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Celebrating made-in-WNY hard cider

Something happened over this past winter in Buffalo—hard cider arrived.

Two new bars devoted to fermented ciders recently opened their doors at the forefront of a resurgence in interest in the beverage. The first to open was the Buffalo Cider Hall in the old Linde Air factory on Chandler Street in October, followed by Bar Cultivar in The Barrel Factory in the Old First Ward in December. Housed in cool, modern spaces complete with patios, both bars are owned by local cider making companies—Blackbird for the Cider Hall and Steampunk for Bar Cultivar.

“We wanted to get more exposure and direct access to our customers. We have a very strong brand here in Buffalo and we wanted people to not have to drive all the way out to the farm to get it,” said Scott Donovan, president and founder of Blackbird as well as an occasional bartender at the Hall.

Western New York Cider Week

Hard cider is here | Discover 2019

Stilt walkers at the Steampunk Festival.

To celebrate all things hard cider, the New York State Cider Association is throwing their second annual Western New York Cider Week from August 17-24. Showcasing products of 12 Western New York hard cider makers, it’s a week packed full of activities and experiences throughout the region at bars and restaurants as well as the farms and orchards where the fruit is grown.

“It’s a wide range of activities all based around appreciating cider, and particularly the cider that is based right in our backyard in Western New York,” said Jenn Smith, executive director of the New York Cider Association.

It all kicks off at the Buffalo Cider Hall on August 17 for the Blackbird Summer Festival, which doubles as the opening party for Cider Week. Throughout the week there will be tastings and food pairings at local restaurants and bars as well as events at the orchards of Blue Barn, Rootstock and Embark cideries. The various fermenters will be releasing special batches and limited tastings throughout the week as they show off their products.

Though the nightly activities end on the 25th, the real conclusion to the festival comes on August 31 at the Orleans County Fairgrounds for 9th Annual Steampunk Festival.

For specific listings on a night-to-night basis as well as maps, parking information and everything else you will need to enjoy the festivities, check out Cider Week’s website.

Ain’t She Sweet?

To many people with limited experience with hard cider, it’s a sickly-sweet carbonated beverage. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Cider is not one thing,” said Jenn Smith, executive director of the New York Cider Association. “It is not uniformly sweet. It can be still, it can be bone dry, it can be made from red fleshed apples and a rose color. It can be all kinds of different things. People who say they don’t like cider probably haven’t tried the right cider.”

The main difference between large commercially available alcoholic ciders and the smaller batches produced from local growers is in the apples. Commercial ciders use what are known as dessert apples—the kind you eat—but many of the smaller growers in Western New York opt for cider apples.

“We use apples with either higher tannins or higher acid or a combination of the two,” says Jerod Thurber, a partner at Steampunk Cider. “They sometimes aren’t good for eating but they make great cider.”

Just as different types of grapes make different types of wine, the same is true of apples. By exploring the varieties, you can find the one that suits your palate.

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