whose small historic orchard produces some ideal varieties.

Berkshire Cider Project just launched a unique venture: Berkshire Community Cider which will be made with a blend of apples that people bring to them from backyards, old orchards, and wild apple trees (bring them your apples before the end of October if you’d like to participate). Cider enthusiasts can find their products at their retail window at Greylock Works, as well as in a number of local retailers and restaurants.
Another effort to revive the traditional ways of growing apples and making cider can be found at Carr’s Ciderhouse in Hadley, MA. Their “preservation orchard”, managed without pesticides or herbicides, features a wide variety of heirloom apples. Carr’s combines their own apples with others from local farms (and even some wild apples) to press cider using a century-old cider press. The fresh cider is slowly fermented naturally to produce a distinctive hard cider. Carr’s also makes boiled cider, cider vinegar, and switchel. Their products can be shipped nationwide or purchased at their farm store.

At Little Apple Cidery in Hillsdale, NY, owner Ron Bixby has worked since 1980 restoring an abandoned orchard to produce certified organic apples for his cider. Now in his fifth year of commercial cider production, he and cider-maker Hayley Shine are “full of ideas and constantly innovating”. They use a blend of American heritage cider apples, along with English, French and Turkish cider varieties, crabapples, and quince.

This year, Little Apple opened their Orchard Bar (as an outdoor space, thanks to Covid-19), so customers can enjoy their ciders at the source. Guests can sit under the apple trees, walk through the orchard, and taste Little Apple ciders or beer from the nearby Roe Jan Brewing Company. The Orchard Bar is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 PM.
The pandemic forced Berkshire Grown to cancel all our fund-raising events planned for 2020. This change affected our bottom line, but it also inspired collaborations that have strengthened our local food system. We are proud of the work we do to provide access to fresh, locally-grown food, and our work that supports local farmers, and we are deeply grateful to our community members who support us. CLICK HERE to watch our new 5 minute video, and hear what farmers say about how your support of Berkshire Grown keeps farmers farming. You'll be inspired to DONATE TODAY to keep our famers farming!
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Now more than ever, connections to local food and farms hold our community together. 

Berkshire Grown's 2020 Guide to Local Food and Farms is the region's best guide to farms, farmers markets, and restaurants offering local foods. 

Use this Guide to find farm stands, CSA farms, pick-your-own farms and orchards, as well as locally sourced, value-added products like charcuterie, preserves, and fermented foods.

Connect to the Guide here to see descriptions of Berkshire farms, farmers markets, restaurants and local food businesses, with addresses and a detailed map. Or, pick up a printed copy at your local grocery store or farm stand. Keep the Guide handy and use it frequently!

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Margaret Moulton, Executive Director
Andrea Caluori, Program Manager
Jess Camp, Program Manager
Sharon Hulett-Shepherd, Membership and Office Manager
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