2016-10-01 / Dishing

Hard Pressed

Maggie Anderson | photos by Matt Fern

Adam Redding’s eye is peeled while driving the many miles he logs each week between his cidery in Bellefonte, storage facility in Adams County, home in State College, and his “day job” as a scientist for a water technology company near Pittsburgh.  He’s on the lookout for apples, especially from abandoned trees along old country roads where some heirloom varieties may still be fruiting and ripening long after the folks who planted the tree moved away. He travels with a fruit-picking bag that he straps on when he finds an old apple or crabapple tree and collects as many as he can reach.  It takes a lot of apples to make cider — about 50 for a gallon — and the wider the variety the more complex his finished product will be.

Redding’s 5-year-old business, Good Intent Cider, is tucked into a gritty former industrial zone on the edge of Bellefonte between Spring Creek and a limestone cliff. The sun hits the outdoor patio and dapples through trees that are gently dropping golden leaves onto patrons sitting at tables outside, sipping cider while they sample some local cheese. Redding and his wife Jenn started the business in 2011, after Adam was inspired to make cider at a weeklong Cornell Ag Extension workshop in 2010.

“The first two days were devoted to cider appreciation. We just sampled different ciders, to understand the variation in styles. By day three we were learning the process, and when we all left on day five, we each took home a half gallon of our own cider,” recalls the energetic 39-year-old. His enthusiasm for the craft was contagious. First Jenn caught it, and then his parents fanned it, offering the use of a large home office and part of their garage on Good Intent Road outside Gettysburg.

While Good Intent LLC is still housed there, where the bottles are warehoused, the production has moved north to Bellefonte, to what is quickly becoming the new regional drinking capital of Centre County. The cidery tasting room, Big Spring Spirits, Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery’s new restaurant and tasting room in the former Café on the Park, along with the upcoming revival of the brewery at the Gamble Mill can and will provide a full-blown array of alcohol options, all within crawling distance.    

Apples are Pennsylvania’s fourth largest agricultural crop, and our state ranks fourth in the nation in terms of apple production, with 35 percent grown for a fresh market dominated by Gala, Honeycrisp and the ubiquitous and undelicious Red Delicious. Lesser known and heirloom varieties like Smokehouse, Crimson Crisp and Ozark Gold can be found at our local apple orchards — Harner Farm and Way Fruit Farm — and at our many area farmers markets.

Redding typically presses cider three times a year in 600-gallon batches, starting the first batch around Thanksgiving. The main apple that Redding uses is GoldRush®, a newer apple developed at Purdue in the early 1970s that is disease resistant. He procures the apples from two growers in Adams County, the undisputed apple capital of PA with 20,000 acres in fruit production. GoldRush® is his go-to variety due to its late harvest date and remarkable keeping qualities. Two years ago he planted 200 Wickson trees, a large crabapple that he adds to certain ciders for various effects.

The tasting room in Bellefonte typically has 7 to 10 different ciders available for tasting. Eight seasonal ciders are on tap, and the standard varieties are poured from bottles. The cider flight is the place to start on your first visit. A sampling of four different ciders, in 2½-ounce portions, costs $6 and gives you the overview you need to be able to order a glass of your favorite for $4.

Their flagship cider, appropriately named Adam’s Apple and available all year, is semi-dry with a pleasant crisp-apple aroma. You can study the effects of bourbon barrel aging on this cider when you sample North Meets South, which also elevated the alcohol content from 8 percent ABV to 10 percent.

Other varieties include Ginger Kid, Hoptide, and 91 North, which show the effect of adding ingredients like fresh ginger, hops, and honey and raisins. Good Charmât (sounds like karma) is twice fermented with crabapples that lend a pink blush and effervescence and mouthfeel similar to champagne. Centennial, pressed from heirloom apples from a Gettysburg battlefield, is aged in oak and steeped with history. Redding also offers a “perry,” a pear cider made from Bosc pears.

Echoes of the Civil War in the names of some of the varieties invoke a time when cider was the predominate beverage in a new country that had sanitation issues with drinking water. Typical consumption was about 35 gallons of cider a year, with children sipping on Ciderkin, a weaker alcoholic beverage made from soaking the apple pomace left from pressing cider apples in water. What predicated the demise of the hard cider industry was the influx of immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe who brought their taste for beer. The Volstead Act of 1919, which went into effect in January of 1920, prohibited alcohol production and sales and resulted in the subsequent destruction of the apple orchards that supplied abundant fruit. After the repeal in 1933, breweries and distilleries rebounded, using grain, an annual crop, but the decimated apple orchards would take decades to recover. Hard cider fell out of fashion for almost a century.

But now the industry is growing at a tremendous rate. According to statistics from CiderCon 2016 held in Portland, Oregon, cider volume grew 12 percent in 2015 and there are now 18 million cider drinkers in the U.S., compared to 5 million four years ago. An expected industry growth rate of 15 percent is predicted over the next five years, most of that sold in 12-ounce bottles or cans at grocery stores — now even in Pennsylvania.  Estate cider, such as that made at Good Intent, is a specialty market, with the majority of what is produced sold at the cidery, bottled in 750 ml bottles, or dispensed in liter growlers.

What’s next for Good Intent? Will Redding be able to quit his day job as a water analyst and cut down his travel to be at home with wife Jenn and sons Liam, 3, and Finnl, 1? Time will tell. Meanwhile the genealogy buff is glad to straddle the site in Bellefonte, a town where his great-great-grandparents lived in the 1880s, and his Gettysburg warehouse where he grew up, near the battlefields and apple orchards of Adams County that first inspired him. •SCM

In addition to the tasting room in Bellefonte, for which an expansion into two nearby buildings is already planned, Good Intent Cider is available on tap at Zeno’s in State College. On Tuesdays, Jenn sells the cider at the Boalsburg Farmers Market. In the Gettysburg area it is available at Battlefield Brew Works and Something Wicked Brewing.

Good Intent Mussels
Jenn and Adam’s favorite way to cook with hard cider is to use it to steam mussels.

¼ c. butter
3 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 c. hard cider, any variety
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig parsley
1 bay leaf
2 lbs. mussels

Heat butter in large, deep pot and add shallots and garlic.  Sauté until translucent.  Add cider and herbs and cook for 2 minutes.  Rinse the mussels and remove the beards just before cooking. Add the mussels to the pot and cover and cook on high for about 5 minutes.  Agitate the pot occasionally to redistribute the mussels and ensure even cooking.  Remove from the heat when all the mussels are open.  Place the mussels in serving bowls and pour on the cooking liquid. Serve with baguette slices or pick spoons to slurp up the delicious broth.

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