- Marie Doyon
Carving through state land and connecting popular destinations like Kingston, Phoenicia, Woodstock, and Mount Tremper, Route 28 is a supremely useful Ulster County thoroughfare but an unlikely retail corridor. Nevertheless, and perhaps thanks to the (otherwise maddening) 45-mile-per-hour stretch, mom-and-pop shops have proliferated along both sides of the highway from Bistro-to-Go and Cheese Louise to Phoenicia Diner, Woodstock Brewing, and Fruition Chocolate.
And last week, the newest addition to Route 28 roster made its debut: the Abandoned Hard Cider Outpost. The Hudson Valley-based micro-cidery has taken over the one-time cafe, one-time souvenir shop in the lower parking lot of Hotel Dylan, rubbing shoulders with Santa Fe.
- Marie Doyon
Growing WildAbandoned Hard Cider, which was founded by hobby cider-maker Martin Bernstein and kombucha doyen Eric Childs, has more than doubled its brewing capacity annually since its founding in 2017, developing a following across New York State for its dry, crisp ciders of place. Up until now the brand has mainly sold through farmers' markets, specialty food stores, and Hudson Valley grocery chains like Hannaford’s and Tops. They had just broken into the wholesale restaurant market when the pandemic hit. But the outpost, a charming shoebox garage space, is the first brick-and-mortar shop where people can visit the makers.
“Once COVID is fully under control and indoor serving is safe and permissible by law, we’ll offer fun stuff like game nights, trivia nights, and TV season-finale gatherings,” says Childs. “Until then, the Outpost will serve as a space for people to chat with us, the makers, and learn about our ciders and the processes we employ to craft them.”
- Marie Doyon
Despite the roadside setting, the Outpost has the endearing feel of an aloof farm stand that hasn’t realized its in a parking lot instead of a field. Two oak barrels out front serve as high-top tables for the steady trickle of visitors to rest their cider flights. Inside, the walls are lined with wooden crates of canned ciders, bottles on thick, rustic shelving, and photos of barns and majestic apple trees.
This year, Abandoned offers five labeled ciders, plus their hyper-small-batch single-tree brews. There are four ciders on tap plus a local beer (currently West Kill Brewing’s Doodlebug American pilsner) and a craft kombucha (usually made by Childs, whose CV includes founder of Kombucha Brooklyn), all of which can be served in a flight, a four-ounce pour ($2-5), or a 19.3-ounce growler ($8). You can also pick up four-packs to go for $15-$20.
- Marie Doyon
Despite the syrupy-sweet nose, the Classic is a super light, bright, crisp dry cider that recalls champagne. The Gold Rush, a single-varietal cider made from Goldrush apples harvested at a research orchard in Highland, brings the funk while still offering that good mouth-puckering tartness thanks to the tannins in this Granny Smith alternative. The Hopped cider has a fruity body with tropical notes like lychee, and little of hops’ characteristic bitterness. “This is my personal favorite,” Bernstein says of Hopped. “It’s fruitier, juicier, and has a nice floral quality to it.” The Barrel-Aged is the sweetest of the Abandoned line (though still far less sweet than its conventional counterparts).
All brewing, bottling, and canning happens at Abandoned’s facility in Germantown. In addition to Bernstein’s own orchard in Neversink, the duo works harvests from wild and former commercial orchards, as well as crowd-sourcing apples from backyard trees.
- Marie Doyon
Regarding the name of the brand, Bernstein says, “We do actually get a lot of our apples from abandoned orchards across the river, near Germantown. There are tons of orchards that went out of business two, three, five years ago that are still owned by the same families, but the apple industry has gotten to the point where they are losing money.” Due to the proliferation of orchards in the past few decades, the price of apples has dropped, driving many orchard owners out of business. “We have some properties that are 100-acre, 200-acre abandoned orchards that have really good varieties and haven’t been sprayed or taken care of in any way in years,” Bernstein says. “The uglier the apple the more flavorful it is. All those little nicks and bumps actually have some flavor to them that you don’t get from a ‘perfect’ apple.”
The percentage of foraged apples versus purchased apples varies from year to year with harvest, though Childs aims for 20 percent as his minimum. “We’re always shooting for as many foraged apples as we can in all our ciders,” he says. “Last year was a great year, so the foraged percentages on these cans are much higher. But we need to make cider regardless. And when we have a great harvest and, more importantly, great apples, we will always make the Foragers Reserve.”
- Marie Doyon
There are only 711 numbered bottles of the 2019 Foragers Reserve.This small-batch bottled offering is the cream of the crop; made entirely from foraged apples, using wild yeast, it represents the best fruit of the year and the epitome of Childs’ cider-making skill. “All of our ciders are my babies,” Bernstein says. “But the Foragers’ is the one I’m proudest of. It’s our favorite wild trees all in one. It was carefully curated for the perfect blend.”
This year, Abandoned will produce 15,000 gallons, triple last year’s production, and they’re aiming to break 30,000 next year. They keep track of all their trees in a length spreadsheet, and are always looking for more foragers and backyard apple providers, to offset the apples they buy from local orchards.
“My cider icon is Andy Brennan [of Wurtsboro-based Aaron Burr Cider],” Bernstein says. “He is an inspiration to me, not because his cider is so good but because he is so committed to the art of cider making. I gravitate toward those principles even though I don’t adhere to them myself because our business model is so different. We have a niche that falls right smack in the middle of Andy Brennan and Bad Seed, who makes a baller cider, but it’s single-varietal. We want to bring exceptional New York apples in cider form to the masses. If Andy Brennan is offering a master's degree in wild cider, we want to be the bachelor's. And people can graduate from Abandoned to his cider and be like, ‘Ohhh I get it.’”
In addition to a spot to sip and chat cider with the makers, the Woodstock outpost will be a drop site for apples come fall. Mid-September will see the addition of outdoor seating and snacks on the menu. But as is, at 5pm on a Thursday, the small spot was abuzz with visitors. “If this [outpost] works, we’ll setting up two more—one downstate and one in the Capital Region,” Childs says. “It’s all about the story, getting people in and understanding what is going on out there. The cider is amazing cider, and I’m happy people can enjoy it, but they need to understand that we are doing something different. New York deserves a cidery like us.”