Hard cider is the comeback kid of beverages. The drink that early Americans used to sip from dawn ’til dusk (Founding Father John Adams famously drank hard cider each morning) disappeared almost completely during the temperance movement — and would stay in hibernation for a long, long while, as drinkers turned instead to beer.
Almost a century later, a full-on cider revival is in effect, with hard cider a fixture at many bars and cideries. At Heckscher State Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, both the cider-curious and die-hard fans can taste through the current spectrum of styles — from sweet to dry, sparkling to still — at the seventh installment of Pour the Core: A Hard Cider Festival.
WHAT TO EXPECT
About 35 producers will pop open their ciders at Pour the Core — from cider-wine hybrids to ciders flavored with sour cherries or miso — during a rain-or-shine tented event expected to draw 2,500 people. “Cider [makers] have taken notes from the brewing world, and techniques from the winemaking world, to make products that are refined and innovative,” says Kristyn Dolan, director of event production for Starfish Junction Productions, which organized the first Pour the Core in 2012. “There are gose ciders with tartness and salinity, and more and more Champagne-like styles. The diversity has been really nice to see.”
The first Pour the Core seven years ago coincided with the early stirrings of the artisanal cider renaissance, and Starfish has since held Pour the Cores in Brooklyn, Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. Each festival draws a mélange of national (think Woodchuck Hard Cider) and regional producers. While Long Island has less than a handful of local cider makers, plenty of upstate cideries will be pouring, such as Nine Pin Cider Works, Graft Cider — which produces gose-cider hybrids — and Abandoned Hard Cider, which presses and ferments wild-crafted apples.
Hailing from Vermont is Citizen Cider, which started as a tiny cidery in an old warehouse six years ago and is now distributed in 15 states. “[The festival] has played a huge part in introducing us to new audiences, especially in the New York market,” said Cheray MacFarland, Citizen Cider’s marketing director, explaining why the team treks south each year for the event.
SAMPLING THE SCENE
Pour the Core ticket holders will receive a souvenir tasting glass for sampling 75-plus ciders, in 2-ounce pours. Dolan suggests combing the festival’s cider list beforehand to plan a tasting from dry to sweet — and then, taste each as you might wine. “Look for tannins, aromas, flavors and body, and how each finishes,” Dolan says.
The tasting window is 3 1/2 hours long — from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. — and food trucks will be on hand, as will doughnuts made with cider from Port Jefferson Station’s Po’ Boy Brewery. Consider trying to eat one from a string during the doughnut-eating contest, a highlight of each year’s event.
Pour the Core: A Hard Cider Festival
WHEN | WHERE 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, at Heckscher State Park in East Islip.
TICKETS $55 ($45 advance) includes 2-ounce samples of 75-plus ciders. Live music by Andy Putman, and food provided by food trucks but not included in the ticket price. VIP tickets are $60 and gain early admission and access to special ciders; designated driver tickets are $12.