By Mary Bigham, Dish-Works.com – If you’ve had a conversation with me in the last year or two, the following subject has definitely come up: cider. And the discussion starts with something like this: “Did you know that hard cider is the new champagne?”
It’s true! I’m so passionate about this easy-to-sip beverage that I want to share with everyone that hard cider is not just for gluten-free folks. It’s a trending, delicious product that’s turning heads in the beverage world and has strong roots in (my hometown) Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In addition to being rich in history and abundant with dining options and breathtaking scenery, Gettysburg is also home to a distinguished hard cider scene and is quickly becoming known as Cider Town, Pa.
Why Is Gettysburg the Home to a Booming Cider Industry?
Considering that Pennsylvania is the fourth largest apple-producing state in the country and Adams County is the majority producer (70%) of the state’s crop, it’s an attractive landscape for cider producers to source locally. “Adams County is perfectly situated to be a hotbed to launch the growing hard cider industry because of its long history as an apple region,” explained cider lover and local expert Carla Snyder from the Penn State Extension. “Growing the resurgence of this historic beverage is a way to continue to diversify the industry and continue the orchard legacy of the region.”
Gettysburg Cider Trail
If you haven’t been to Gettysburg since your 7th grade field trip, it’s time to revisit. Not sure where to start? I’ve put together a Gettysburg Cider Trail that covers four major Adams County cideries and includes my favorite ciders at each stop. As always, be safe: have a designated driver and drink lots of water as you go.
Stop 1: Jack’s Hard Cider
The Location: Jack’s Hard Cider, 410 Cashtown Road, Biglerville, Pa.
The natural and refreshing hard ciders, made at Jack’s Hard Cider, are the result of growing and pressing their own apples and fermenting custom blends on-site. Tastes and pours of all of Jack’s varieties are available at the cider house and winery, just eight miles west of historic Gettysburg.
It gets better. Very small-batch, seasonal offerings are available only on tap at the cidery. If you’re lucky, grab a taste of the limited Cherry Cider or Harvest Cider (a blend of apricot, apple and plum aged in a barrel)—you’ll thank me. And, never skip my favorite—the cidery’s flagship variety, Jack’s Original. It’s a Granny Smith apple blend in cans that delivers bouncy bubbles and a fair amount of fizz. Be warned: you may, like me, want to grab a six-pack of this crisp, dry session cider to-go.
Stop 2: Good Intent Cider
The Location: Battlefield Brew Works, 248 Hunterstown Road, Gettysburg
Next up on my tour: Good Intent, which started in the heart of Pennsylvania apple country after Adam Redding attended a weeklong cider-making class at the Cornell Ag Extension in November 2010. His parents offered up their spare office (and part of their garage) at their Gettysburg home for production, and this family-run cidery was born.
What makes his ciders unique? “I want a good mixture of apples to avoid the taste being flat or boring; mixing them creates a synergy,” Adam shared. Although the main tasting room is located in Bellefonte, Pa., this cider producer started in Gettysburg, sources 99% of its fruit and juice from Adams County and offers pours of its products regularly at a few Gettysburg establishments.
To get a taste when you’re in town, head to Battlefield Brew Works. This revamped barn offers a unique atmosphere that’s worth a visit in itself and proudly serves Good Intent daily alongside their own-brewed beers.
My favorite—and not just for its clever name—is the flagship Adam’s Apple cider. This semi-dry cider with an 8% ABV embodies the aromas of a full orchard. If you can, be sure to taste their North Meets South, a bourbon barrel-aged cider that melds Pennsylvanian apples with Virginian bourbon (launched as a tribute to the battle of Gettysburg).
If you want a more elevated dining experience, head to Sidney Willoughby Run (730 Chambersburg Rd., Gettysburg), where Good Intent Cider is always available.
Stop 3: Reid’s Hard Cider
The Location: Reid’s Orchard & Winery Tasting Room and Cider House Cafe, 400 Baltimore St., Gettysburg
Reid’s does not distribute, so to get a taste you’ve got to make the trek like me to the centrally located tasting room and Cider House Cafe in Historic Gettysburg or to The Home Winery, located on their farm premises in Orrtanna. According to Conor Roderquie, he and fellow cidermakers Dave Reid and Phil Keating make cider at Reid’s “using Pennsylvania estate-grown apples from the 140 different varieties available at our orchard.”
The well-appointed tasting room is the perfect place to explore Reid’s repertoire by the glass, to fill a growler or to grab a bottle for a friend. Their on-site cafe offers fantastic food pairings such as cheese plates, sandwiches and more. My two favorite spots for sipping are at a bistro table on the outdoor patio or in their cozy sunroom playing board games with friends.
I suggest doing the flight (featuring four ciders) to get a sense of which style you like best, then committing to a pint! My favorite is the Black Bear Hard Cider; I fill up a growler every time I visit. This slightly sweet cider made from a blend of Smokehouse apples weighs in at 7% ABV and packs a delightful punch. Inquire about small-batch seasonal varieties on tap, including Raspberry Apple, or, if you visit on a Sunday during brunch, get a cider-mosa.
Stop 4: Big Hill Ciderworks
The Location: Tommy’s Pizza, 105 Steinwehr Ave., Gettysburg
When chatting with cidermakers Ben Kishbaugh and Troy Lehman, one immediately feels a sense of calm. But don’t let that fool you; there’s a firebed of passion underneath their cool demeanor. These independent farmers are aiming to make “darn good ciders.” “We’re just ‘regular’ guys who are doing this all ourselves,” said Troy. “We’re farming the apples, we’re making the cider, we’re not trying to play it safe.”
Their future plans include a possible tasting room, but until then, sales are available by appointment only (contact Big Hill Ciderworks directly to schedule a visit), or get a sip at plenty of local establishments, like Tommy’s Pizza (my favorite pizza in town!), located a few blocks away from Reid’s.
Make it your goal to try the Little Round Hop—bright, citrusy and dry-hopped with Columbus, Centennial and Cascade hops. It’s floral, effervescent and has a hint of fresh lemongrass to enhance these complex flavors. I also highly recommend you try the Barrel Aged Reserve. If you love an oaked chardonnay, you’ll love the buttery finish from this unique blend of traditional cider apples fermented and aged in whiskey and brandy barrels.
Tips: In addition to local hard ciders, Tommy’s sometimes features out-of-town ciders like The Brewery of Hershey’s Decider, a Peanut Butter Caramel cider. This stop also does draft ciders to-go via crowlers (read: can growlers) and aluminum growlers.
Go Forth and Sip
Now that you’re armed with my “in-cider” tips, you’ll be sure to impress your local cider-loving crew with your knowledge of where to find the finest ferments that Adams County has to offer.
While you’re hitting the Gettysburg Cider Trail, don’t skip grabbing bottles, cans or growlers along the way to take to a local BYOB for your very own cider supper. One of my favorites is Food 101 (101 Chambersburg St., Gettysburg).
Check back often to discover more ciders in Cider Town, Pa., and leave a comment below to tell me about your cider adventure in Adams County!
P.S. Did you know? Hard cider is the new champagne! (Tell a friend!)