September 19, 2012

Soup to Nuts: Maine offers some hard cider choices

As the Maine harvest hits overdrive, so too are the makers of 'high-test' cider, breathing new life – and fizz – into a tradition that dates to Colonial times.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory transfers fresh cider from 60-gallon containers to fermentation vessels. Cayer produces three hard ciders at Urban Farm – Dry Cidah, Dry Hopped Cidah and Baby Jimmy.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Adam Callaghan labels cider vessels at Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines


BEN AND BETSY PARKS-STAMM make two traditional hard ciders at their orchard in Winthrop under the label Kennebec Cider.

ONE IS A TRADITIONAL TART, semi-dry hard apple cider, but the other is a blueberry hard cider, which is made from a semi-sweet hard apple cider and blueberries from the couple's own highbush blueberry bushes. "The whole blueberries are included in the fermentation so we get the tannins and the flavor and color from the skin," Betsy Parks-Stamm said.

THE PARKS-STAMMS HAVE ALSO created a Maine ice cider, a new kind of cider that has become popular in Quebec, home of ice wines. The alcohol content of the ice cider is the same as a wine, and it is sweet, but with an added bit of tartness you won't find in a dessert wine.

"We take fresh cider we make, and don't add any yeast or anything to it, and we leave it outside in the winter," Betsty Parks-Stamm said. "All the water in the cider freezes, and then what's left is just all the apple flavor. It's almost like apple syrup." What's left after freezing is about 20 to 25 percent of the original volume of the fresh-pressed cider. That liquid is then fermented to about 11 percent alcohol.

– Meredith Goad

Crop is early and a bit thin, but what's out there looks good

Don't be surprised if your local orchard doesn't have your favorite variety this year.

The apples are ripening about two weeks early, like just about everything else this year, and the harvest is down, local growers say.

But the apples that are out there are in good shape, and there is good picking to be had.

The Paula Reds, an early apple variety, are over at many orchards, including Randall Orchards in Standish, Dole's Orchard in Limington and Lakeside Orchard in Manchester. Ginger Gold are also gone by in some areas.

Dole's had a wet June, and then had to burn some trees because of blight.

McDougal Orchards in Springvale had hail in June and some trees either didn't set fruit or set only a small amount. They lost their crops of Gala, Blue Pearmain, Grey Pearmain, Fortune and Lady apples.

The lesson: if there's a variety you're really craving, check with your local orchardist before heading out the door, or you might come away empty-handed. Or better yet, try something new that you've never had, because there are plenty of apples out there.

– Meredith Goad, staff writer

Ben Alexander, the owner of Maine Mead Works, decided to jump into the cider market last spring. He estimates his company's first cider will be available in growlers the first week in October. He's already planning on adding more fermentation tanks.

"There seems to be a growing demand for local cider," he said, "so back in May when we were planning to do this, we thought this would be enough. Now it's looking like we may be doubling" capacity.

Maine Mead Works cider maker Nick Higgins said the turnaround time for their cider is about three weeks – a couple weeks of fermentation, plus a week to filter. They use forced carbonation to give it a fizz.

Maine Mead Works also sources its cider from Ricker Hill Orchards. It's made predominantly from McIntosh apples, but also some Cortland, Macoun and Red Delicious.

"We really wanted to come out with something that was simple, light, straightforward," Higgins said. "(We wanted to) showcase the apple flavor without too much sweetness, so you get the essence of the apple without being overwhelmed by too much sugar."

The Maine Mead Works cider is fermented in jacketed tanks filled with coolant that controls the temperature during fermentation, leaving it around the low 60s, "which gives us a light, crisp, clean flavor," Higgins said.

No sugar is added, but they do add a yeast strain. The alcohol content of the finished product is low, about 4.5 to 5 percent.

"Each yeast strain is going to provide a different flavor profile, even if you start with the exact same apples," Higgins said. "Between yeast and the temperature, and sourcing (the apples) from the same source, that's how we control consistency."

The Maine Mead Works cider is the house cider at Gritty's, and Alexander and Higgins said they hope to sell growlers out of the tasting room on Washington Avenue soon.

"There's been a lot of demand for that," Alexander said.

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

A bottle of Urban Farm's Dry Cidah.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A crate of Gala apples beckons customers at Sweetser’s Apple Barrel and Orchards in Cumberland last weekend.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

A picker at Orchard Hill Farm in Cumberland displays his “catch” last weekend.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)



More PPH Blogs