Whether you prefer the innocent version or cider that packs a kick, New England’s best cider mills offer a behind-the-scenes look at how apples become drinkable.
By Kim Knox Beckius
Sep 29 2016
Cider Mills | Best 5Photo Credit : Courtesy of Cold Hollow Cider
Cider is fall in liquid form. Whether you prefer the innocent version or—like our Founding Fathers—cider that packs a kick, New England’s best cider mills offer a behind-the-scenes look at how apples become drinkable.
B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill
Old Mystic, Connecticut
Gears clatter, belts rumble and hum, cider gushes. B.F. Clyde started producing hard cider 135 years ago, and in 1898, he invested in machinery that still springs to life each fall. Great-granddaughter Annette Miner says her husband and sons “know every little noise” America’s last steam-powered cider mill makes. “We’ve never had a major breakdown—ever,” she marvels. Each week during the harvest, nearly 75 tons of handpicked Hudson Valley apples are destined for non-alcoholic sweet cider or more than a dozen apple wines and potent ciders including soul-warming, pumpkin-spiced Spider Cider. Tastings are free daily September through early December. To see history in action, visit during cider-making demonstrations on October and November weekends. 860-536-3354; bfclydescidermill.com
Bear Swamp Orchard & Cidery
On a 7-acre hillside with Mt. Monadnock in view, Jen Williams and her husband, Steve Gougeon, cultivate more than 60 apple varieties. He’s a cabinetmaker with home-brewing expertise. She’s a biology teacher with a PhD in ecology. That knowledge—of how “everything is so connected”—fueled their desire, she says, to earn organic certification. You can pick apples or purchase unpasteurized cider, but it’s the organic hard ciders, made by only a handful of cideries nationwide, that are putting this tiny orchard on the map. Friday through Sunday during the harvest and Saturdays through December, sample honey-infused Cyser; fizzy, refreshing Hopped Cider; old-school Farmhouse; and Prohibition-era New England Style, barrel-aged with brown sugar and raisins. They’re crafted in small batches inside a solar-powered cider mill built in 2014, when it was time, says Williams, for their decade-old endeavor to graduate from “out of control hobby” to business. 413-625-2849; bearswamporchard.com
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
If mythical Sirens had lured the unsuspecting with scent instead of song, it would be the aroma you’ll detect even before you step through the doors of this top Vermont attraction. The bakery turns out apple crisps and pies. Four “donut robots” fulfill hot cider doughnut demands. And fresh cider—coaxed from mainly McIntosh apples grown on Lake Champlain’s shores—is made before your eyes daily in the fall, twice weekly during quieter seasons, using a vintage press. It doesn’t all wind up in jugs. “I’m a bit of a mad scientist,” admits Gayle Brown, who bought the mill 17 years ago with husband Paul. Apple butter, cider honey vinegar, cider vinaigrette, cider-chipotle BBQ sauce: Of all the gourmet creations on display and available via mail order, intensely flavored cider jelly, a rare find, is most sought-after. That may change, as Cold Hollow forays into hard ciders. Enjoy a free taste of easy-drinking, effervescent Barn Dance (made in collaboration with Boyden Valley Winery). 800-327-7537; coldhollow.com
Smithfield, Rhode Island
Allison Molis calls Chris Jaswell “the master mixologist.” Her brother is “very particular about what apples he presses; he’s constantly looking for that perfect blend,” she explains. These fourth-generation farmers inherited acreage their great-grandfather purchased in 1899; their profoundly deaf grandfather’s gift for growing; and their parents’ prescience. Richard and Pat Jaswell transformed the family’s farm into a consumer-focused enterprise long before competitors recognized this potential. Peer through observation windows as hundreds of pounds of apples—picked from their own or nearby orchards’ trees—are inspected, brusher-washed, and elevatored up into the chopper. An old-fashioned rack and cloth press applies 2,000 pounds of pressure to the apple pomace, extracting crisp, refreshing cider that is flash pasteurized before it’s sold on-site and in gourmet markets. It’s doubly apple-licious paired with handcrafted, two-pound candy apples enveloped in caramel, milk chocolate, and toppings like crushed Twix, Oreos, and pecans. 401-231-9043; jaswellsfarm.com
White Mountain Cider Co.
Bartlett, New Hampshire
They’re so tart and tasty, so icy and super apple-y, you’ll wonder what magic Teresa Stearns conjures to create cider slushies. Truth is, “It is just straight up frozen cider,” confesses the Culinary Institute of America-trained chef. A natural process concentrates the flavor. Stearns wishes she could claim the idea, but the slushie machine—like the cider press—was already in operation when she saw restaurant potential in the property’s 1890s farmhouse. Pop into the market for hot cider doughnuts in the morning. Return for slushies and deli sandwiches, plus the chance to watch cider-making in progress on fall weekends. Come evening, you can savor cider’s grown-up side. But wait! There’s more. Stearns and her team can also take credit for exploiting the golden liquid’s sweet and savory nuances in everything from cider-braised pork to Cidertini cocktails. Caramel-drizzled, ice cream-topped warm cider doughnuts are the restaurant’s irresistible signature dessert. 603-383-4414 (deli/store), 603-383-9061 (restaurant); ciderconh.com