Jahil Maplestone has been a homebrewer for years, but he started making cider for his wife, who put up with his hobby but didn’t drink beer. The more cider he made, the more interested the couple became in the beverage, but when they went to shops to try to buy cider, they found the selection lacking. So they decided to launch a cidery, dubbed Descendant Cider.
“We’d go into shops and there was nothing there,” says Maplestone, a native of Australia and a video editor by trade. “There’d be Woodchuck, but no craft cider. So we said, let’s get something going and start a push. There are others popping up now — there are several upstate operations, but nothing local in the city.”
Maplestone and his wife, Alexandria Fisk, landed the first New York City farm cidery license, which requires them to use only fruit produced in New York State, and got to work setting up what Maplestone says is “probably the smallest cidery in the country” in a 600-square-foot space in Queens.
Over the past year, the couple has worked out sourcing fruit and juice, pressing — they can do only so much of their own pressing in-house, since they’re limited by real estate — and distribution. When they launch tonight, with a party at The Queens Kickshaw, they’ll unveil two ciders: One is all-apple, sparkling, and semi-dry; the other is imbued with hibiscus and pomegranate. “It was interesting to make that in bigger batches,” Maplestone says. “It’s hard trying to buy 50 gallons of pomegranate juice. That’s been kind of fun.”
The owner says his ciders hew to the American style, which he characterizes as fruit-blended and acid- or tannin-forward. He has a couple other seasonal varieties in the works, as well as a few vintage projects, though he says he’ll be able to make some cider year-round, because he has orchards putting fruit aside for him. A number of Descendant’s ciders will be sold on draft, but Maplestone plans to make some according to the Champagne method, which means the finished product will be sold in bottles.
Once the operation gets going, Maplestone says, he and Fisk will start looking for a bigger facility, which will hopefully have space for a tasting room. “We’re feeling it out, seeing what works,” he says. “I’d like to see New York City embrace craft cider like it does beer. Everyone’s learning, and if people learn from the bigger brands, it sort of taints their opinion of what cider is. We hope we can help New Yorkers get more interested.”
Head to The Queens Kickshaw tonight between 9 and 11:30 p.m. for Descendant’s launch party, which will feature tastes of the cidery’s first releases.