When Shannon Edgar started making cider in 2014, his approach was what he now describes as “experimental.”
Edgar, the founder of Sherborn company Stormalong Cider, would spend hours in New England orchards, seeking out traditional cider apple varieties like Golden Russet, Wickson, and Dabinett.
“I was making ciders on the dryer side, that were made with heirloom apples and non-standard varieties that you don’t find in the supermarket,” says Edgar.
That experimental bent is still apparent in Edgar’s work, with Stormalong producing delicate, wine-like ciders with high-acid and high-tannin apple varieties. But Stormalong has also settled into a groove, producing a line of ciders with more neutral bases that still put the apple first.
This spring, Stormalong has released two new ciders that fall under the approachable category. The first is Massive Appeal, a boozier take on Mass Appeal, a core brand cider made with New England McIntosh, as well as Golden Delicious, apples.
While some cider makers bump up the ABV of their ciders by adding sugar or apple juice prior to fermentation, Stormalong stays true to its roots here, boosting the alcohol content through a couple of tweaks to the original recipe rather than through additives. The result is a medium-bodied cider that’s apple-forward, a little tart, and not too sweet. Be careful, though, because it definitely doesn’t taste like a cider of 8.2 percent alcohol by volume.
“Imperial Cider is a trend that started out of the Pacific Northwest and has become a sizable style within the overall cider category,” says Edgar. “When we decided to make an imperial cider, we wanted it to be super clean and refreshing at a higher ABV without any negative flavors.”
The second new Stormalong flavor this spring is Berry Perry, made with locally grown Bosc pears and with hints of raspberries, blueberries, and hibiscus. From another cider maker that combination might turn into a mess, but with Stormalong the flavors seem more like suggestions, subtle additions to an already crisp, dry product. The biggest contributions from the fruit here are in the perfume. And while I’m partial to the first cider, this one is also an easy drinker. At 6.8 percent ABV it’s potent but less so than the other new Stormalong release.
In a beverage world where hard seltzer and canned cocktails seem to be everywhere, Edgar stresses that Stormalong products are made with healthy, local ingredients, and without cheap sugar additives. The two new Stormalong ciders are available throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com.Follow him on Twitter @garydzen.