Cider Days are here again: Weekend-long apple celebration, Nov. 3-5, to bring thousands to region for tastings and talks

Field Maloney of West County Cider pours a sample of cider in his Peckville Road facility in Shelburne.

Field Maloney of West County Cider pours a sample of cider in his Peckville Road facility in Shelburne. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Field Maloney of West County Cider outside his Peckville Road cider shop in Shelburne.

Field Maloney of West County Cider outside his Peckville Road cider shop in Shelburne. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Field Maloney of West County Cider in his Peckville Road outlet in Shelburne.

Field Maloney of West County Cider in his Peckville Road outlet in Shelburne. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Field Maloney of West County Cider in Shelburne.

Field Maloney of West County Cider in Shelburne. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 10-27-2023 10:32 AM

Folks from across the northeast will descend on Franklin County next weekend, Nov. 3 through 5, to celebrate apple season at this year’s annual Cider Days festival.

“Part of the fun of Cider Days is getting lost,” Field Maloney, one of the event’s organizers and owner of West County Cider, explained.

“It is a great celebration of the apple for people who are total cider nuts and also people who just want to see the fall in apple country,” Maloney said. 

The event includes activities at orchards and cideries throughout the county and beyond. People can visit the website and make their own route to learn, taste and enjoy all the joys of apples during the peak of harvest.

Maloney said the best way to enjoy the weekend is to go “footloose and fancy free” and travel the hills and get lost in the wonders of the county.

“This year is the celebration of the harvest in a hard year,” he said.

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A late May frost killed a majority of the apples this year. Orchards have reported anywhere from complete destruction to losing half of their crops from the cold temperatures on one particular night that killed the buds of the apple trees. West County Cider’s home orchard, for example, lost about 80% of its crops this year from the frost. 

“Farming can be a big crapshoot, but now it's even stranger,” Maloney said. 

Along with the frost, the heavy rains increased the fungal stress of the trees. This fungal stress has left foliage somewhat muted and caused apples to have a hard time ripening, according to Maloney. 

Despite this difficult year for the crops, there are still going to be events across the county and beyond. 

New at this year’s Cider Days will be the many talks and guided tasting experience at the Mill in Shelburne Falls, located at 49 Conway Street.

Gnarly Pippins (the “nom de pomme” of local apple expert Matt Kaminsky) has organized a series of free talks throughout the day from apple and cider experts. 

At 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Mill, certified “Pommelier” Tim Powers and cidermaker Casey Simpson will host a ticketed event where visitors can taste ciders from beyond New England. The tasting will include ciders from England, France and Spain. 

One of the fan favorites of Cider Days is the home brewers descent to Pine Hill Orchard, located at 248 Greenfield Rd. in Colrain. Home brewers from across the Northeast come to Pine Hill for the weekend to pick up cider for home brewing. Many show up with trucks and huge barrels to transport the product. Despite Pine Hill’s huge loss of crops this year, they will still be pressing the cider for people to take home. 

Also during the weekend, West County Cider will have oysters for sale along with their own cider tasting; Beaver Pond Distillery in Petersham will have tastings, tours and treats; Berkshire Cider Project will open their tasting room; Cameron’s Winery and Cidery will have a nine cider-food pairings on Friday night, and campfires, donuts from Adams Donuts, cider dogs and music on Sunday.

Maloney remarked the event has gone through many transitions since its inception in 1994. “It means something to people no matter what form it takes … It has become larger than the people who try to put it together,” he said. “It has developed its own life. At this point, it is just part of the transitions of Franklin County.” 

Before the pandemic, the event took place at one central location. When the event was re-imagined after the pandemic, it sent visitors across the region to visit the cideries and orchards for themselves. No matter the form, Maloney said, thousands of people still come to appreciate the harvest every year. 

“Apples still delight me,” Maloney said. “It connects me to the land and the tradition out here.”

For a complete list of venues and events, visit the Cider Days website: ciderdays.org.