With a bit of history on the oldest Cider Fest in the US held the 1st weekend of November.
CiderDays (yes it has always been spelled as one word) was founded in 1994, by Judith and Terry Maloney or West County Cider in Colrain, Massachusetts. Listen to their son West County’s cidermaker in 001: Field Maloney | West County Cider, MA USA
CiderDays is always held on the first weekend of November. For many years, it was a one day event. It took a few years, but before we knew it CiderDays became a two days and then three days.
This podcast chat provides insider tips on traveling to CiderDays, places to stay, where to get cider and off beaten tips for this region. 047: Attending CiderDays provides info 2016’s schedule, that chat goes live on September 21, 2016.
Where you can get supplies to make your own cider or buy cider to take home.
Tip: Place your order for cider supplies now – especially yeast!
Beerology this is a brand new store and it will be open by CiderDays 2016 (Northampton, MA)
Beer and Wine Making Supplies, Inc (Northampton, MA)
Pine Hill Apple Orchard (Colrain, MA) also has a retail outlet with some cidermaking supplies and they sell bulk cider on CiderDays (usually 3-4 large cider blends so bring your carboys and barrels).
Let’s begin with a bit of history;
The first CiderDays began as a one day event on the first saturday of November, the year was 1994. It has been held on the first weekend of November every year since.
Of course the Maloney’s didn’t do this all alone, but they were certainly the catalyst. Local orchards like Pine Hill, Clarkdale Fruit Farm, the now closed Greenwood Orchard in Northfield, which I regretfully say had one of the most amazing assortment of cider trees around along with a beautiful old press was sold after the owner just couldn’t sustain the lack of interest in apples. Ug! Some of those trees are still there shrouded in vines. That orchard sold to folks who don’t care about apples. It happens.
You can now stop in at so many more orchards to get a jug of cider or buy pear juice at Clarkdale for instance. Many sell fresh apples – pears and you can also enjoy a walk in the orchard.
One of the main source for CiderDays volunteers was Valley Fermenters, consider to be the oldest homebrew club in the US. I am a member and as such I gladly volunteered to go out to a cider house in the region and stand ready with carboy, airlock and sweet cider to provide a demo on cidermaking.
At the end of the day, we all congregated at the building next to Pine Hill which has since been turned into a residence. It was there that West County use to have a tasting room. A few of use showed up and Judith and Terry would provide a big round of cheese and we would all bring out our own bottles of cider. The chatter would grow louder and louder and eventually Judith would stand up on a chair and thank the group and do a toast. Little did we know that that after party would eventually turn in to the two session Cider Salon that is sold out every year.
In 1998, I was invited to the after after party/dinner at the Maloney’s. Their home is tucked up high on Catamount Hill. A catamount is another name for a mountain lion. There are many sightings of these big cats and just as many denials by the Fish and Wildlife department in Massachusetts. Driving north of Pine Hill Orchard in Colrain, make sure to look to the right as you go down a long steep and I mean steep hill. You’ll want to shift down and slow a bit, not only because of the hill but to see the beautiful life size metal shadow figure that is mounted on the side of the rocky hill that was cut in the form of a mountain lion. If you see it, you too can say that you saw a Catamount!
I certainly passed the lion on my way to the Maloneys, when I was invited to attend their special CiderDays after after dinner party with local apple farmers like Ben Clark of Clarkdale Orchard and Dave Shear of Pine Hill Orchard. Along with Paul Correnty who was the chef for many years at the Cider Dinner, up until the Maloney’s and the other organizers realized that a larger community dinner made sense for CiderDays. Paul is quick to a smile and also the author of The Art of Cidermaking (1998).
Published in 1998, it was the first book I ever owned at the time on cidermaking and by the way he spelled cidermaking as one word.
In that book are photos taken of local orchards that are still to this day involved in CiderDays.
