I think it is safe to say that Spring is springing. The variety and quantity of birds where we live is amazing and I always feel like they know best about the seasons. If I was to guess, I would say that winter was never going to end, but that’s the way it has been in New England. What the spring means for us at Carr’s Ciderhouse is building, pruning, oaking, blending, revamping equipment to suit the needs of our growing business, and planning – lots and lots of planning. We are really down to the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, for last season’s cider. I guess it worked out perfectly as we are now done with winter markets and have just enough cases to supply our wholesale accounts until the new beautiful cider is ready to be rolled out. We’ve had an excellent year and are looking at the bright future of the coming selling season. 

Blossom photos to come soon. Yay!


StarsInABottle3To reference the monk Dom Perignon, our new Stars in a Bottle is a small run champagne style cider – we only made 40 cases and this super sparkly and crisp cider is flying out. Half the heirloom apples were pressed while frozen so we had a lovely and sweet juice to ferment – and hence, this cider is 11% a.b.v and we added no sugar! The blend of apples includes Golden Russet, which is pretty much the best apple in the universe, and the results were spectacular. We have never been prouder and hope you all will have a chance to grab a bottle at the Whole Foods here in Hadley, Atkins Farms, Provisions, or one of our many farmer’s markets.

The venerable and distinguished Golden Russet.

Here are the huge sugar numbers from the outstanding 2013 growing year from our main apples. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see how these musts ferment! This would be what the British call a ‘vintage year’.

Yarlington Mill: 15.5° brix (1.063 s.g.)

Kinston Black: Crop failure (big surprise).

Dabinett: 16° brix (1.065 s.g.)

GoldRush: 17° brix (1.069 s.g.)

Golden Russet: 19° brix – wow! (1.078 s.g.) Nectar of the Gods?

These data are no doubt higher than normal due to the lack of rain during late summer / autumn, but bear in mind that the apples used were from unfertilized trees and were sweated before pressing.


cider syrup

our new products on display at the farmer’s market

It has been a busy autumn, you will not be surprised to hear. We are still picking our late apples – Golden Russets and Goldrush – and will be pressing this week as well.  As we continue to blend our stored cider and craft sparkling ciders for market, we are excited by the juice that we are pressing and all of the promise it holds. Every year the learning seems exponential and as we build this cidery up together, we taste and discuss and make decisions on how we want the results to be. It feels totally creative and we love that. Jonathan and I have feel like our process is analogous to cooking. We have these beautiful ingredients on hand – we taste and blend and create what we think will make the very best bottle. The variety in the fermented cider batches used to make me a little anxious (or maybe a lot anxious, depending) but now I see it as the best possible scenario. What might seem to acidic in one container might make the perfect partner for something that has undergone malolactic fermentation in another.

In addition to our hard ciders, we have added two new products to our line that we are totally excited about – cider syrup and a bold and fruity apple cider vinegar. Cider syrup – boiled cider – is one of the best things EVER. It is sweet and has a great acid punch, so it not only is amazing on yogurt and pancakes, but also in cocktails and on roasted meats; on roasted vegetables and in baked desserts; on ice cream and foie gras. It’s insane, really. Our cider vinegar is made in a very special way, so what you get is a fruity and sweet vinegar to use in salad dressings or to pour in your bubble water (as some of our customers have been doing).

boiling the cider

We will be selling these products at the Berkshire Grown Holiday Markets  – check out the website or our facebook page for details.  We will also be doing a lot of Winter Farmer’s markets this year – Cambridge Community Center, Somerville Armory, Natick, and Wayland. Come see us! We are so lucky to be able to get fresh local food all year long now in the North East!



Yesterday, via the United States Post,, we were awarded our Federal Distiller’s License! It only took a year to get through the bureaucracy, but that means nothing now. We are ready to get the various parts of our actual still (it looks nothing like the image above, but dreams are permissible here) out of the basement and barn and set. it. up. See, the law permits us to own a still, but didn’t allow us to operate it. In fact, it was required that we disassemble it and store all the parts in different spots on our property. Seems strange and somehow a throwback, but we followed the rules.

So, what does this mean for you, dear imbiber? It means that our Pommeau will contain apple brandy MADE BY US (currently, we use a neutrally flavored apple brandy by another producer), full of apple essence and goodness. It also means that sometime in the not too distant future, we will get our State license and be able to sell you Apple Brandy straight up.  Calvados, Massachusetts-style. We have many ideas. Stay tuned!

We are wildly excited!


Yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, some friends were here for sewing and, well, cocktails! Why not, it’s Sunday. We created this delicious cocktail on the spot because despite not having tonic on hand for the delicious gin Gudrun brought, we did have plenty of cider on hand (surprise, surprise). I think this will be my summer fancy and it just might become yours. Let us know what you think!

Cider Rhubarb Fizz

1 ounce of good gin (we used Hendricks…herbal and delicious)

1 Tablespoon of rhubarb syrup (see below for how to make this)

4 ounces Carr’s Ciderhouse Cidre Doux

sprig of fresh mint

ice cubes

mix it up:

In a glass, spoon in the rhubarb syrup, clink the ice cubes, and pour in the gin.

Add the sprig of mint and pour the cider over the whole thing.

It will be pretty and separated at first, so give it a stir to mix in the rhubarb. 


