September is prime time for picking apples on Long Island, but for those who prefer to enjoy apples in adult beverage form, the Riverhead Cider House has plenty to offer.
Since opening in 2017, the cidery has developed a loyal following for its wide variety of hard ciders and its rustic tasting room featuring local craft beer, wine, and a café serving farm-to-table dishes.
“New York State now ranks first in the U.S. for number of hard cider producers,” said Scott Ramsey, the executive director of the New York Cider Association, calling it “a time of great opportunity for New York cider.”
Riverhead was the first cidery on Long Island to be licensed as a New York State farm cidery, taking advantage of a new law for hard cider produced with apples grown exclusively in the state. The number of farm cideries statewide has grown from eight in 2014 to more than 50 last year.
Will Loughlin became Riverhead Cider House’s cidermaker soon after its opening, following years of making ciders at home. The Hauppauge native was originally attracted to cider about 10 years ago after he discovered he was allergic to wheat.
“Cider is gluten-free and craft ciders are a great alternative for people who can’t enjoy beer,” said Loughlin. “The brewing process is similar, using apple juice as our base instead of barley, malt, and wheat.”
Loughlin sources the majority of his apple juice from Beak and Skiff Apple Orchards in the Finger Lakes region. Riverhead Cider House planted its own orchard in 2017 with 200 trees featuring 15 different varieties, and hopes to be able to harvest enough apples next year to produce cider.
The cidery has a large selection of year-round ciders available, including traditional hard apple ciders such as Apple Annie, Benjamin’s Best, and Founders Reserve with more fruit sweetness and lower alcohol. Loughlin makes a wide variety of seasonal ciders, with some available only on draft at the tasting room, including Grapefruit Squeeze, Pool Side Pineapple, and Wild Blueberry sparkling cider.
One of Loughlin’s favorite seasonal ciders is Blackberry Habanero, which last year won a Gold Medal at the prestigious Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition and a Bronze Medal in the inaugural New York Cider Competition.
Loughlin said the cidery is looking forward to a busy fall, including the return of some favorite fall seasonals such as Cinnamon Toast Cider, perfect for enjoying in front of the fireplace after a crisp fall day spent picking apples.
Riverhead Cider House is located at 2711 Sound Ave. in Calverton. For more info visit riverheadcider.com.
Bernie Kilkelly is the editor and publisher of LIBeerGuide.com.
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