By Shannon and Sarah Showalter, Cidermakers and Owners at Old Hill Cider
In the early days of this nation, hard cider was commonly enjoyed by many Americans, with as many as 1 in 9 of America’s farms using cider presses to produce the flavorsome beverage. That custom may have changed in the early 20th century with Prohibition, but a growing number of American apple-growers are reviving the tradition of cider-making.
Our family has been growing apples on our Old Hill for more than 40 years. Although our family purchased the orchard in 1965, the orchard began in the early 1930s, and many people would simply say, “I’m going to the Old Hill to buy some apples.” From these stories we heard, the name for our hard cidery was cultivated. These apples and the terroir of our Old Hill are very important because they offer something very special: their own wild yeast.
Modern advancements in equipment and cultivated yeasts for example, can make cidermaking appear more like a wine process rather than an experience lived by our forefathers. However, our goal at Old Hill Cider is to craft ciders in innovative ways that early American cidermakers would be proud to serve and enjoy. One way that we achieve this goal is with Cidermaker’s Barrel. With this cider, we are able to embrace a method of producing cider with a wild yeast fermentation. This complex cider is crafted from the naturally occurring yeast that has been developed from decades of cider making and maintaining orchards on Old Hill. With this process, we use the yeast already present on the skins of the apples. While this process does make the end-result slightly unpredictable, our final product with Cidermaker’s Barrel is a clean exciting, well-made, complex cider, completely unique and indigenous to Virginia. Using carefully selected apples of heirloom variety, this artisan hard cider produces a sweet lemon, lime, vanilla and caramel nose, sweet apple fruit palate and a smoky dry finish.
Our goal is to continue to revive an American Tradition while producing artisan hard ciders that are delicious, natural, familiar and flavorful. We hope to continue to educate and encourage people to sit up and take notice of the burgeoning American revival of hard cider. Learn more about Old Hill and Virginia’s other hard cideries at the numerous events planned throughout Cider Week!