Episode 5 – Andy Brennan

Download: 005_Andy_Brennan [39.2MB, 42:42]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each week I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. No boring theme music, no annoying advertisements, just engaging conversation with interesting guests. If you’re a first-time listener, please visit ciderguide.com/podcast to hear my past interviews with such luminaries as Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders, author and photographer Bill Bradshaw, and Mike Beck of Uncle John’s.

Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider in the Hudson Valley of New York joins me for Episode 5. Andy has received a great deal of positive press—much of it highlighting his use of foraged apples—and his ciders are highly regarded by tastemakers in New York City. Aaron Burr is a shining example of a small-scale cidery that is taking the high road with regard to quality while still achieving success in the marketplace. In this conversation, Andy and I chat about how he became interested in growing apples and making cider, why he uses organic and beyond-organic methods in his farmstead orchard, his success in foraging and collecting unwanted apples for cidermaking, why he enjoys making cider with non-traditional ingredients such as ginger and elderberry, and much much more.

Here’s my conversation with Andy Brennan.

Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider

ERIC WEST: Let’s start off with this. So down here in Virginia, we have a number of cities and counties and universities named after founding fathers. But for those who don’t remember their U.S. history, they may not know who Aaron Burr is. So I wanted to ask you—who was Aaron Burr and why did you choose his name to name your cidery after?

ANDY BRENNAN: Briefly, for those who don’t know, Aaron Burr [was] the vice president to Thomas Jefferson—the third vice president. He actually tied Thomas Jefferson in the election. And at the time, there was no way of determining who would be president. But long story short, Aaron Burr was a very interesting person during the Revolutionary War, had a very interesting political career. Afterwards, he was the one who shot and killed [Alexander] Hamilton in a duel. He later tried to secede Mexico!

WEST: And that’s why you use the dueling pistol as your logo on your labels, is that right?

BRENNAN: Yeah, it’s from that most famous incident.

WEST: And there’s a tie to your own property, right? A tie that Aaron Burr has to your own farmstead? Continue reading

Cider Festivals – Autumn 2014

Cider Summit Seattle
September 5-6

The 5th annual Cider Summit Seattle will be held at the South Lake Union Discovery Center. With over 150 ciders being poured from the Pacific Northwest and beyond, you’ll likely need both days to sample everything on your wish list.

Washington Cider Week
September 4-14

Cider Summit Seattle is just one of dozens of different events being held in Seattle, Spokane, Yakima, Port Townsend, and other cities during Washington Cider Week. Oregon Cider Week in June is always a success; both events have done a great deal to raise awareness of cider in the Northwest. Get ready for a number of tap handle takeovers, special cider cocktails, cider/food pairings, and cider tasting flights at bars and restaurants throughout the state!

Great Lakes Cider & Perry Festival
September 6

The 7th annual Great Lakes festival will be held at Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. John’s, Michigan with 100+ ciders and perries for festival goers to sample. Producers from Michigan and the entire Great Lakes region bring home plenty of GLINTCAP medals each year…so be prepared to taste some great cider! I haven’t seen an official list of what’s being poured, but cidermakers from around the country send bottles to be poured at the festival.

Cider Swig
September 27

Cider Swig is a new event for 2014 that will be held in Gig Harbor (near Tacoma in the greater Seattle area). Sample 50+ ciders from well-known regional producers while enjoying live music, food, and a variety of workshops and kid-friendly activities.

Pour the Core
September 27 – Philadelphia
October 4 – Long Island

Pour the Core began on Long Island in 2012 and expanded to Philadelphia in 2013. The ciders available at these festivals are mostly mainstream, national brands, but the Philadelphia event is doing a nice job of attracting Pennsylvania craft cider producers to participate.

Cider Week Finger Lakes
October 3-12

The 3rd annual Cider Week Finger Lakes is anchored by the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival. On offer are a variety of events such as tastings, cider dinners with local chefs, a local orchard tour, and a cider-flavored square dance. Visitors and locals alike will have the opportunity to try local cider by the glass or presented in cider flights, pairings with hand-selected entrées, and cider cocktails at a number of venues throughout Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region. Participating cidermakers include Bellwether Hard Cider, Eve’s Cidery, Redbyrd Orchard Cider, and BlackBird Cider Works.