It was at that first dinner I attend, likely in 1998 cuz Paul was sitting next to me on a milk crate as there were no more chairs. We sat at a long table, with candles illuminating lots of cider smiles, bottles and jugs of cider and good conversation. It was then that I proclaimed out loud that I would really like to help promote apples and cider. And so I did, with many subsequent writes ups and features in Brewing News. I wrote the obituary for Terry Maloney when we lost him due to an industrial accident while working in his cidery in 2010. I had to really work hard to convince the editors to let me have space for cider in the well known beeriodical Brewing News, but they relented and now just this year all the writers for Yankee Brew News were told that they could put cider news in their regular beer column.
I’m not precise on the date, but soon I was the only person teaching cidermaking at CiderDays. For about two years in a row, I did a demo on saturday and sunday. I’m posting a photo of me taken at the saturday event that was held back when the old brick building in Colrain was used. I remember seeing Terry watching me and then saw Mike Beck standing way in the back…I think shaking his head.
I had brought along a big jug and bottles to share. I’m a bit of a rogue cidermaker and at the time didn’t give a hoot about specific gravity or the science. Mike, probably thought I was crazy and he’d be right. But I also thought what up with this cidery from Michigan that is encasing their bottles is lime green? Of course that has changed, but back then – it was pretty wiggy branding for Uncle John’s.
I taught cidermaking for the first 16 years of that event, but as my professional work as an international consultant in curriculum and crisis intervention became more demanding I had to pull back. Between 2008 and 2012 I was only able to do my demo at New Salem Preserves and that was about it. I barely had time to make my own cider, and as a result the quality in most recents years really declined. Which leads me to say, “Yes getting sweet cider to ferment is easy to do. The work of nurturing and paying attention to the cider once you get it rolling requires time and a bit of skill”.
I suspect I will get back to it and certainly will make cider this year, but not the same volume that I use to make. My cider is now the voice of many around the world chatting about what you and I love to sip and savor.
There are more stories to tell and I plan on collecting those during this coming CiderDays, so if you have one, please don’t be shy. I want to hear your tales if you have ever attend Ciderdays and would like to share a special moment for this amazing event – or leave me a message on this site via Speakpipe!
Overview of chat tips and mentions
Franklin County is located in Western Ma – which is 75 miles to the west of Bos.
Folks can fly into Logan airport, Manchester Airport in New Hampshire, the Providence Rhode Island airport and Bradley Field Airport in Ct.
Any of these airports will drop you into a region where you can plot your own map to CiderDays.
Want to find a local cidery? Check out Cydermarket LLC
If you are traveling west on Route 2, pick up cidermaking supplies at NFG Home Brew Supply Shop. They are open thursday 3-8, friday 9-2 and saturday from 10 – 3.
I would recommend Bradley Field, mainly because it is the closest, super easy to get around, with lots of choices for local hotels – and some nearby Beer stops with tasting rooms – note there aren’t that many cider hotspots.
Its an easy one hour drive up interstate 91 to Franklin county.
Or take Route 75 north and into Agawam and stop at Kaptain Jimmy’s. They are part of the Opa Opa Brew Label (yes this is owned by two greek brothers who came to the US with nothing more than a blanket) and they have built up a big beer empire locally. I like this place because they have great food, big pours and a distillery on site. Easy stop, affordable and on you go.
Then pop on route 57 and it will take you back to Interstate 91 or go along the mighty Connecticut River and follow Route 5 all the way.
That will drop you right smack into Northampton Massachusetts, where Smith College is located. As you are entering town on Pleasant Street you will see to your right Beerology at 324 Pleasant. This is a new home brew supply store own by husband and wife team Mike Schilling and Jordana Starr.
I am going to record a Cider Chat at Beerology on Friday November 4th with Ellen Cavalli of Tilted Shed Cider in California and maybe Darlene Hayes too. They are both traveling together. You can listen to my chat with Darlene by going to episode 18.
Stop in and get your supplies at Beerology on the way in as they are really stoked to share their wealth of knowledge.
Northampton is a college town and a very eclectic city with excellent coffee shops, beer bars, like The Foundry, Dirty Truth, and Sierra Grille. The Sierra Grille has two dedicated cider taps. And I am talking with O’Brain Tomlin (who by the way is actor Susan Sarandon’s brother – cool right) he is a great dude in his own right believe me and he loves to talk about food. I expect he will be doing a cider menu that weekend, so stay tuned for last minute tips as we get closer to CiderDays.
