The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Where to get hard cider

Here is a list of craft cideries in the Granite State; most of their ciders are available at almost any New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet or for special order online. Some are found on draft at local restaurants and bars, or bottled at local supermarkets. If you know of an independent cider maker in the Granite State who is not on this list, email us at
Ancient Fire Mead & Cider (8030 S. Willow St., Manchester, 203-4223, is a new cidery expected to open in January 2018 under the direction of husband-and-wife team Jason and Margot Phelps, certified members of the United States Association of Cider Makers. Ancient Fire will offer a variety of fruited, spiced, specialty and wood-aged ciders on tap, as well as a 60-minute educational tour on Saturdays, in which visitors will learn about mead and cider history, the ingredients used and the production process. There will also be a limited food menu, as well as a small retail area with swag like T-shirts, hats and glassware. Call or visit the website for updates on an official opening date.
Contoocook Cider Company (656 Gould Hill Road, Contoocook, 746-1175, is a micro-cidery at Gould Hill Farm in Contoocook. Hard cider products are made from more than 80 varieties of apples; they include the Contoocook Blend, a caramel sweet tasting cider made from late harvest heirloom apples, the drier Roxbury Russet, the apple and cranberry cider, the blueberry cider made with fermented Maine wild blueberries and McIntosh apples, and much more. Cider is available at the farm, as well as in bottles at the Colonial Village (54 Park Avenue Plaza, Contoocook) and the Riverhill Market (189 Carter Hill Road, Concord) and on draft at The Everyday Cafe (14 Maple St., Contoocook).

Dube & Robinson (Tamworth, 726-1635, is a small independent winery specializing in hard ciders and meads, sold at the Tamworth Farmer’s Market (30 Tamworth Road) and at several area stores and restaurants. Apples used to make their hard ciders are grown in Tamworth and the surrounding areas and hand-picked, pressed and blended.
Farnum Hill Ciders (Poverty Lane Orchards, 98 Poverty Lane, Lebanon, 448-1511, are nationally known hard ciders made from cider apples. Products include the Farmhouse Cider, the Semi-Dry Cider, the Extra Dry and Extra Dry Still Ciders, the Dooryard Cider, the Summer Cider and more. Farnum Hill Ciders are available at several retail locations in southern New Hampshire, like the Concord Food Co-Op (24 S. Main St.), and most supermarkets and NH Liquor & Wine Outlet stores.
Hermit Woods Winery (72 Main St., Meredith, 253-7968, makes several hard ciders, including an Old World dry cider made from French and English heirloom apples, quince and crabapples, a hard blueberry apple cider, an apple cider reserve aged in French oak for six months, and a hard cranberry apple cider. A full list of local farms, stores and restaurants where these ciders are available can be viewed online.
Moonlight Meadery (23 Londonderry Road, Londonderry, 216-2162, sells millions of cans of cider in more than 35 states across the country, as well as many restaurants, grocery stores and specialty beer shops in the Granite State. Its three biggest ciders are called How Bout Them Apples (a sweet cider), Them Little Apples (a semi-sweet cider) and Them Sour Apples (a much drier cider). Most of the apples used to make them come from nearby Sunnycrest Farm, also in Londonderry.
North Country Hard Cider (3 Front St. Lower, Rollinsford, 834-9915, makes a variety of hard ciders from apples grown at local farms in New Hampshire and Maine. In addition to a standard cider with Honeycrisp apples, there’s the Rhode Island green antique apple cider, a spice cider called the Firestarter that is blended with cinnamon, habaneros and pomegranates, and a squash cider, among other craft drinks. Ciders are available at more than 80 local restaurants and stores, according to co-owner Silas Gordon.
Stump City Cider (52 Bernard Road, Rochester, 234-6288, is located at Stump City Farm, which makes cider products from apples grown at Vickery Orchards in Farmington. There’s the Wicked Good Cider; the Wild Child Special Cider, which is aged in charred bourbon oak barrels; the Sweet Mac Daddy hard cider; an extra dry cider with added Champagne yeast called the Wicked Bubbly hard cider, and several others.
Pairing cider with food
Hard cider is great to drink on its own, but there are several flavor combinations that work well when pairing cider with food, depending on whether it is a sweet or a more dry cider you are drinking.
“To me, cider with cheeses is an awesome snack,” said Jason Phelps of Ancient Fire Mead & Cider in Manchester. “Apples and cheese just go together whether you ferment the fruit to make cider or not.”
If you’re pairing cider with a mainstream meal, Phelps said white meats like turkey, chicken or pork tend to pair better with the drink than red meat. As for seafood, ciders that are drier tend to work better because they are more wine-like.
“You get something that masquerades as a more gently driven apple wine rather than an Angry Orchard-type cider,” he said.
Desserts work much better with sweeter ciders then dry, especially those that contain apples, nuts, caramel, cooked sugars or brown spices, according to Phelps.
Carbonated ciders, due to their higher levels of acidity, cut through most cheeses and creamy sauces, allowing them to work well with a variety of flavors. For other flavor combinations, Phelps said juice cherries, cranberries and white wine grapes are great when added into the cider.
Homemade hard cider
Making your own hard cider can easily be done in your own home as long as you have the right ingredients and the patience to allow for fermentation, according to Jason Phelps of Ancient Fire Mead & Cider in Manchester, who has taught classes to new and first-time cider makers.
Whether you’re growing your own apples or picking them from a farm, Phelps said generally a bushel of apples yields about three gallons of cider.
“Some farms will have blends that are very heavy on cider or are all cider apples, but accessing that type of fruit … is either difficult or expensive because the number of acres that have those apples in them is much lower than it used to be,” he said. “So when I make cider at home, I tell people that if you ended up with a small box of crabapples or something that you knew would be a good cider, don’t be afraid to cut them up and let them ferment alongside the others, and it will add enough dimension that it will change the cider for you. … Those apples are horrible to eat, but they have those components that you would expect to show up in cider.”
Phelps said a basic recipe of about five gallons of cider would require 15 grams of yeast and 12 ounces of re-hydration water (a solution of warm water mixed with a re-hydration agent such as Go-Ferm or Startup). Re-hydrating the yeast is recommended to jump-start the fermentation, and adding sugar will also help raise the potential alcohol level of your cider. 
Fermentation is best done at cool temperatures between 64 and 66 degrees, according to Phelps, after degassing it by stirring.  
“It’s interesting, because there are a lot of different things you can do with it,” Phelps said. “Just like brewers with beer, the hopping that I might do would vary depending on how the cider smelled. If the cider had some particular aromatics to it that trended away from apple, then it might have something to do with [what I use].”
If you do use hops, Phelps said to be mindful of which ones and how much you apply to your cider.
“The … flavors are just overpowering if you over-hop it,” he said. “You get this astringent tea-like taste that’s unpleasant, like if you’ve over-extracted cut grass or something. But you know, you learn each time you do it.”

