My favorite time of year is when my older brother comes to visit. It’s exciting because each time it’s during a different time of year. We get the chance to enjoy different celebrations and holidays. This year, he came up Labor Day weekend. We had a whole week to go on some adventures and enjoy the fall festivities. Since my absolute favorite season is fall, it meant everything to be able to enjoy it with my big brother. It was nice to do some early season apple picking and check out some local hard ciders.
As some of you may know, a major cidery here in Vermont is Woodchuck Hard Cider. Their manufacturing facility is located in Middlebury, Vermont, just a short drive from my hometown. We went up, took a tour, and did some taste-testing.
When we entered the Woodchuck Cidery, we were greeted by a giant, up-cycled apple. It was made from empty cider cans and led into the bar/gift shop. The staff was insanely friendly and helpful.
I have been on brewery tours before but I loved that this one was self-guided. It really gave us a chance to take in the process of how Woodchuck is made and enjoy the parts we were most interested in. It’s a short tour but it let us explore at our own pace, take photos, and hone in on the parts we thought we coolest.
As we lead ourselves through the tour we came across some interesting sights. We saw more up-cycled cider cans sculpted into musical notes. Which is in reference to a pretty epic concert that Woodchuck started a few years ago. It’s called Ciderstock. We also saw some preserved apples in bottles (I’ll explain later), and tons of awards the brand received.
When we entered the “tour room”, the scent of apples took over my senses! It was incredibly humid in there but smelled freaking amazing!
In the center of the room were two walls. One was a diagram of the production process. The other was a timeline outlining major events in Woodchuck history. Some of which denoted the meanings and significance of different cider names. When you walk in there was no indication of where a person should start but it was clear that the “tour” went in a clockwise direction.
Each Window pane had writing on it describing what you are looking at. Short and sweet, the summaries completely embodied the process making it easy to understand.
Because of the layout of the room, it was easy to look into the factory and see what was happening. There were giant tanks that held the cider. You could see the machines that washed, filled, and capped the bottles. And of course employees that stacked and moved the product to storage.
The scale of the facility surprised me. A fairly small operation doing such large quantity production. We popped in in the middle of the week. I’m assuming they were working at full capacity but it was a small crew. Woodchuck Hard Cider is a nationally known brand and they bottle it all at this one small warehouse. To think how incredibly efficient they must be. There is even one panel on the window that says “if you notice a cider on the line that isn’t a part of our family, it’s because we help other cideries get their liquid into bottles and cans”. Just Awesome!
The tour takes as long or as little time as you want it to. We probably spent about 30 minutes taking in all the information on the tour and another half hour in the bar/gift shop.
After the tour, my brother was tasting some different versions of Woodchuck. I took it upon myself to take in all the goodies and varieties of cider they had to offer. I didn’t taste any because (to be honest) I am not the biggest fan of Woodchuck. It’s just not sweet enough for me. HOWEVER, I have also only tried two of the many varieties they have. I have tried the original which I honestly just do not like at all and the Gumption. Gumption isn’t a lot different from the original Woodchuck Hard Cider but it’s got a sweeter taste.
They have so many other products that I am eager to try them all. The Bubbly Pearsecco sounds amazing and the Granny Smith just sounds like a sour-ish delicious cider.
By the way, remember the preserved apples I was telling you about? Well while I was browsing, I saw more of them and kept asking myself “but why???” I just didn’t get it.
So, I asked the bartender what the story was. He told me it was originally an idea they had for the first Ciderstock. They wanted to put the apple in the bottle and have it be something similar to the Willy Wonka golden tickets. Well, somewhere down the line, the idea got shot down. In turn, it became a tradition to display an apple in a bottle for every year they grew a crop. The bottles are scattered around the room, each labelled on the bottom with the year it was grown.
You might be wondering how they got the whole apple in the bottle? So were we. They just used old fashioned ingenuity. They strung up an empty bottle in the tree and grew the apple inside. Yes, it really was that simple!
On our way home from the cidery, we almost passed by this adorable maple farm stand. I was so glad we stopped in and enjoyed the company of the owner of Trade Winds Farm. She had some wonderful pure Vermont maple syrup on tap as well as some other interesting treats to taste.
If you are in the Shoreham, Vermont area I highly recommend you stop by to enjoy some local, sweet treats and take home some maple syrup.