As you are rolling north on Route 5 out of Northampton you can stop in at Beer and Winemaking Supplies Inc – also a homebrew shop, incase you forgot some critical items like a carboy or a food grade plastic 5 gallon bucket to get some unpasteurized sweet juice that weekend.
Also, this stretch of road has a bunch of gas stations and further up on Route 5 you can hop back on Interstate 91 and sail north or if you decide to take the back way you will pass Big Y grocery store and then River Vally Market – which has a nice selection of food and a bit of cider.
From here you are about 20 minutes to Greenfield and Franklin County.
Franklin county spans both sides of the Connecticut River.
There is a spectacular view at Mount Sugarloaf which is a State Park. I don’t think you will be able to drive up this late in the season, but there is a nice hike that would take an hour of your time to get up and down. Here they filmed a Mel Gibson motion picture a couple years back now. Whatever…and many folks travel here to view the Ct River. You can see all the way south to Springfield.
There is a great hike up the road, but I recommend taking the trail with its switchbacks and views along the way and then coming back down the road. Believe me it is worth it.
You can then drive north from Sugar Loaf and pass into South Deerfield. that will take you back to Route 5 and in no time you will be in Old Deerfield. There are two big attractions right in South Deerfield, Yankee Candle which is a trippy tourist area, but it has lots of restrooms and a restaurant and then also the Butterfly museum.
There is also a Red Roof Inn right off the highway here. This is not a bad location to land after a busy day, because you can fly right up the highway and manever about pretty easily from this spot. It is about a 10 minute drive up the road to downtown Greenfield.
Deerfield Academy is located in the Heart of Old Deerfield or Historic Deerfield as some prefer to call it. This is where a lot of events have taken place over the years for CiderDays at the White Church, where we also hold our monthly Valley Fermenters meeting on the second thursday of every month.
There is a ton of history here to see. A world class museum and the Deerfield Inn, if you have the bucks to stay here, they do have a very nice restaurant and the location is perfect for many CiderDays events.
If you are just driving through this town you will see a ton of old New England homes and the Sheldon Hatchet Door. It is the original door that was there when during a very bloody 1704 Raid on the town. Check the link provided to find more info.
Swing up north on Route 5 and soon you will be in Downtown Greenfield. Stop in at Seymour a beer bar, that I know will have cider on hand – I expect they will be having a bit of a cidercentric selection all weekend. I will be there on friday night post Darlene Hayes talk across the street. Watch for my tweets on last minute updates on events and meetups on my twitter feed @ciderchat
If you are looking for lodging during your stay check out Airbnb and also some of the fine Bnb’s There are a bunch of selections.
There is also a Hampton Inn, a Days Inn in Greefield. You might be caught having to look south in Amherst and Hadley for lodging or even Northampton. But don’t worry, it is all pretty darn drivable and as this is considered the 5 college area there are lots of cheap darn good eats to find too. I use Hotels.com to peruse the reviews and make the best selection and recommend the same to you.
As I said earlier Franklin County covers a very wide area. You will hear folks calling the hill towns of Colrain and Shelburne Falls ” West County” and some think this is the Berkshires, but in the end it is all still Franklin County.
Do know there is lodging also in Shelburne Falls and out this way on Route 2, which is also called the Mohawk Trail. In Shelburne Falls, you have to see the Bridge of Flowers, which was an old trolley track that is now adorn with flowers and lovely to walk year round.
This town has also been used for filming major motion pictures like the Judge and Labor Day.
But I know it as a great place to walk about and get a good bite to eat, view the Pothole area south of the bridge that connects Shelburne Falls and Buckland across the river and get a cone of ice cream before heading home.
Have treat at Mo’s Fudge Factory
Recommended hike in Shelburne area: High Ledges (approximately 1 hour back and forth)
While you are up at High Ledges, you will pass by a sign that says Wheel-View Farm. This is also a cidery and has a Tasting Room. Check with their webpage to find timing.
Coming up from Northampton or Pittsfield, Ashfield’s Elmer Store serves food and has wifi.
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