The craft-beer boom has a not-so-distant cousin. Mirroring the exploding growth of the specialty beer industry is the hard cider market. In 2012, Boston Beer launched the cider brand Angry Orchard; it has quickly become the beer company’s fastest-growing product, according to a recent Globe story. Cider production grew 70 percent from 2011 to 2012, attracting major players like Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, which now distributes the Stella Artois Cidre line.
Cider may be big business but, just as in the beer sector, small-batch artisanal cider makers are getting their say. Cider makers are dry-hopping, barrel-aging, and spontaneously fermenting their products just like their brewing brethren. The resulting ciders are drier and infinitely more complex than the mass-marketed ciders showing up at your local tavern.
Michelle da Silva and Dana Masterpolo founded one of those small-batch cideries in 2012. Bantam Cider’s first commercial product was Wunderkind, a cider featuring local apples fermented with a sparkling wine yeast and a hint of flower blossom honey. The drink tastes more like a white wine, hanging lighter on the palate than the ciders you might be used to.
“The experience most people have had with cider is limited,” says Masterpolo. “Our whole goal is to open people’s eyes to everything cider can be.”
Bantam is set to open the first tap room dedicated to cider in its Union Square, Somerville, headquarters. The duo will showcase eight taps dedicated to oak aged, smoked, sour, and other experimental ciders.
“Cider has a huge spectrum, on one side being more akin to a fine wine and on the other side being akin to a sangria,” says Masterpolo. “There are so many products that we make that people don’t get access to. People can come in and try the most interesting thing we just made, whether its commercially viable or not.”
Masterpolo and da Silva’s cider-making story reads like that of many craft brewers. The pair were working in architecture and real estate, respectively, before quitting their day jobs to make cider full time. In their Somerville space they have the capacity to make 4,000 barrels of cider annually (a barrel is roughly 31 gallons). For perspective, the new Trappist brewery in Spencer plans to produce 4,000 barrels of ale this year, while Harpoon shipped 205,000 barrels in 2013. In addition to Wunderkind, Bantam has released two other products, Rojo, aged with sour cherries and black peppercorns, and La Grande, aged in bourbon and rum barrels. A smoked saison cider will be released later this month.
The Bantam Cider tap room is an industrial space with a comfortable feel. The bar has views of fermentation tanks and racks of barrels. It is expected to open March 1 and will offer flights of cider as well as full pours. Merchandise will be available as will tours of the facility. The tap room is at 230 Somerville Ave. and will be open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Bentley Brewing opens in Southbridge
To celebrate the official kickoff of Bentley Brewing Co., brewers Mike Lynch and Adam Golka will be hosting a tasting of their beers on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 3 to 5 p.m. at 12 Crane St. in Southbridge. They will be filling growlers and offering samples of their Bentley IPA, Southbridge Ordinary Bitter, and select brewery-only releases.
Bentley’s Southbridge Ordinary Bitter combines traditional British Maris Otter malt with Sterling hops. Bentley IPA is an American style IPA, with Nugget, Columbus, Chinook, and Apollo hops.
Bentley Brewing shares the same building with the Dark Horse Tavern, which is hosting the grand opening. The brewery operates in a 10-barrel capacity brewhouse in the 12 Crane building in downtown Southbridge. You can purchase Bentley beer by the growler from the brewery or by the pint at the Dark Horse.
99 Bottles weekly tasting
We’re getting more interactive at 99 Bottles. Each week, with your help, I’ll sample a new brew. If you’d like to participate in the tasting, pick up that week’s beer, log into Twitter, and tag your tweets with #99Bottles. You can follow the progress of the tasting and see what others and myself are saying at: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/blogs/99bottles/.
This week’s brew is Old Chub, a Scotch Ale from Oskar Blues. The tasting will start at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13. Cheers.Gary Dzen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.