News from Reverend Nat: Providence release and more

New release: Providence Traditional New England

I think my favorite part of cidermaking is releasing a new variety. We started our year with Revival Dry, our English-style “farmhouse” cider and we proceeded to sell out in a few months. (Don’t worry, we made three times as much this year.) Up next was Deliverance Ginger, which has turned out to be our second best seller. (And it’s getting a new quinine/tonic sister-cider soon.) The next release was Hallelujah Hopricot, which has been a runaway success. (We simply cannot make it fast enough.) But all year long, our winter seasonal cider has been quietly aging on oak and raisins. It has seen many thousands of gallons of other ciders leave the garage, patiently waiting its turn. And that time has come.

This cider follows a very old recipe dating from early 1600′s colonial America. When early English settlers came over the ocean, they brought some of their favorite cider apples with them, but soon discovered that other varieties produced better in the new world. So they set about to make cider that reminded them of home, but using these new varieties. The one taste that was lacking was tannin. English and French bittersweet cider apples with odd names such as Yarlington Mill, Dabinet, Medaille d’Or, Kingston Black, Porter’s Perfection, Brown Thorn, and Skyrme’s Kernel all contain tannins. (We use these varieties in Revival Dry.) But American apples with possibly familiar names such as Northern Spy, Golden Russet, MacIntosh, Baldwin, Winesap, Cortland and Newtown Pippin contain virtually no tannins. Using their Yankee ingenuity, these early cider lovers added raisins, which are high in tannins, to their fermenting cider. And to overcome poor sanitation, our ancestors added whatever sugars they had on hand to create a stronger, more alcoholic cider. Fast forward a few hundred years and this style of cider is called “New England Style”. The name “Providence” harkens back to Reverend William Blaxton, one of the founding fathers of Rhode Island (along with Roger Williams, who was eaten by an apple tree), who is credited with developing the first native apple variety.

Our take on this style is fully dry and still (no carbonation). Some recipes for New England Style call for the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg, which we’ve done here, using whole sticks and cracked cloves. This cider sat on oak and raisins for 10 months so it’s quite oakey but it doesn’t taste like raisins. It is very vinous and “wine”-y, and high in alcohol, coming in at 9.8%. We’ve been demoing it at tastings for the last couple months and are excited to release it to the public. We released it just a few weeks ago but the stock is down to 61 cases of this treat so don’t wait to get your bottle now.

Our new cidery is in the works

A year ago, we were really excited to have a whole room in the basement dedicated to the cidery. I think we had 1000 gallons in it at one point, and that was very tight. We rapidly expanded to include the garage, allowing us an additional 3500 gallons of fermentation capacity in there. But we’re out of room now and still can’t keep up with demand. Not to mention the extreme difficulties of handling dozens of bins (many tons) of apples in the driveway. If you’ve been reading these newsletters for a while, you’ll recall that we’ve been on the hunt for a new production space for many months, and it looks like we’re getting very close to signing a lease on a new cidery. We’ll have a big grand opening party in the early spring after our taproom is outfitted. Oh yeah, did I mention a taproom? It will be somewhere in between a wine tasting room and a bar. All our ciders will be on tap, we’ll offer flights of Revelation single-varietal ciders and to-go bottles and growler fills. We’ll keep you posted!

Online store coming soon

Just in time for the holidays, we’re working on a new online ordering system so you can buy cider for yourself and others. There are a lot of rules and regs to figure out to ship to each state, but we’re excited to offer cider to anyone in the country. We will also be using our new online store as the platform for a cider club, which is just like a wine club but better. We’ll share more details about the club as we get closer. Expect the store to go online shortly after Buy Nothing Day (aka Black Friday).

 2012 harvest complete

The Pacific Northwest’s harvest of apples in 2012 has come to a close and it’s a whopper of a year. We harvested nearly 12,000 lbs of English and French bittersweet cider apples from our grower partners in Oregon. And the big commercial orchards in Washington yielded a record 122 million packed boxes, which means a lot of apples that we can buy throughout the year. However, the Michigan and New York growers had a really terrible year so we expect the price of apples to go up a bit from last year. There will still be plenty of apples at the right price for us, so we don’t anticipate any price increases. We’re truly thankful to live right next door to the largest apple growing region in the country. I expect that we’ll press in the neighborhood of 200,000 pounds of apples from the 2012 harvest. That’s a lot of cider to drink!