Matthew Critz knew he was taking a risk in 2011. He had made some small batches of hard cider using his farm's 120 year-old apple press he but decided to purchase expensive new specialty tanks, barrels and bottling equipment to decided produce high-end hard cider. In fall 2011, he opened the Harvest Moon Cidery at Critz Farms to see if anyone wanted to buy it.
"We weren't quite sure how it was going to go - and we sold out in six weeks. Every bottle we had," said Critz.
Now in his second season, it turns out Critz couldn't have had better timing for his gamble. Cider sales in the U.S. surged by 50% last year with Anheuser-Busch, Coors and other major brewers scrambling to get on board. Hard cider has always been popular in England and now it's making a comeback on this side of the ocean.
"I'd never really heard of it and now lately, the last few years it's everywhere and everyone's talking about it and more places are opening up," said Kristen Blabac after sampling different varieties of cider at the Critz tasting room.
For 2012, Critz has increased cider production by five times last year's amount. He uses a special blend of four kinds of apples in his press and then uses specialty yeast and flavors to make his award winning flavors. The Critz tasting room has been busy every weekend and this year Matthew Critz hopes to have enough cider to keep it open until Christmas. He's also providing draft cider to bars and restaurants all around Central New York.
"We'll probably do 5,000 gallons this year and I was told by the people in the wine industry - average winery opens, it takes five years to get to 5,000 gallons," said Critz.
Hard cider from Critz Farms will also be available at 12 bars in the Hudson Valley and New York City next week as part of Cider Week.