- Doc's Draft, on multiple "best of" lists, is based at Warwick Valley Winery in Orange County.
The Hudson Valley’s hard cider scene is no longer merely blossoming; it’s booming. The alcoholic apple beverage has been an American classic since Colonial times, and the Hudson Valley has grown apples for its production ever since Dutch settlers planted the first apple trees in the Hudson Valley in the 1600s. Within the last decade, demand for hard cider has skyrocketed as the tide of craft beverageß has swept the country.
Upstate New York has returned to its roots as a cider producer, with some of the country’s leading hard cider brands based right here. Here are five nationally recognized cideries that you probably didn’t know were based in the Hudson Valley.
In 2018, Angry Orchard was far and away the most popular hard cider brand nationwide, with over $245 million in sales. Located in Walden, the primary orchard and distillery for Angry Orchard is open to the public, and you can also try the wide variety of apple and fruit bevvies that made Delish’s list of best ciders.
Animal Planet's Tree House Masters. Doubling as a community hang out spot, the tasting room offers trivia nights, game nights, and live music throughout the week.
Brooklyn Cider House
Leaving their respective careers as an elementary school teacher and a wine buyer in New York City, the Yi siblings founded the Brooklyn Cider House in 2014. The 200-acre farm that supplies the cidery with most of its apples, Twin Star Orchard in New Paltz, proudly plasters their farm-forward slogan, “ugly apples taste better,” on tote bags and t-shirts, available for guests to purchase in the farm store.
The orchard offers apple picking; a shop featuring locally made hypoallergenic soaps, maple syrups, and wine jellies; a pavilion where you can order wood-fired pizza and burgers; and a taproom that offers award winning cider, beer, wine tastings, as well as a bar food menu.
Aaron Burr Cidery
Not long after making a quiet debut on the craft cider scene in 2012, Aaron Burr Cidery became a fast favorite amongst the top restaurants in New York City for the refreshingly complex flavor profiles of their limited line of artisanal, small-batch ciders. Keeping the orchard to an intimate five acres, the cidery produces around 30 barrels of cider from both homegrown and wild-foraged apples. (Got a tree in the yard? Get in touch with cider-makers Andy and Polly Brennan to trade apples for cider.)
Aaron Burr Cidery takes a holistic approach to cider making, avoiding industrial methods of production and refraining from using pesticides on their trees. Their line of "homestead locational" ciders is distributed nationally but can also be purchased in stores and farmers’ markets around the Hudson Valley. On select days, CSA members can taste test samples of cider, and then tour the orchard and cidery.
If you tend to dismiss cider as a cloyingly sweet beverage, then Graft Cider might make you a convert. Graft is beloved by craft cider fans up and down the East Coast for their sugar- and gluten-free sour ciders packaged in whimsically illustrated, colorful cans and bottles. (Need more proof? Hop Culture gave Graft the honor of being “the best hard cider for beer lovers.”) All Graft products are brewed in Newburgh, and are made exclusively with apples grown in New York State. For now, Graft does not offer tours of their brewing facility, although they hope to open an offsite Micro-Cidery sometime in the near future.
Examples of the innovative Graft recipes that stand to redefine the cider making industry include the Lost Tropic mimosa cider, whose citrus punch earned it a spot on Thrillist’s roundup of “perfect craft ciders for summer sipping”; the Comes and Gose, made with orange peel, coriander, and pink sea salt; and the Last Camp, which is a honey horchata cider flavored with cinnamon, cocoa powder, birch bark, vanilla, and honey. Graft Ciders are available for purchase at select locations around the Hudson Valley.
Doc’s Hard Cider
Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery is home to the award-winning Doc’s Hard Cider, named by Refinery 29 as one of the best hard ciders. Based in Orange County, the Doc’s orchard grows over 60 varieties of apples in order to craft both traditional and experimental flavors for their ciders.
Aside from the conventional hard cider, Doc’s also offers other fermented fruit flavors, like the light and crisp pear cider, a sour cherry cider, and sweet yet crisp peach cider. The Warwick Valley Winery has turned their old apple packing house into a tasting room where you can sample Doc’s Hard Cider, as well as their other wines, brandies, and spirits that are made on site at the Black Dirt Distillery. You can grab a bite to eat or listen to live music on the weekends in this Warwick hangout spot. And the apple orchard is open to the public for U-pick starting in August.