West County Cider Offers Weekend Tasting Room

Sep 27 2015

The Recorder, September 27th, 2015, by Diane Broncaccio

West County Cider is now offering weekend tastings and sales of its ciders, plus breads, cheeses and other fare at 106 Bardwells Ferry Road, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through December.

In the past, the 31-year-old cider-maker has offered tastings only during the annual Franklin County Cider Days in November. But by having a “pop-up” tasting room on this scenic Shelburne Center road, the Maloney family hopes to showcase several of its small-batch ciders and new cider releases. All are considered “hard cider” and have an alcohol content.

“It’s very much a pop-up, but we make it really beautiful,” Field Maloney said of the outdoor tasting area, located behind a large barn. “In a very rustic way, it’s quite a nice spot. I think we’re going to put some picnic tables out here. West County is full of all these funny, beautiful, unexpected pockets.”

Along with ciders, the tastings will feature cheeses from Provisions in Northampton and breads from Flaming Baguettes in Shelburne Falls. Also, there will be live music on occasion, which will be posted on the West County Cider website or Facebook page.

Apple-picking for this year’s pressing of West County Ciders just began Friday, says Maloney, so by November, new ciders made from this year’s apples will be ready for sampling, he said.
“The fruit looks really good this year — really ripe and flavorful. So we’re going to have a whole bunch of special ciders from this year’s harvest,” he said.

Hard cider in history

According to Maloney, hard cider was the No. 1 drink in America before the Civil War and before the nation’s transition from an agrarian to an urbanized, industrial country.

“It was a drink of thrift and necessity,” said Field. “When people were homesteading, they put up a few apple trees and a couple barrels of cider.”

The urbanization of America and the growing popularity of beer, brought over by German immigrants, marked the decline of hard cider. But in recent years, hard cider has been making a comeback, along with craft beer and artisan foods.

“Ciders are more like wine than beer, in terms of aging potential,” said Maloney. He said the fermentation process, which transforms sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, is what gives their cider its sparkle.

“Apples have less sugar than grapes,” he said. “So cider has about half the sugar of wine and about half the alcohol content of wine.”

Heirloom apples

The 31-year-old cider company makes about 2,500 cases, or 6,000 gallons per year of hard cider, and was among the first cider companies in the United States to cultivate heirloom apples for their ciders.

For instance, one of the ciders is pressed from “Reine de Pomme” (“queen of apples”), heirloom apples that were popular in French-made ciders in the 1700s, according to Maloney.
Another species, the Redfield apple, has a pink-hued pulp that gives a rose hue to the cider. West County Cider produces anywhere from eight to 15 different cider varieties per year.

The cider company itself is based in Colrain, where it has a five-acre orchard with 30 apple varieties. But it also makes small-batch ciders from the fruit of other local orchards.

The tasting area is about a two-minute drive from the intersection of Route 2 and Shelburne Center Road. More information is available online.

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