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New local cider house rules

Erin Cass, owner of Wildcat Cider, at Hex and Hop in Bloomingdale. (Enterprise photo — Amy Scattergood)

If you bellied up to the bar at the Bloomingdale brewery Hex and Hop last Thursday, the fizzy, straw-colored brew in your glass would likely not have been a honey double IPA but hard cider made on site from local apples. Erin Cass launched Wildcat Cider, a one woman cider house that’s more the size of a room than an actual house, at the brewery with a batch of summer dry cider she named “Dry Spell.”

Cass has been making cider for the last six years and has long known that she wanted to open a cidery in the area. “It seemed like a perfect fit,” she said, given the long history of apple growing in the Adirondacks. Cass sources her apples from Northern Orchard in Peru, a family-owned orchard, farm and farmstand that has been growing and selling apples since 1906.

For her inaugural batch, Cass used Cortland apples and made all of 20 gallons, using some of the last dozen bushels of the season. The cider, which has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 6.2 –comparable to many ales –is tart, aromatic and deeply refreshing.

Cass partnered with Hex and Hop co-owner Ethan Mikecell to make the cider at his brewery, which just celebrated its first year anniversary, using Hex and Hop’s farm brewery license. That license allows for the production of cider and mead in addition to beer, using New York-grown ingredients.

Cass has plans to open her own cidery eventually, and to plant her own small apple orchard. But until then, Hex and Hop is a good fit, a local operation near Cass’s future production site, which now functions as her storage facility.

For her fall ciders, Cass will be pressing a combination of heirloom apples such as Kingston Blacks, Ashmead’s Kernels and Yellow Transparents, as well as wild crabapples. Her next batch, to be named “Feral,” will feature a blend of Northern Orchard apples and wild apples.

Cass also wants to use fruit from some of the abandoned apple orchards in the Adirondacks, either by harvesting the apples or grafting stems onto stock trees.

“My goal is to work with people in the area who have old, heirloom apple trees and don’t know what to do with them,” said Cass. “It’s something that used to be really important here. There’s more to this area than just tourism.”

According to the website www.ciderscene.com, there are no current cideries in the Adirondacks; the closest active cider house is ADK Hard Cider in Plattsburgh, the only cidery in that city.

Mikecell says the timing for the cider production was perfect, as he and business partner Nick Delaini are about to open a second location in Saranac Lake. “It’s a lot to start a business on your own,” Mikecell said over a pint of his own beer.

Until Cass begins production at her own site — she’s applied for a farm cider license — Mikecell says “we’ll use our taps and tanks and keep them rolling.”

Meanwhile, Cass will continue to make her cider in small batches, pressing the apples by hand while she plans for her own apple orchard.

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