Gudrun also brought the rhubarb syrup, which she made by cooking chopped rhubarb in vanilla sugar and water. The syrup that is created can be poured off (carefully, or through a fine mesh strainer) and cooled for later use in many things, like these cocktails. I imagine you can also buy rhubarb syrup somewhere too, but it is so easy to make so might as well.



Having navigated the shoals of the labyrinthine online application for a federal distillery permit and after hitting the ‘send’ button this very St. Patrick’s Day morning, we are feeling excited at Carr’s Ciderhouse! It’s been a long-held ambition here (well-matched to my Irish heritage.. and stereotype, of course), tho’ we won’t be making whiskey – it’s apple eau de vie we’re after! The processing of the application may well take a few months, and pending the outcome of a possible inspection, we are aiming to start distilling in June. The main purpose of getting our distilling permit is to be able to fortify our apple pommeau with our own spirits and make a small amount of eau de vie,  but I have a few other ideas up my sleeve….


Cider&FoodShotCidre Doux (5%abv)

It’s finally ready — the French-style sweet cider that has been slowly fermenting since late last October! It is a *big* naturally sweet cider with tremendous apple fruit and a supple, tannic back end. Those of you who are cider geeks will know this style is made in Normandy, by an arcane process which involves the ephemeral formation of the ‘chapeau brun’, or ‘brown hat’, in order to remove pectic substances with the goal of slowing the fermentation considerably. We managed to pull off this fermentation with 100% wild yeasts at a *very* low temperature and stopped fermentation at the end with a residual sugar level of ~35g/liter, which is just lush and lovely! The apple varieties include Reine de Pomme, Esopus Spitzenburg (which graces our label), American Pippin, Ashmead’s Kernel, and a few other eminences grises. It must be refrigerated, as it has only been gently pasteurized and has not been sterile filtered. This cider is FANTASTIC with cheese – we nearly died when we paired it with Harbison from Jasper Hill (you could also try Vacherin). Bon appetit!

We pressed apples very late this year, but we managed to get it all done before the snow started to fly.  The work is hard – physical and cold and a bit noisy – but there is nothing like it and we are pretty moved by the event every year.  It is sort of a whole body experience with everything engaged – muscles, senses, and mental energy.  Without a doubt, the work is entirely framed by the place and the machine.  Our press barn is up on the orchard and overlooks the Pioneer Valley and Connecticut River. The view is stunning and the back of the barn opens up and lets that view in while we press (and a bit of wind too but it is generally worth it). The machine is a century old and is truly a beautiful contraption of gears and cogs and hydraulics.  Despite its age, there is an efficiency to it that I am taken with every year.  We unload apples, send them up the elevator, grind them onto the racks and cloths, stack them, press them, and unload them.  The carts that hold the presses have big iron wheels and there is a hook and arm that swings the cart back to the loading side that is simply ingenious.  Here, have a look:

This is the bin tipper. The bin gets winched up and the apples fall onto a slatted sorting table before dropping into the hopper that carries them up the elevator.

The apples tumbling out of the bin towards the hopper.

The apples go up the elevator and drop into the grinder, which is up on the third level of the barn. At the top of this image there is a stainless steel box, which is the bottom of the grinder. The ground apples fall through that plastic chute onto the racks and press cloths shown here.

The ground apples on the rack and cloth. We make 6 “cheeses” per press cycle.

They get wrapped up before the next rack and cloth get filled.

After all 6 are done, the cart gets rolled under the pressing apparatus. The press lifts from the bottom and presses the cheeses against that square of wood at about 1000psi.

The juice begins to FLOW! Beautiful!

We dump the pomace out the back door into bins – sometimes we miss. This will go down to the pigs.


The hydraulics. The wheel spins and it moves up and down in a very rhythmic way. Sometimes I can't help but dance or sing to its music.

This work is so much different from anything else I do in my work life, which is mostly creative. Though a great deal of creativity went into the design of this machine, and the updates that Jonathan made are most certainly the fruit of some seriously creative thinking, mostly we move within a system and it requires efficiency – economy of movement and rhythm.   I enjoy how I am plugged into this system and I am allowed to think or NOT, while controlling the elevator, lifting the racks, breathing the apple spray, engaging and monitoring the hydraulics, and keeping a flow of action so we can press our daily goal (usually around 375 gallons).  I doubt that I would enjoy factory work every day, but this little taste of being a part of a several person machine (not to mention the machine itself) is pretty awesome.  Working hard feels good.  Being tired at the end of the day often feels good too. Pressing apple juice for our cider feels very good.  I count myself lucky to be doing something like this in such a ridiculously beautiful spot (with the love of my life) – it isn’t lost on me ever.


The autumn is coming and I don’t think I have had nearly enough spritely cocktails this summer, though I distinctly recall having it on my mental “goals of the summer” list. So what!  It is warm and this cocktail, created by Jonathan for an upcoming Edible Berkshires article our cider is going to be in, is soooo good.  If you can’t get a hold of shrub and haven’t made any yourself even though all the kids in Brooklyn are doing it, then just go get a small bottle of Chambourg or other raspberry cordial. It is called a Cider Maiden’s Blush – sexy.

Cider Maiden’s Blush

6 ounces sparkling hard cider (preferably Carr’s Dry Cider)
1.5 ounces gin
1/2 ounce raspberry shrub or Chambourg
chopped mint / and a sprig of mint too

First of all, everything should be good and cold, including the glasses – stick them in the freezer until ready to pour. I add the shrub/cordial last so it stays a little separated – so pretty.  Add a sprig of mint and a few raspberries and cross that task off your list.