By Christine Van Bloem
Photos by Erick Gibson
Whether you prefer your apple juice fresh or fermented, this cider house rules
As summer begins the gentle slide into fall, thoughts turn to the comfort foods of the season, including apple cider. Whether you’re hoping to find fresh cider or the alcoholic hard cider, Distillery Lane Ciderworks (DLC), located just outside of Burkittsville, has you covered.
For owners Rob Miller and Patty Power, it’s all about the apples. Miller and Power “found the house and property and fell in love,” according to the couple; the two relocated from Washington, D.C. in 2001. With more than 40 varieties of apples under cultivation on the farm, fruit that forms the base of their fresh and fermented hard cider, Power believes that by creating their varieties of hard ciders, “We’re making wine out of apples.” Although both Miller and Power hold full-time jobs away from the farm, DLC is no hobby. The family includes three children, two currently in college and one already a college graduate, all working tirelessly to build the business.
Hard cider was once the most popular beverage in America, although its popularity declined after Prohibition and once beer began gaining a foothold in the market. Today, everything old is new again, with popularity rising thanks to artisan cider makers like DLC popping up across the country. Owning the first licensed “cidery” in Maryland since 2010, Miller and Power wanted to grow something they liked.
As apples have been cultivated over time, there are some varieties that are best suited for cider making and those for cooking and fresh fruit uses. Cider makers look for apple varieties that are generally more bitter tasting, since these varieties of apples won’t taste great until pressed into fresh juice or fermented into hard cider. Good luck finding Brambley’s Seedling, Porter’s Perfection or Snowsweet at your local market! At DLC, approximately half of the apple varieties grown are meant for fresh fruit distribution and in pasteurized products, with the other half ripe for fermenting.
To make great cider, the apples are picked, sorted to remove leaves and stems, washed, then rolled via conveyor belt onto the rack-and-cloth press. Fruit is layered onto the press and covered with a cloth. Another layer of apples, another layer of cloth and so on are added until the stack is 14 layers deep. The apples are then squeezed, while the juice drips into a container held below the press. It takes just 6 ½ apples to make a 750-ml bottle of hard cider, according to DLC.
The farm currently produces nine varieties of hard cider. “Kingston Black” uses just one variety of apple and tastes truly like biting into an apple fresh from the tree, but with a little kick. Blends run the gamut from the sweeter Jefferson blend to American Extra Dry. Hard ciders at DLC average 7 ½ percent alcohol, with the ice wine-style Winterfest coming in at a hefty 10 ½ percent. Prices range from $12 to $25 per bottle, with most ciders offered in 500-ml or 750-ml bottles.
In 2012, you’ll be enjoying apples from the 2011 crop that were picked, pressed and fermented mostly in steel casks. Like fine wines, a few of the blends are “oaked” (stored in oak casks) for a short period of time.
Distillery Lane Ciderworks is located at 5533 Gapland Rd. in Jefferson. Fall hours are Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays from noon-5 p.m. Contact them at 301-834-8920 or DistilleryLaneCiderworks.com for more information. Tastings are $5 for 1- to 4- ounce pours and include a stylish glass to take home.
Sipping Some Cider
If you’re looking to score some fresh cider of your own and don’t want to make the trip to DLC, South Mountain Creamery delivers fresh cider to their customers during the fall. In addition to purchasing and tasting hard ciders on the farm, you can also check out these locations:
Frederick Wine House
Clemson Corner Shopping Center
7820 Wormans Mill Rd., Suite L, Frederick
1299 Riverbend Way, Frederick
Locally, Dan’s Restaurant and Taphouse, 3 S. Main St. in Boonsboro, carries DLC hard cider on tap. If you want to get your fancy on, be sure to make a reservation and head to Baltimore favorite Woodberry Kitchen, where this wonderful elixir is made into chic cocktails. If you don’t have a designated driver to chauffeur you back afterward, try tippling this Whiskey Smash at home from the folks at Woodberry Kitchen:
3 ounces DLC sparkling hard cider (Celebration Cider is recommended)
1 ounce smooth Kentucky bourbon
Splash of fresh lemon juice
Pinch of fresh rosemary
Bitters (Woodberry Kitchen uses their own in-house bitters, but any brand will work)
Shake or stir all ingredients together and serve in a highball glass on the rocks.