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Franklin County CiderDays offers something for everyone

  • Pete Mitchell of Headwater Cider Co. prunes apple trees on his orchard in Hawley. Try samples from his cidery at Unity Park on Saturday as part of cider-tasting salon on Saturday in Unity Park — an hour and a half opportunity to taste roughly 90 cider brands. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • An event attendee waits for a sample of cider during last year’s Franklin County CiderFest. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Attendees take part in cider sampling during a tent event during last year’s Franklin County CiderFest. RECORDER file photo

  • An attendee of a cider tasting event during last year’s Franklin County CiderDays takes a sip of her drink at the Deerfield Community Center. Recorder file photo



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Over the past few decades, craft hard cider has made a comeback in the region. Lisa Davol, marketing and membership manager at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, attributes that, in part, to Franklin County CiderDays.

“It’s the oldest cider festival, we think, anywhere,” Davol said. “It’s pretty much responsible for the resurgence in hard cider.”

Traditionally, hard cider was a mainstay on New England farms. But, production declined during alcohol prohibition in the United States during the early 1900s. Apple tree varieties used in hard cider were replaced by sweeter ones. Even though the industry declined, cider-making techniques were passed down through generations.

Nearly a century later, in 1994, CiderDays started as a book signing for “The Art of Cidermaking,” by Paul Correnty. The first day-long festival was put on with help from Terry and Judith Maloney of West County Cider, with Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Greenwood Farm and Pine Hill Orchards.

Since then, “it has evolved … celebrating the apple in all of its forms and providing sessions on every aspect of apple usage,” according to CiderDays’ website.

Twenty-three years later, on Nov. 3 through 5, cider enthusiasts will flock to “the cider mecca for cider people,” Davol said.

This year, festivities will kick off Friday night at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St. in Greenfield, with “How to Taste Hard Cider” — an instructional workshop by Eric West and Nicole Leibon.

Throughout the weekend, cider-making experts will host many instructional presentations and workshops like, “Beginner’s Cider Making Workshop,” with Bob Dalisle and Charlie Olchowski on Saturday ($85 ticket includes cider making materials, instruction, and first batch); “Growing Organic Apples for Cider and Eating;” and “Making Barrel Cider” with Steve Patt and Paul Correnty.

While some CiderDays events cost money — notably a cider-tasting salon on Saturday in Unity Park (an hour and a half opportunity to taste roughly 90 cider brands) — many are free, including orchard tours, select workshops and a cooking demonstration.

“The salons sell out, so there probably will not be tickets the day of,” Davol said. “It is possible to come to CiderDays without buying tickets. There’s family-friendly options and hard cider options.”

Inspiring cider makers

Among those pouring at Saturday’s salon will be Pete Mitchell, founder of Headwater Cider Co. in Hawley. Mitchell was inspired to open his Forget Road cidery after trying West County Cider’s dry baldwin offering at CiderDays in the late 1990s.

“I was smitten with it and thought, ‘I need to make some of this stuff,’” Mitchell said. At home, he “went to the grocery store, bought a gallon of cider, put an airlock on it and let it ferment. It was absolutely horrible, disgusting.”

That was Mitchell’s first attempt. Over time, Mitchell got better, and a few years later in 2005, he purchased land with 2,000 apple trees in Hawley, formerly owned by Apex Orchards.

These days, Mitchell ferments “truly a tree to table cider. It all comes right from the orchard; all aspects of cider making take place right here. I don’t pasteurize, I don’t force carbonate or backend sweeteners or flavors. It lets the cider shine right through,” he said.

CiderDays

“CiderDays affects the region really beautifully — it’s called Franklin County CiderDays because there are a lot of cider days nationwide,” Mitchell said. “In terms of cider, this really is an international tasting. It’s the oldest one in the United States, continuously running.”

Cider experts from Spain, England, France, Canada and possibly Australia and Ireland are expected to attend. Franklin County hard cider makers West County Cider from Colrain, Bear Swamp and Bear Meadow, both in Ashfield, will hold open houses.

For those who have small children, “I would definitely make sure to take them to New Salem Preserves & Orchards. If you’ve never seen it, in my opinion, it has to be the prettiest orchard there is in Massachusetts. It’s these huge old standard New England apple trees — 40-feet-high,” Mitchell said. “It’s got the old stone walls around it; you have a view of the Quabbin right there from the property. It’s beautiful. And they do great kids events there.”

Headwater Cider’s open house will be held Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 112 Forget Road. For a full list of scheduled activities visit: www.ciderdays.org

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter: @AndyCCastillo