A research project for an MBA class had me in search for entrepreneurs who manufacture and distribute hard apple cider. I found them in Wallingford, CT at the New England Cider Company. The visit would be a crash course in cider production, which is closer to wine than beer production.
The cidery gets its apples from Lyman, Blue Hills, Hickory Hill and other orchards in Connecticut as well as Vermont orchards. It takes one bushel of apples to produce three to four gallons of apple cider, which is then allowed to ferment.
New England Cider uses four to five different varieties of apples, such as Pink Lady. During one Saturday afternoon visit, local enthusiasts stopped by to refill their 64-ounce growlers ($15 to $18) and newcomers sampled a selection from a six-class flight ($14). I tasted “Fresh Blend,” which is produced from dessert apples. It tasted like a light version of champagne — less bubbly and slightly sweeter.
For non-beer drinkers, the cider maker is a welcome addition to Connecticut’s craft beverage scene, which has been dominated by beer breweries. Connecticut is home to 35 craft breweries that produce a total of 105,000 barrels of craft beer a year, according to Brewers Association.