Serious Cider
A look at the revival of one of New Hampshire's oldest drinks

By Matt Ingersoll

 An abundance of apples in New Hampshire, combined with a surging interest in craft beer and winemaking, has fresh-pressed hard cider popping up on drink lists all over the state. In fact, it’s the star of some menus, including the one that will be offered at Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, one of the newest commercial cider makers, when it opens in Manchester in January.

“For all the apples that we have here, and sort of the apple culture that we have … it just felt like a great opportunity to put more of the local apple in people’s hands,” said Jason Phelps, co-owner of Ancient Fire.
Finding flavor 
Ancient Fire Mead & Cider, which will include an onsite taproom featuring original craft ciders and meads, is catering to a growing trend in New Hampshire. Phelps, a certified member of the United States Association of Cider Makers who has been homebrewing since 2003, saw a need for commercial craft ciders and meads in the state as he gained experience in experimenting with different drinks. He began building relationships with other local breweries, meaderies and cideries ahead of his new business venture.
“I actually started with beer but then I was like, wait a minute, I can make hard cider,” he said. “So at first I was like, well, let me just go down the road, get five gallons of cider, throw some yeast on it and see what happens. … Over time I started getting asked by people if I ever thought about going commercial.”
Many new cider-makers are getting started because of the drink’s ability to be crafted into unique flavors.
North Country Hard Cider in Rollinsford, for example, has many different craft flavors of cider in addition to a standard batch made from Honeycrisp apples.
“We’re constantly doing different stuff,” co-owner Silas Gordon said. “One of our more popular ciders is called Firestarter. It’s a spice cider that we make with cinnamon, habaneros and pomegranates grown at Cooper Farm [in West Paris, Maine].”
Others include Northern Comfort, a semi-dry cider made with ginger and orange zest; Sugar Shack, which is made with dark amber maple syrup, and Hopshire, made with a blend of citrusy dry hops.
With a careful balance of other fruits, spices, sugars or hops in addition to the more than 7,000 varieties of apples you can blend, there is much room for experimentation.
Phelps said a standard batch of cider is made from a blend of eating apples and what are called cider apples.
“Some of the more tart and less sweet apples like a Granny Smith … can make a good cider on their own, but they typically need other apples to be really complementary,” he said. “That vintage heirloom fruit absolutely helps add character and acidity that won’t exist without it.”
According to Phelps, the alcoholic content in most hard ciders will range from 6 to 8 percent and comes from the fermentation of the yeast that consumes the sugar in the fruit. They can either be fizzy or still and either dry or sweet, depending on how they are prepared.
“You can control the fermentation to give it a nice flavor profile,” said Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry, which offers several lines of sweet, semi-sweet and dry hard ciders. “Another thing you can do is barrel aging. … Our barrels are sort of custom-made and we sanitize the inside of them with dry whiskey to give it an imparted flavor.”
At Ancient Fire, a variety of ciders are going to be available that are blended with other fruits — like cranberries, pears or quince — as well as spices — cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger — and even some citrusy hops like Cascade.
An age-old tradition
Although a number of craft cider makers in the state are relatively new, hard cider itself is not a new concept; in fact, Farnum Hill Ciders at Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon has been making its own fresh-pressed cider since the mid-1980s.
According to co-owner Steve Wood, “hard cider” has always been a descriptive phrase to distinguish alcoholic cider from non-alcoholic sweet apple cider. But the two terms are often used interchangeably today.
“Cider is to apples as wine is to grapes, period,” he said. “That’s what the word means in every language and in every country in the world.”
The process of making hard cider is similar to that of making wine; the fruit is picked after it fully ripens on a tree, and is then crushed, pressed and fermented. The difference is that ciders generally contain much less alcohol than most wines, because most apples contain less sugar to be fermented than grapes.
Producing a good cider requires a balance of tannins and acidity in the different fruits you put in, Wood said.
“Tannins are the very complex compounds [in the apple] that produce bitterness and astringency,” he said. “You’re never going to sell really tannic apples for eating, but the point is that it is those structural characteristics that make them useful in cider fruit. … The idea is a nice bright acidity, a sort of generic fruitiness, and that sort of slight bitterness and astringency … and this stuff just comes from the fruit. There’s no clever dial-turning that we do. We’ve got a lot of different fermentations because we’re picking apples through the whole season that ripen at different rates.”
