I’ve always enjoyed hard cider but it wasn’t until the Elm City Brew Festival did I realize that big brands like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck are just a few of the players in the growing cider-making business. At the brew festival there was an entire floor dedicated to New England craft ciders and boy did I have fun sampling the bunch. Since the event, I have been looking to try more locally made ciders and since New England Cider Company is nearby, visiting was at the top of my to-do list. Right in Wallingford, New England Cider Company uses fresh apples and ingredients sourced from local orchards in New England.

But just in case you need more convincing, here are a few more reasons to visit New England Cider Company. New England Cider Company doesn’t use artificial ingredients or sweeteners and the apples are gluten-free. The craft cidery also offers seasonal ciders like watermelon, peach, and strawberry!

Also, when visiting the tasting room (from Thursday to Sunday), you’ll likely find one of the owners behind the bar pouring drinks and greeting patrons.

After years of making cider in their backyards, co-founders Miguel Galarrag and Seth Hart opened New England Cider Company in 2013. They’ve been sharing their enthusiasm and passion for cider ever since.

 

New England Cider Company

When we arrived at New England Cider Company early Saturday afternoon, the tasting room was buzzing with people sipping on hard cider and munching on New Haven’s favorite grilled cheese sandwich. The Cheese Truck by Caseus Fromagerie was parked right outside the production facility and served soups and grilled cheese sandwiches.

If food trucks make your mouth water, expect a food truck parked out front every weekend!

 

Tasting Room

New England Cider Company’s tasting room was cozy and intimate. Decorated with holiday decor, the tasting room had a shiny wooden bar and a handful of side tables and stools. The large black chalkboard which featured the menu had an impressive drawing of the lifecycle of an apple.

 

The Atmosphere

Although the tasting room was lively you could still have an intimate conversation with your companions or play a fun game of Connect 4. The bartenders (one of which was the owner) were friendly and extremely knowledgeable. It was easy to strike up a conversation, ask questions and learn more about the cider making process. One of the bartender’s even shared that she’s going back to school for botany.

Although guided tours aren’t available, if you head to the back room, you can see some of the equipment New England Cider uses to make their ciders. There’s also an interesting collection of rum, whiskey, red wine and chamomile barrels on display.

In the warmer months sit out on the patio, play a game of cornhole or check out the homegrown hops, oregano, and basil in the herb garden.

 

Tasting Experience

After grabbing a seat at the bar, for our first visit, co-founder and cider-maker Miguel Galarrag recommended trying either Taste 6 or Taste 4, flights of six or four ciders.

If it’s your first time visiting the craft cidery, I recommend ordering Taste 6 to get a feel for all that New England Cider has to offer. At $15 Taste 6 was a great value.

Arranged from dry to sweet, we took small sips of “Dry”, “English”, “Saison”, “Staghorn Sumac”, “Cranberry” and “Fresh Blend”. Each cider had a unique taste and the menu did an incredible job describing the flavors.

Once you’ve sampled the bunch, zero in on the ciders you enjoyed the most.

Cider

 

Our Top Picks

As expected (since I love sweet ciders), Fresh Blend was my favorite for its refreshing and bright finish but Cranberry came in as a close second.

On the other hand, Luke, my cider tasting partner in crime, loved Staghorn Sumac for its tartness and pronounced taste. He also raved about how he could drink a growler of “Dry” since it was so smooth.

Fun Fact: Staghorn Sumac is a native plant high in antioxidants. Traditionally Native Americans used it to create “lemonade tea”.

 

Secret Menu:

On the “not so secret menu”, order 50/50 Fresh Blend and Cranberry, a colorful elixir that reminded me of a tequila sunrise cocktail for its two distinct colors.

 

Final Thoughts

Overall a tasting at New England Cider is a fun outing for couples and friends, and I even saw a mother-daughter pair enjoying a pint during our visit. If you enjoy drinking cider or want to try something new, New England Cider is undoubtedly a craft cider gem worth checking out.

And since the menu is always changing, plan to visit often to see what’s brewing. I’m especially looking forward to upcoming events like Beer vs Cider Cheese Tasting and Girls Pint Out.

Lastly, if you’re short on time and can’t visit the tasting room, stop in to fill a growler. Or order a pint of New England Cider at over forty local bars and restaurants throughout Connecticut.

 

Tasting Room Hours:

  • Thursday: 4-8 p.m.
  • Friday: 3-9 p.m.
  • Saturday: 12-8 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12-6 p.m.

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