Cider Week New York City
October 24 – November 2

This is the original Cider Week on the East Coast, now in its 4th edition in New York City. Organized by Glynwood’s Apple Project, the event features workshops, tastings, cider/food pairings, and more. Whereas similar events often focus on ciders exclusively from the local area, Cider Week New York City also features important regional cidermakers such as Farnum Hill Ciders, West County Cider, and Eden Ice Cider. This year’s schedule hasn’t been posted, but there should be many different events happening throughout the city every evening.

Franklin County CiderDays
October 31 – November 2

The 20th annual CiderDays festival will be held at a variety of orchards and other sites throughout Franklin County, Massachusetts. According to the website, the target audience for the festival is “all who love apples, fresh or hard cider, apple cuisine, apple orchards or just being in New England in the fall.” There are numerous workshops and tastings for backyard apple growers and cider enthusiasts, two 90-minute Cider Salons with unlimited tastings of ciders from around the country, and a New England-themed Harvest Supper prepared with locally grown ingredients.

The 2011 CiderDays was my first and it was well worth the drive up from Virginia! I made it back in 2013 and plan to attend in 2014 as well. Some of this year’s workshops and tastings that catch my eye are Fruit Exploring with John Bunker & Rowan Jacobsen, Ice Cidermaking with Claude Jolicoeur, So You Want to Be a Commercial Cidermaker with Steve Gougeon and Andy Brennan, and British Cider Tasting and Discussion with Tom Oliver. Both Cider Salons were sold out last year so I recommend buying your tickets in advance!

CiderFest NC
November 2

CiderFest NC is in its second year, celebrating the many craft ciders now available in North Carolina. The event is held in Weaverville—just north of Asheville—and is close to the state’s primary apple growing region in Henderson County.

Cider Week Hudson Valley
November 14-23

The Hudson Valley now has its own cider week. Growers and cidermakers there have told me that traveling to New York City during the peak of the apple harvest was not at all convenient, so this seems like a nice solution. The website doesn’t reveal much at the moment aside from a list of the participating cidermakers…but the list is an impressive one that includes Aaron Burr and Slyboro.

November 14-23
Cider Week Virginia

Cider Week Virginia is the only event of its kind (to my knowledge) that is officially designated by a governing body. Charlottesville and Richmond host many of the events, but each year the schedule includes more tastings, workshops, and dinners in population centers across the commonwealth. As a resident of Virginia, I’m very excited that we have a cider week of our own. Come on out and support AlbemarleBlue BeeBold Rock, Castle Hill, Cobbler Mountain, Corcoran, Foggy Ridge, Old HillPotter’s, and Winchester Cider Works during the 3rd annual Cider Week Virginia!

Cider Guide Podcast – Episode 4 – Mike Beck

Download: 004_Mike_Beck [31.5MB, 34:17]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each week I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. No boring theme music, no annoying advertisements, just engaging conversation with interesting guests. Past episodes are always available at ciderguide.com/podcast and feature such luminaries as Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider & Perry, Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders, and author, photographer, and all-around cider enthusiast Bill Bradshaw.

Mike Beck of Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns, Michigan joins me for Episode 4. Not only does Mike oversee a huge seasonal retail operation at Uncle John’s, he also happens to make some of the best cider, fortified cider, and apple-based spirits in the country. And did I mention that he’s a founding board member of the Great Lakes Cider & Perry Association and president of the board of the United States Association of Cider Makers? Mike and I chat about why Michigan is such a great place to make hard cider, how Uncle John’s has survived while other orchards have languished, his diverse canned and bottled product lineup, his past and present efforts to further the interests of the cider industry, and much much more.

Here’s my conversation with Mike Beck.


Mike Beck, escanciador. Source: Tandem Ciders.

ERIC WEST: Joining me today is Mike Beck of Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns, Michigan. Mike, I know you’re a busy guy, thanks for joining me today.

MIKE BECK: Hey, no problem. My pleasure, Eric.

WEST: Well, first thing, I wanted to congratulate you on your recent award at the Royal Bath & West Show in Somerset [England]—a Very Highly Commended for your Russet. Is this the second or third year in a row that you’ve won an award there?

