Ashfield business makes 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of cider annually

  • Jennifer Williams and Steve Gougeon are the brains behind Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery, a small farm in Ashfield that has a woodworking shop as well as an orchard. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery makes about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons annually, in several styles. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

For the people behind Bear Swamp Orchard, cider is all about setting the stage and letting nature run its course.

The Ashfield orchard’s organic hard ciders are made from apples grown right on-site, with naturally occurring yeasts instead of cultivated strains of the microorganism. They make about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons annually, in several styles.

“The whole thing’s a hobby that got out of control,” said co-owner Steve Gougeon.

They make hopped cider, made with hops grown at the orchard, as well as New England-style and a barrel-aged farmhouse cider — all of which are headed to Franklin County On Tap.

They also do smaller batches as test runs, including an elderberry cider and a perry cider — made with pears rather than apples. They’ve also done a limited edition cyser — a mix between cider and honey-wine mead.

Gougeon and his wife, Jen, who runs the business with him, like the sustainable aspect of the business. Everything is grown, processed and bottled on-site, organically. They also raise sheep for wool, and to eat grass and fertilize the orchard.

They’re proud to have a net-zero-energy cider room and store, with solar panels and an air-source heat pump.

Gougeon grew up on the property, which had been an orchard long before his parents got there. Though the orchard has been in and out of production over the years, about a dozen century-old trees remain, including a 150-year-old McIntosh out by the cider room.

The orchard’s latest incarnation is in its 11th year, and it’s been making hard cider commercially for six, though Gougeon has been making it at home for two decades.

“It was re-planted by a neighbor in the ’80s, but by the late ’90s it had been abandoned. We had to take out most of what he planted, due to animal damage, etc.,” said Steve Gougeon.

They’ve been busily re-planting the seven-acre orchard, including 350 new trees two years ago. They currently grow more than 70 varieties, though many of them won’t bear viable fruit for a few more years. Most are cider varieties, the kind you wouldn’t want to eat.

During apple season, their retail store and tasting room is open several days a week, so visitors can bite into a fresh-picked eating fruit, wash it down with some cider, and pick up some raw vinegar, jams and jellies, all of which are organic, as well as maple syrup and other offerings.

In the off-season, they’re open for sales and tastings on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m.