Recap: PA Cider Fest 2019
Last weekend we drove out to Gettysburg, PA for the 4th annual PA Cider Festival, and what an amazing weekend it was. Gettysburg’s association with the Civil War is well known, but it’s also in the heart of Adams County, Pennsylvania – the state’s largest (by volume) apple-producing region. An appropriate place for a festival celebrating the best use of apples, then.
We were honored to be invited to a Cider Maker’s dinner held at Jack’s Hard Cider and supported by Cider Culture, PA Preferred and the Pennsylvania Cheese Guild. When we arrived, a fantastic assortment of PA cheeses (courtesy of the Cheese Guild) was laid out and cider from all over PA was flowing. Throughout the night we were able to catch up with our Pittsburgh cider friends from Cider Table, A Few Bad Apples, and Threadbare. We also met some wonderful people from Hale & True, Ploughman Cider, and Arsenal Cider House. I was pleasantly surprised to see Eleanor Leger of Eden Cider in Vermont there as well!
A few announcements were made, including a call to join the PA Cider Guild (the Enthusiast level is open to anyone who wants to support PA Cider) and I’m proud to say The Cider Seeker is now a member! Awards were presented, with Big Hill Ciderworks recognized as 2019 Cidery of the Year and for Cider Innovation. Hale & True and Colonel Ricketts were both awarded 2019 Tasting Room of the Year, and Ploughman Cider received recognition for Cider Leadership in 2019. After that, more cider was poured. Most importantly, it was a fantastic evening of fellowship in the cider community.
PA Cider Fest was also held at Jack’s Hard Cider. Free shuttles to and from the grounds from select locations made for easy and safe transportation. We took the earliest shuttle and arrived as the gates opened at 11 am, even though cider wouldn’t be pouring until noon. This gave us time to scope out the cideries and map out our afternoon. We met up with Mike from Cider Table, some of his cider-loving friends, and headed over to the A Few Bad Apples/Jacks tents for the inaugural firkin tapping. At noon, the firkin was tapped and our glasses were filled with hopped crabapple quince cider made by AFBA in collaboration with Jack’s.
About 30 PA cideries were present, offering a full range of cider styles and flavors. From bone dry, tannic, and naturally fermented cider to sweeter ciders with adjunct flavors, there was a cider (or dozens) for everyone. Cideries we had never had cider from before that really impressed us were from Big Hill, Killarney, Hale & True, Dressler Estate, and Ploughman. Some others we know but always enjoy were Threadbare, Arsenal, A Few Bad Apples, and Jack’s. All of the cideries were so friendly and willing to talk about the different ciders they were pouring, they made you feel like you stepped out of the field and into their tasting room.
Around 2 pm, we grabbed lunch – Greek salads – from one of the many food trucks. Staying hydrated between the sun and the cider was easy thanks to complimentary water for all attendees. With the 4 pm last call approaching we circled back to some of the cideries we can’t access at home or in Pittsburgh and picked up a few bottles. A bottle check service was provided for anyone not wanting to carry their cider all day. Even though we waited to buy our cider this is a fantastic option and plenty of people took advantage of it. With new friends and great memories made, we hopped on the shuttle back to our hotel. I meant to take more pictures and some video but we were having such a great time that I forgot all about my phone. I regret nothing.
We didn’t have any particular plans for Sunday but wanted to be tourists in Gettysburg a bit before heading home. While walking around the circle downtown we saw Ben Wenk from Ploughman Cider putting up a temporary barrier. This was because he was preparing their pop-up for the day in front of their new tasting room he had just signed the lease on a few days before! We were a bit early for the tasting room to be open but Ben made a few suggestions on places to check out around town, and we promised to stop in on our way back – which we did. It’s a fantastic space, run by great people, who make great cider. But don’t take our word for it, we encourage you to stop in and find out for yourself.
Gettysburg has a Cider House, Reid’s, as well. We never actually made it in with the way the cards fell, but we’ll be sure to check it out next time. Before leaving town, we took a drive through the memorial park. There’s so much history there it’s hard to take it all in, but we did our best.
If at all possible, attend PA Cider Fest. It’s an incredibly well-run event and amenities like free shuttles, complimentary water, and the cider check are icing on the cake. While you’re at it, invite your cider-loving family and friends. Know someone who doesn’t like cider or thinks all cider tastes the same? Invite them too – there’s a good chance they’ll find something that changes their mind! And if you want to support PA Cider, consider joining the PA Cider Guild. The Enthusiast level membership is only $20/year and comes with some nice perks aside from supporting real cider in PA.