Wood has been growing apples at Poverty Lane Orchards since 1965, when he was just 11 years old. But it was not until the mid-1980s, when the apple packing industry began to change, he said, that the orchard started to grow the apples that would become what they would use for their ciders.
“We started doing grafting trials … with a few hundred varieties of English and French cider apples, not really imagining that we would be changing everything we did, because we didn’t realize what was going to happen to the business we were in,” he said. “So we were just fiddling around thinking we might develop some little retail sideline or something, and cider was interesting to us.”
Wood said the advent of packing technology for commercial apples began to change around this time, convincing him that they were no longer going to be able to operate as just apple growers and shippers and that they would shift to growing and pressing the apples for cider.
“I reckoned that learning how to make cider would probably take about a decade … and I spent a huge amount of time with American winemakers and taking winemaking classes and we started fiddling around,” he said. “Around 1995 I guess was when we first got bonded and became able to actually sell this stuff. We’ve spent a lot of attention on how to grow the apples and how to harvest them. … Most commercial ciders are either made from concentrate or from the cheapest possible apples … [but] there’s a huge difference between that and actually planting a tree for the purpose.”
Between five and seven labels of Farnum Hill Cider are usually available, which are fermented from different varieties of English cider apples grown in the orchards, like Dabinett, Yarlington Mills, Kingston Blacks, Majors and others. 
Two of Farnum Hill’s ciders are the Extra Dry and the Semi-Dry, which are both made from a blend of acidic apples.
“The Semi-Dry has a tiny bit of a returned sugar from a Wickson apple added to it,” Wood said. “In order to soften it up a little bit without being expressed as sweetness, you need higher acidity. … The purpose of it is not so much to make it sweet, but to get the fruit a little friendlier and a little further forward so you have that nice sort of bright finish.”
Wood said the key to experimenting with making the best cider you possibly can is what he calls constant organoleptic checking, through tasting and smelling.
“There’s only one way to do that, and that’s with your nose and your mouth,” he said. “You need to be able to say what it is, like the acid is bright, the feel is moderately astringent, and the finish does this and that. It’s important to objectify those very subjective things.”
Cider’s comeback
Hard cider and cider-making have a lengthy history in our country, according to Phelps.
“Prior to the mid-19th century or so, cider was the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage of adults in the United States, and it was because apples were everywhere,” he said. “The funny thing that most people don’t really know about Johnny Appleseed was that he wasn’t planting apples mostly for eating — he was planting them for cider-making. People would grow apples just to make cider and keep them in barrels.”
There are several factors that contributed to the derailment of cider’s popularity and prominence, according to Phelps, and one of them was Prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s. Another was the emergence of more industrialized beermaking that took place around this time.
“Prohibition obviously did a lot of things to the beverage industries in [the United States], and cider never came back in its aftermath,” he said. “It went on long enough that people couldn’t sell cider apples, because nobody wanted them for anything.”
Instead, people found more of a use for grains and corns, according to Bert Bingel of Bert’s Better Beers in Hooksett.
“Beer became very much a popular drink to make and started to replace cider in many respects,” he said.  
But beginning in the late 1990s and continuing through the 2000s, there has been a resurging interest in cider-making, Phelps said, especially in areas of the country like the Northeast and the Midwest where apples are a major part of the agriculture.
“If you look at where you’re going to expect to find a lot of cideries, you won’t expect to find them too far south, only because you switch from apples to other different types of fruit,” he said. “But definitely from New England all the way out to the West Coast and the northern part of this country, it’s apple country everywhere. … Cider is not new, but it had a long enough lull that it bottomed out to zero in most places, because it was really a homesteading thing that from a commercial perspective really got killed by Prohibition.” 

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