Thursday, November 6, 2014

Far From The Tree Hard Cider: Salem's New Liquid Treasures

"In early eighteenth-century New England, the most popular alcoholic drink, in terms of volume, was locally produced cider. Throughout much of this period, cider served as a currency. It was used to pay salaries and product prices could be quoted in barrels of cider."
--Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately

The importance of hard cider in Colonial America cannot be underestimated. Hard cider is an integral element of our history, and it has seen a resurgence in recent years, including the establishment of craft cideries all across the country. I'm a hard cider fan, and have previously reviewed numerous ciders, made in places ranging from Virginia to Canada, Ireland to Massachusetts. I've also previously provided some historical information about the role of cider in U.S. history.

A new cidery, Far From The Tree, has recently opened in Salem, Massachusetts, and it's producing some interesting and delicious hard ciders.

The cidery is owned by Al & Denise Snape. Denise is the Director of Business Operations, and Al is the "Cellar Master," the maker of the ciders. They use freshly pressed apples, obtained from orchards in Central Massachusetts, crafting their ciders using many traditional methods. They want their ciders to reflect history, and that appeals to me. The cidery is not yet open to the public for tours or tastings, though they hope to do so in the near future.

For more in-depth background on Al & Denise, and their cidery, you should check out two recent articles, both excellent, in North Shore Magazine and Edible Boston. I won't repeat what you can find in those articles, and will concentrate instead on the taste of their ciders. I received media samples of their three different ciders, and please note that they will be creating new ciders as well in the near future.

Roots is their Dry New England Hard Cider, made only from pressed apples and maple syrup (which is also obtained from Central Massachusetts). Like all of their ciders, you can find it in 500ml bottles and with an alcohol content of 6.9%. Why did they add maple syrup? Traditionally, maple syrup was added to better preserve the cider during the summer. It can be drunk now though it will also age well for at least a few years. In addition, this cider is fermented twice in the barrel, and then fermented in the bottle, providing it some effervescence.

As the cider is unfiltered, it's a little cloudy, and had a prominent, fresh apple nose which immediately brought to mind the autumn, apple picking at a local farm. When I tasted it, it was more bone-dry, lacking the sweetness that some other hard ciders possess. The addition of the maple syrup did not provide any noticeable sweetness. For myself, that is a positive as I prefer my ciders to be more on the dry side. The apple flavors are clean, crisp and appealing while its mild effervescence makes it refreshing. This would be an excellent summer drink, however, you can drink it year round. It would make a good pairing for a variety of foods too, from pork to seafood. Highly recommended.

Rind is their Saison Cider with Coriander & Orange Rind. This cider was inspired by a special Saison beer that was once made in Belgium during the winter, which was then given to their seasonal workers, as a partial payment, to be enjoyed in the summer. Made with a Saison yeast, and some coriiander and orange peel, it is slow fermented in the winter.

This cider is also unfiltered, and hence a little cloudy, and like Root, had a prominent, fresh apple nose, though there was also a wispy hint of spice. When I tasted it, it was bone-dry with clean and appealing apple flavors, accented by subtle hints of citrus and spice. If you pay more attention to the taste, you'll understand more of its complexity. If you don't pay any attention, you might miss the citrus and spice notes. This cider seemed to possess a bit of a fuller body than the Root, though its mild effervescence was similar, and very refreshing. I enjoyed this cider with a dish of pumpkin ravioli, an excellent autumnal pairing. Drink this year round, and try pairing it with a variety of dishes.

Sprig is their Dry Hopped Mint Cider, which uses cascade hops. The cider is aged in oak barrels, dry hopped for two weeks, and then fresh mint is added the day before bottling. This is a hard cider for beer lovers, who enjoy the taste of hops but are looking for something different than beer to drink. Those fresh apple flavors are there, along with more of that bone dryness. And the mint flavors are very subtle.

Far From The Tree Ciders are available in many different wine stores and restaurants, and you will find the Roots and Rind at Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet in Melrose, the store where I work part-time. Stop on by and pick up some of this new local hard cider.

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