BECK: Third year in a row, actually, yes.

WEST: Third year, excellent. So I wanted to start off with this. I’m always curious about where people are in the world, and what makes their region a special place for making cider. Could you talk a little bit about Michigan—and maybe your own orchard—and what makes it a special place to be making cider?

Continue reading

Cider Guide Podcast – Episode 3 – Bill Bradshaw

Download: 003_Bill_Bradshaw [43.3MB, 47:19]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each week I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. No boring theme music, no annoying advertisements, just engaging conversation with interesting guests. I hope you’re having as much fun listening to these interviews as I am recording them!

Bill Bradshaw—photographer, author, cider enthusiast, and all-around super nice guy—joins me for Episode 3. Based in Somerset, England, Bill has been documenting the world of cider through his excellent photography since 2004. He and I chat about his first book as a solo author—Cider Enthusiasts’ Manual—and how it came about. We also chat about small-scale cidermaking in the South West of England, the push and pull between innovation and tradition in the US and the UK, his previous book—World’s Best Ciders—and the talent of his co-author Pete Brown, cider festivals, cider competitions, and much much more.

Here’s my conversation with Bill Bradshaw.


ERIC WEST: Bill, your newest book is Cider Enthusiasts’ Manual and it’s published by Haynes. Can you tell me a little bit about how this project came about? And how a publisher like Haynes was interested in bringing it out?

BILL BRADSHAW: Well, actually had a phone call from a nice lady called Louise at Haynes. And she said we’re looking for someone to write a cider manual. Do you think you would do it? And I said, look, I’m not really an author. I’ve done some writing, I’m not a great writer. But I certainly I feel I know enough to write a basic guide—a beginner’s guide. And she said, well, that’s what we want is a nice step-by-step guide of how to make cider.

And I had some reservations because there are a lot of good books already that are very simple and very self-explanatory about how to make cider. it’s a pretty simple process when you strip it right back. And I didn’t want to do just another one of them and throw it out there and compete on a really average level. I was thinking, can we do something a little bit different? And rather than just do another technical manual, do a manual for beginners and people that are interested and don’t know much.

But it covers much more than just that kind of basic process or science. It’s a lot more—it’s a lot broader, a lot more holistic. It talks a bit more about the history or some of the social or cultural stuff. How it goes with food. Growing apples. It introduces all the different threads you can have when you’re interested in the subject. And basically it is the kind of book I was looking for when I first started looking into cider as a subject and getting interested in it, and it wasn’t out there. You would’ve had to buy a book on how to make it, or a book on the history of it, you know.

Continue reading

Cider Guide Podcast – Episode 2 – Nicole Leibon

Download: 002_Nicole_Leibon.mp3 [35.1MB, 38:11]

ERIC WEST (Intro): This is the Cider Guide Podcast, I’m your host Eric West. Each week I sit down to chat with a personality from the wide world of cider. No boring theme music, no annoying advertisements, just engaging conversation with interesting guests. I hope you’re having as much fun listening to these interviews as I am recording them!

Nicole Leibon of Farnum Hill Ciders in New Hampshire joins me for Episode 2. Largely overshadowed by Steve Wood—her highly influential and opinionated boss—Nicole has guided the cidermaking process at Farnum Hill for almost 15 years now. She and I chat about her background in fermentation, her favorite apple varieties for cidermaking, the Farnum Hill house style and their core products, the evolution of the cider industry in the United States, and the influence of women in cidermaking.

Here’s my conversation with Nicole Leibon.


Nicole at work in the lab. Source: FHC.

ERIC WEST: Nicole, thanks for making time for me today. The first thing that I wanted to ask you is, what exactly is your official title? And does that really encompass all that you do for Farnum Hill?

NICOLE LEIBON: Thanks for having me on, Eric. My title officially is Cidermaker. It’s sort of a vague title because things have shifted around over the years. When I first started I was doing everything from being out in the field to running the pumps and filling the tanks and doing the filtration. And over time, having had two kids, it’s winnowed down to the point where my specific roles are tasting and blending. And that was something that was always important in what I was doing with doing everything else. But that’s really what my focus is now. It’s kind of fun on days when I go in and actually get to wash a tank again! Instead of just drinking all day. Continue reading