Cider Celebration to Sweeten Up the County

The Recorder, November 2, 2016, by Diane Broncaccio

No matter where you are in Franklin County this weekend, you’re never far from an apple or a sip of cider.

The 22nd annual Cider Days festival begins Friday and runs through Sunday with orchard talks and tours, cider workshops, and cider-tasting salons around the county.

“Cider is the fastest-growing segment of alcohol beverages,” says Lisa Davol, marketing manager for the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. “And Cider Days is partly responsible. Even the United States Association of Cider Makers grew out of Cider Days,” she pointed out. She said the association was formed by cider makers who spoke at past Cider Days events. “And now (the association) is a major Cider Days sponsor.”

Davol estimates that at least 4,000 people join in Cider Days events, but it’s hard to calculate how many come to the free events, which include orchard tours, apple tastings and free workshops.

For the ticketed events, such as the cider-tasting salons, she knows that participants come from New York, Pennsylvania, California, Quebec, England and many other places.

“It’s so unique — and it’s so much about where we live,” she said. “It’s good for tourism, because (participants) can see what else is here, for another visit.”

The many events, times and locations can be found at:

Also, major events, such as the harvest supper and the $30 cider tastings held at the Berkshire East Ski Lodge tend to sell out, so those who want to go should buy tickets online, in advance.

On Friday, sample cider cocktails with Darlene Hayes at The Arts Block in Greenfield, from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Hayes is author of “Cider Cocktails: Another Bite of the Apple.” She will make cider cocktails and show how to pair them with appetizers and other dishes.

On Saturday, there are two “Tasting of Ciders from across North America” at Berkshire East, at 3 p.m. and at 5:15 p.m. This gives visitors a chance to sample at least 90 ciders, including many that aren’t available locally. Tickets are $30 in advance and they frequently sell out.

The CiderDays Harvest Locavore Supper ($45 in advance) takes place at the Warfield House in Charlemont on Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. On the menu is roast pork brined in apple cider, or a vegetarian “Harvest Skillet.”

On Sunday, the manager of Wassail, the first designated “Cider Bar” in New York City, will be among a panel of experts to lead a “Cider Appreciation 101” guided tasting on Sunday at the Deerfield Community Center, started at 11 a.m.

There are 21 “official” venues for cider-tastings, cider-making workshops, harvest suppers, apples and other events – most of them free. Also, many local restaurants are also joining in with special offerings in honor of cider days.

Here are some highlights.

Saturday begins with an apple pancake breakfast at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, from 8 to 11 a.m.

At Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, Charlie Olchowski and Bob Delisle lead a Beginner’s Cider Making Workshop on Saturday, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. (cost $85) and includes materials. Other activities at Pine Hill this weekend include an Orchard Ride and apple juice for sale for home fermenting.

The Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls hosts several free events Saturday including: a talk on working with old orchards, ice cider, and question-and-answer sessions with veteran cider makers. From 12:30 to 2 p.m., there will be a Home Cider Makers Tasting: Ciders from the 2015 harvest ($5 per glass), plus an award presentation from the Fourth annual Amateur Cidermaker Competition.

At Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery in Ashfield, there will be talks Saturday on seeking wild cider apples, growing low-input cider apples, and, from 10 to 4 p.m. tasting of hard and sweet ciders, tours and orchard walks. On Sunday, this orchard offers a free workshop on cider making at home, and cider making with wild yeast.

Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield grows over 50 varieties of apples, and Saturday’s events include cider press demonstrations, orchard walks, a talk on the history of New England pie. On Sunday, there will be apple-themed cooking demonstrations and weekend-long tastings of apple, pears and sweet ciders.

New Salem Preserves and Orchards will feature talks Saturday on tending backyard apple trees, and basic apple tree pruning. On Sunday, there will be a noon workshop on culinary uses of cider syrup and a home hard-cider workshop.

Ryan and Casey Liquors in Greenfield will offer free tastings of commercial hard ciders and calvados from noon to 3 p.m., while Berkshire East of Charlemont will offer $30 salons, with tastings of ciders from across North America.

Participating local apple orchards include Pine Hill in Colrain;Apex Orchard, West County Cider, Wheeler-View Farm and Hager’s Farm Market, all in Shelburne; Tip Top Orchard in Buckland, Bear Swamp Orchard and Cidery in Ashfield, New Salem Preserves and Orchards, Headwater Cider in Hawley.