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The New American Tradition...

Sometimes when I give someone a bottle of cider or they take a glance at this site they will ask, "What is this New American Tradition?"   Simply put, it reflects the resurgence of cidermaking in small enclaves in the US, and the styles that are coming from these cidermakers.  In terms of tradition in the sense of the term relating to ages-old ways and cultures passed down, we have the old New England style ciders and Canadian Ice ciders, in addition to local replication of established European styles.  But my little tagline refers to the new tradition, which really is an oxymoron. 

Cidermakers in the US are not bound by any strict guidelines as their European and even Canadian counterparts are.  Looking at commercial operations we see Farnum Hill with their tannic 'British' ciders that retain an amazing fruit profile not typically found in the Isles.  Then we have West County with their 'nouveau' French-style ciders that have that low-alcohol, sweet flavor without the characteristic barnyard or biscuit notes of the traditional examples.  Of course we have the American tradition of the macro-cider, heavily chaptalized, diluted, carbonated, and backsweetened and made with concentrates which taints our hobby.  But these ciders are no doubt popular with newbies, both drinkers and often beer brewers who replicate than by fermenting orchard juice and backsweetening with a can of concentrate.  Some cideries make a roughly similar but more 'real' product using domestic dessert fruit and filtration or other stabilization while avoiding concentrates.  Bellwether cider in Ithaca, NY makes a very nice cider using this method. And I must mention the commercial Ice Ciders of Quebec which make high alcohol, high sugar ciders through traditional, and highly regulated, methods.

Then of course we have the home cidermakers who populate the Cider Digest group, make Cider Day and other such events so vital, and even who just do their thing quietly in their cellars without drawing attention to themselves. It is us folks who make whatever ciders we like without worrying about ages-old customs or commercial marketing sectors.  I make and really like bittersweet ciders from European cider fruit varieties.  Many don't like them, but I do and my style reflects the European tradition with a few changes including a focus on acid balance and less secondary flavor characters.  I make traditional New England Ciders, high in alcohol and robust in flavor, not by using barrel fermentation but by fermenting in clean stainless tanks with bourbon-soaked oak additions.

There is a lot of talk amongst cider aficionados and purists about 'real cider', and amongst the European cidermakers about traditional of 'vintage' ciders.   The New American Tradition frees us from the binds of strict guidelines while allowing us to focus on real cidermaking, the fermenting and finishing of fresh apple juice, in whatever style or combination of styles that pleases us.  There are so many possibilities for ciders contained within the same batch of juice and the new American cidermakers are on the cutting edge of discovering them.

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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com