For A Week, Real Cider

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If you’re like most Americans, the word “cider” probably calls to mind plastic jugs of fresh apple juice. But in Europe, cider is an alcoholic beverage, dry and sophisticated, made from apples as tannic and astringent as wine grapes, a beverage as complex in flavor and varied in style as fine wine or beer. and for seven days this October, New York will be awash in just that.

Cider Week, mounted as part of a much bigger apple project run by the upstate agricultural not-for-profit Glynwood Center, is a celebration of apple alcohol and all the benefits it can bring to local orchards and drinkers alike. Sara Grady, Glynwood’s special projects director and Cider Week mastermind, has arranged an exchange between nascent Northeast cider makers and their storied French counterparts, who’ll be stateside in October, and is developing a Hudson Valley Cider Route, inspired by similar trails in Europe.

But the activities here in Brooklyn are sure to get city folk hooked on the hard stuff. Marlow & Sons will be running the cider bar at the October 16 kickoff at the New Amsterdam Market. On the 18th, at Brooklyn Kitchen, Steve Wood of Farnum Hill Ciders, one of the Northeast’s preeminent cider makers, will teach DIYers how to make the stuff at home. And all week long, stores and restaurants like Rose Water, Bierkraft, Fort Defiance, Pacific Standard and the Drink will offer tastings, pairings and flights of different varieties.

Ironically, hard cider was long America’s drink of choice. But the ancestral drink was dealt a staggering blow by Prohibition and essentially wiped out when industrial beer production boomed.

Now, with Glynwood’s help, small Northeast cider makers are working to create a following for artisanal cider that matches the one craft brewers have achieved for their beers. and they’re producing some fascinating brews, says Matt Barclay, cellar manager at Bierkraft, who was introduced to many of them at a trade-only tasting Glynwood held for Cider Week participants. He’s hoping to get Finger Lakes–based Eve’s Cider down to Brooklyn for a tasting during the week. “Their Rustica cider adds a bit of apple juice to recreate the feel of cider as it’s slowly turning,” he says. “It has a little bit of funk but not too much.”

But to really take root, local cider makers need to woo not just shops and restaurateurs, but drinkers. Rose Water’s been turning its customers on to ciders for years, says owner John Tucker, who’ll make even more ciders available during Cider Week. “We do it subversively,” he jokes. “People sign on to a wine pairing and suddenly there’s a glass of Long Island cider in front of them. They’re flabbergasted.”

Like Tucker, Glynwood is determined to dispel the public notion that hard cider is an unsophisticated, over-sweet offering available mainly by the six-pack at the corner store. Starting with Cider Week, Grady says firmly, “that’s all going to change.”

Photo credit: Glynwood and Carole Topalian.

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Ann Monroe writes about sustainability and local food in a Brooklyn brownstone, where she tries to practice what she preaches by growing vegetables-not always successfully-and making her own (damn good) ketchup, kimchee and hard cider.