In New England, Hard Cider Stages A Comeback Apple growers in New England are looking to hard cider as a way to beat dropping prices and foreign competition. The fermented cider was the drink of choice for the nation's founding fathers. One New Hampshire orchard is out to turn the region into the Napa Valley of hard cider.
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In New England, Hard Cider Stages A Comeback

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In New England, Hard Cider Stages A Comeback

In New England, Hard Cider Stages A Comeback

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In New England, the tradition of hard cider, artisan-style, goes back to the Founding Fathers. John Adams wrote in his diary about the digestive benefits of drinking a tankard of cider each morning. Well, now a New Hampshire apple grower is hoping to revive that tradition and provide a lifeline to struggling farmers.

From New Hampshire Public Radio, Avishay Artsy has that story.

AVISHAY ARTSY: On a late fall day, the production floor at Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire, is bustling. A half-dozen seasonal employees from Jamaica grind the apples, press the juice and add yeast. William Crawford is one of them.

Mr. WILLIAM CRAWFORD: This is the cider tank, beautiful tank. You see how it shines? Try to keep the juice good.

ARTSY: Owner Steve Wood began converting his orchards to cider apples 20 years ago. Red delicious apples from Washington state and cheap imports from China were flooding the market.

Mr.�STEVE WOOD (Owner, Poverty Lane Orchards): You know, we were growing the same fruit and getting the same praise we had done before, but we weren't getting as much money and it was clear we couldn't keep doing it.

ARTSY: Many apple growers switched to other crops. In two decades, the acreage of apple trees in New Hampshire dropped by nearly half to 2,100. So Wood hatched a plan: recruit other apple growers to resurrect New England's long-dormant cider tradition.

Mr.�WOOD: Growers come here and I give them grafting wood. I give them whatever they want to help them get started. We don't play our cards very close to the breast. I'll tell anybody exactly what we do and how we do it.

ARTSY: Chuck Souther and his wife operate Apple Hill Farm in Concord, New Hampshire. Souther decided about six years ago to take Wood's advice and convert two acres of his land to growing cider apples.

Mr.�CHUCK SOUTHER (Owner, Apple Hill Farm): Which was a little bit of a leap of faith. Almost all the other apples we grow, we can do various things with them. These apples are inedible. They are high in tannin, high in acids. There's a strong sort of wretch factor. When you eat one, I liken it to biting into a fresh cranberry.

ARTSY: Souther hopes to be federally licensed to sell fine cider by the end of the winter, but Wood says other growers won't be able to make that leap.

Mr.�WOOD: They can't do it because they are so financially strapped that they can't raise the capital to change once again to replant once again.

ARTSY: Wood's label is called Farnum Hill Ciders and it's received favorable reviews in The New York Times and Wine Enthusiast. But distributors are skeptical about the demand for fine cider, and some retailers are placing his bottles on the bottom shelves alongside Manischewitz.

Mr.�WOOD: It's a long job. It's a long job to develop a market where there is none.

ARTSY: That's why Wood sends employees to hold tastings at grocery stores, like at the Cracker Barrel market in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

Carl Goodman(ph) ventured a taste.

Mr.�CARL GOODMAN: Dry, sparkling and a little different. Very drinkable.

ARTSY: Despite the long odds, Wood envisions New England becoming the Napa Valley of fine cider production. It wouldn't be unprecedented. It was the drink of choice of American colonists. And John Adams was said to consume a tankard a day. In that sense, Wood is like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed who, by the way, planted cider apple trees.

For NPR News, I'm Avishay Artsy.

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