Looking for an alternative fermented beverage to add to your summer drinking repertoire? Consider cider, particularly some of the new craft ciders being released this month. Two upcoming festivals celebrate the cider renaissance and will give attendees the chance to sample some unique, surprising offerings from artisanal producers in New York and beyond.
Most of us associate cider with the fall thanks to apple-picking season, but Ben Sandler of the Queens Kickshaw refutes that. “Cider is obviously an agricultural product,” he points out. “You pick the apples in the fall, press and juice them, ferment them throughout the winter, and then bottle and condition them in the spring and early summer.”
The Queens Kickshaw has a well-known cider program you can enjoy year-round, but during the week of Monday, June 23, the bar and restaurant will devote all six taps to new ciders and host two dinners pairing cider selections with a seasonal tasting menu. Dinner attendees may even get the chance to try an initial taste of New York City’s first urban cidery, Descendant Cider. Other special offerings include a special kegging of extra-dry cider from New Hampshire’s Farnum Hill and an unfiltered scrumpy conditioned in rye whiskey casks from upstate’s Aaron Burr Cidery.
Preceding the Kickshaw’s mini-cider week, you can partake of four days of events called CiderWICK at Jimmy’s No. 43. This Friday, enjoy a grand sampling of several newly released ciders, including the launch of Eden Cidery’s first sparkling dry cider, made with champagne yeast, which represents a departure from the producer’s traditional ice ciders. Other activities include a Saturday night homebrew cider workshop led by Andy Brennan from Aaron Burr, a guided tasting from Redbyrd Orchard Cider on Sunday, lots of live music, and continuous tasting throughout the weekend. Jimmy’s No. 43 will also host a Monday night dinner pairing the best new releases with market-based, cider-centric dishes.
Jimmy Carbone masterminded the weekend as a way to bring farmstead ciders — made in season with local apples rather with imported concentrate or juice — into the limelight. “There’s a lot of ciders out there that are all mass produced, and it’s like a gateway cider,” he says. “There’s a misconception about what cider is. We’re trying to build the industry so that people are going to commit to growing cider trees, to bringing back the tradition of cider.”
Carbone points out that cider is beginning to follow the pattern of craft beer, especially where homebrewing is concerned. The Saturday evening workshop allows home cider makers to bring some of their product, share it with others, and talk shop with cider maker Brennan. It will be a valuable opportunity for collaboration and knowledge sharing, since resources for home cider makers are still few and far between. Those interested in cider terroir should pay special attention, as Brennan is well-known for foraging different apple varieties to craft unique products.
Note that there isn’t much overlap among the ciders on offer at both events, so you can literally spend the next ten days drinking a new cider every night. CiderWICK starts tomorrow, June 20, and runs through Sunday, with an additional Monday night cider dinner. All access passes can be had for $65 on the event website, or you can pay as you go; Monday night dinner is separate. The Queen’s Kickshaw’s Cider in the Summer starts Monday. You can purchase $55 tickets for the Tuesday and Wednesday night dinners online, and simply walk in to try the rest of the special offerings.