Big things are in the works at Angry Orchard, one of the nation’s largest cider producers. From the development of a specialized cider glass to spreading their roots in Walden, NY—the heart of the Hudson Valley—this Boston Beer Co. offshoot is hell-bent on converting drinkers to all things apple. About an hour and half north of New York City, the Angry Orchard facility sits on a 60-acre plot that has farming roots dating back to the mid-1700s. Set to open to the public November 6th, it will feature tours of the orchard and production facility, as well as exhibits on how cider is made.
Wine Enthusiast’s cider reviewer Alexander Peartree—whose expertise was tapped for the glass project—had the opportunity to sit down with head cider maker Ryan Burk to get the scoop on its development and the company’s future plans.
WE: The development of the cider glass was a long time coming. How did you go about weeding through the countless options of glass shapes and sizes?
RB: Our goal was to create a glass that elevates the drinking experience of one of our flagship ciders, Crisp Apple. As cider nerds, we were drinking this cider out of every glass we could get our hands on, yet none of them seemed to be the right fit. With the help of sensory experts from around the world, including Roy Desrochers of Tufts University Sensory and Science Center, Sandy Block—Master of Wine and Vice President of Beverage at Legal Seafoods and Peter Mitchell of the Cider & Perry Academy in the UK, we tested more than 50 options of glassware with a variety of shapes. The panel evaluated each option based on the functionality of the design and enhancement of the cider aromatics and flavor.
WE: Can you explain the final outcome?
RB: From top to bottom, this glass is all about enhancing the cider-drinking experience. The lip beading at the top is twofold—it stops spillage yet also accelerates the cider directly onto the palate. The bowl shape concentrates the aromas that are pumped up from the narrow base, which supplies constant carbonation. As a fun accent, we etched in an apple seed on the bottom to act as the nucleation site to keep the bubbles flowing.
WE: Your position as head cider maker is a relatively new endeavor with this company. What types of projects are you looking to accomplish at the Hudson Valley facility?
RB: This facility will work as a research and development orchard. While there is already a sizable planting of culinary apples on property, in the spring of 2016 we will be test-planting about 20 different varieties of French and English bittersweet cider apples. Over the following five years we will decipher which plantings work best for the orchard and narrow down our selections to two or three types that will be given larger plots to thrive.
WE: It currently isn’t very common to have domestically-grown European cider apples. Do you have specific plans for these homegrown bittersweets?
RB: What they will be used for is up for debate since the yields will be relatively small, at least on our scale. For the quantity that we need, we currently go to France for the bittersweet fruit in our ciders. Could we potentially be using bittersweet fruit from America in our ciders? Absolutely! Can we get it on any scale anytime soon? Absolutely not. It would be amazing in the future to be able to use domestic bittersweet apples, but it’s going to take a lot of time.
WE: How has the local community taken to Angry Orchard opening up shop in their backyard?
RB: So far so good! The locals are excited to have something to drive traffic to the area—especially for an industry that is so integral to the region.