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Will New York's cider industry fizzle?

Posted: 5:57 PM, Nov 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-20 22:57:30Z

New York state houses more than just "the Big Apple." The Empire state is second in the U.S. for growing apples and first when it comes to the number of cider brewers.

"When I started, I believe there were less than 15 cideries and today I believe, there's over 90," President and founder of BlackBird Cider Works in Barker, Scott Donovan, said. 

There are more than 90 cider producers in the state with three of the biggest regions being the prime places for apple growing: Hudson Valley, Finger Lakes and the Fruitbelt, according to the New York Cider Association.

Donovan tapped his craft brew business in 2011 before the industry really took off.  BlackBird originally went from making just 900 gallons a year to no making tens of thousands of cases toady.

"Then around 2015, there was a whole flood of entrance into the market," he added.

But could the industry fizzle? A recent Cornell University Cooperative Extension study found it may be the type of apple that upsets the apple cart.  New York State produces mostly dessert apples--used in sweeter brews. The problem? Not having the right type of apple for complex brews.

Donovan thinks being able to produce his own apples helps him produce a more complex line of craft ciders--especially since he grows six different types of apples on his orchards.

Executive Director of New York Cider Association, Jenn Smith, says she disagrees with Cornell's findings saying:

I’d disagree that the conclusion of the survey - which NYCA helped produce! - is that the industry may fizzle out - I think the key takeaway is that supply of desirable cider fruit, while more abundant here in NYS than any where else, still doesn’t meet maker demand. The survey itself, as well as other education initiatives, have helped growers understand the opportunity that cider apple production can present them, and we have seen thousands of traditional cider fruit planted or grafted on since the survey’s publication last winter.

And as far as the industry fizzling out, Donovan doesn't think it'll happen anytime soon. He's ready for what's on tap for BlackBird.

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