Angry Orchard’s cider house cropped up in Walden, N.Y. three years after the nationally-recognized brand started pouring its signature Crisp Apple Cider in 2012. The Walden location is owned by Boston Beer Company, the brewing behemoth behind Sam Adams, Truly hard seltzer, Dogfish Head, and more. But the cidery – and its local staff – maintain a homegrown feel by producing small-batches from its orchard to create new, exciting flavors for the brand. The cider house is one of six local beer and cider makers that will be at at the Black Dirt Beer Bash in Sugar Loaf, N.Y. on September 10. In anticipation of the upcoming event, Head Cidermaker Joe Gaynor sat down with the paper to chat about what’s next at Angry Orchard’s local “thinktank.”
How did you get into cidermaking?
I was working for surveying company, and I was home-fermenting, home-brewing, home-distilling. I’m from the area: I grew up ten minutes up the road in Bloomingburg, went to Pine Bush High School. Growing up here, you see a lot of wineries, but everything’s family-owned so it never seemed like it could be an opportunity.
When I started here [at Angry Orchard] part-time, I fell in love with it right away. From day one I was asking: “How can I help? How can I do more?” So I was sweeping floors, carrying kegs. Some of that led to helping blend and doing lab work...it was every job you’d do in the wine or cider-world until this point.
What’s the best part of your job as Head Cidermaker?
And I actually personally love when someone comes along, and is like, “Hey, I don’t like cider.” And I’m like: “You’re in the right place.” Just like you can find a wine that you like, whether it’s red or white...we can do the same thing with apples, which is awesome.
One of my big goals is having people experience new ciders and getting a range of what ciders can be. Cider can be Crisp Apple, which is very Apple forward...Or our Edu, which is very acidic and dry, and really great with food. And then you have stuff in between that’s oaky, with a little bit of sweetness and tannin and character. So we have this big wide range of what cider can be. We do about 30 different ciders throughout the year.
How does the Walden Cider House influence Angry Orchard’s national brand?
The vision is to create a place for product development, innovation, partnerships...it becomes this giant think tank space. It’s about: How can we plant trees that make cidermaking more sustainable in America? How can we take those trees and make really great cider?
Everything grown here is used here for new product development and new projects that we do. The Rosé went to market years ago, and that was something we actually started here, right in 2015 when we opened.
What’s the latest creation that you’re most excited about?
It changes pretty often, but right now I’d say our Tall Tales collection and Funk of the Gunks.
Tall Tales has been a really cool experiment with looking into the market and getting inspiration from ready to drink cocktails – we saw that was something that was really blowing up. So I was like: “How can I make this with just cider?”
We have four different versions of it: ciders aged in barrels, or ciders distilled and then re-blended together with juice to create these higher ABVs. Then we build them at the bar like cocktails: four ounces over ice with a garnish. People have responded to it really well.
Funk of the Gunks is a cider we do every year with foraged fruit from around the area; wild trees, untamed areas, a lot of crab apples. We’ll ferment them wildly and very cleanly, and we make this cider every year that’s bone-dry, a little bit funky. We call it Funk of the Gunks because it’s all from trees that were wildly grown here at the base of the Shawangunk Mountain Ridge.