First PA Cider Fest debuts Saturday
Just like Napa Valley has its wine, Pennsylvania has its cider.
As one of the top producers of apples in the country, the Keystone state boasts more than 30 cideries, according to Mary Bigham, co-owner of Dish LLC and publisher of "Cider Culture," an online cider news publication.
In the world of cider aficionados, Gettysburg has earned the moniker of "Cider Town," Bigham said.
"All these other states like New York and Virginia have really successful cider weeks and festivals," she said. "Because we have so many wonderful cider makers in Pennsylvania, it just makes sense to really say, 'Hey, we can have a party, too, and let's celebrate the cider scene in Pennsylvania.'"
The inaugural PA Cider Fest will bring together the state's cideries for a weekend of sipping, sampling and education at Jack's Hard Cider, located at Hauser Estate Winery, 410 Cashtown Road, Biglerville 12 to 4 p.m. June 25. The event's location, just outside of Gettysburg, is a deliberate nod to nearby "Cider Town," as well as Adams County's renowned apple production.
"It just makes sense to have a cider festival in Cider Town, Pennsylvania," Bigham said. "It's a cool way to showcase Adams County and specifically Gettysburg."
The event, coordinated by Dish LLC and Jack's Hard Cider, will feature, of course, samples from cider makers, some of whom will have products available for sale.
A "cider check," the festival's version of a coat check, will allow buyers to keep their cider purchases in one place as they sip their way through the festival. Food trucks - some of which will be serving gluten-free eats - and an artisan market will also be on site.
PA Preferred and the Pennsylvania Apple Association, which are sponsoring the event, will offer educational workshops and demonstrations. Attendees will learn about the process of making cider, different types of apples and how to pair cider with food, Bigham said.
Admission is $25 per person. Tickets are on sale at paciderfest.com.
Bigham said carpooling is recommended, and shuttle service will be available from a designated location to be announced. Attendees are encouraged to bring designated drivers, who will receive free admission.
Attendees looking for a more intimate experience may purchase tickets for the "Meet-the-Cider-Makers" dinner at Beech Springs Farm in Franklin Township on Friday, June 24. Tickets for the dinner cost $75 per person. Limited seating will be available.
For those who want to "keep the party going" post-festival, Bigham said various restaurants and pubs in downtown Gettysburg will have "tap takeovers" throughout the weekend, during which cideries will serve up their signature brews.
To top it all off, Bigham said several restaurants will serve cider-inspired brunches on Sunday, June 26.
Big Hill Ciderworks in Tyrone Township is among the cideries participating in the festival, which will benefit the PA Cider Guild. Co-owner Ben Kishbaugh said the guild is still in its infancy, but its intended purpose is to help drive legislative changes for cider definitions in Pennsylvania.
Currently, cider containing less than 5.5 percent is considered a beer in Pennsylvania, while ciders above that percentage are considered wine, Kishbaugh said.
"Really what we're hoping to do is make some changes that really benefit all cider makers in Pennsylvania," he said. "The reason I say it like that is because with the current definitions, wineries and breweries can both make cider, but your license determines two big components of that: what alcohol content your cider can have and what your distribution network is going to be."
For example, Big Hill Ciderworks likes to focus on ciders with more than 5.5 percent alcohol, Kishbaugh said. They're licensed as a winery, so they can't sell their products to a beer distributor.
The state's standards don't match the federal standards, Kishbaugh said. On Dec. 18, the CIDER Act was passed by Congress, which amends the section of the Internal Revenue Code that defines hard cider.
The United States Association of Cider Makers, a 501(c)6 nonprofit organization based in Colorado, stated in a news release that "passage of this legislation makes small cider producers more competitive in the market by giving them increased flexibility in production and ingredients and brings the U.S. cider definition into line with international standards for alcohol by volume, carbonation, and allowable recipes."
The association also stated that the legislative change will "increase flexibility for cider makers investing in the fast-growing beverage alcohol category."
Fast-growing is right, according to Kishbaugh. The cider industry is "booming" in Pennsylvania, he said.
Many cideries in the state, such as Big Hill Ciderworks, grow the apples that go into their product on their own farms.
"It's a true seed-to-sip experience," Bigham said.
Jack's Hard Cider is the perfect location for PA Cider Fest because attendees will get to look out at numerous Adams County orchards, Kishbaugh said.
Adams County produces many types of apples, which makes for a "tremendous variety" of ciders, according to Jonathan Patrono, president of Jack's Hard Cider and Hauser Estate Winery.
"There's so much to making cider that leads to different types of cider," he said. "I think consumers are just starting to figure out how many different kinds of cider are out there, especially in Pennsylvania."
If you go
What: PA Cider Fest
Where: Jack's Hard Cider, 410 Cashtown Road, Biglerville
When: 12 to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 24
Tickets: $25 for regular admission, $75 for VIP admission
For more information, visit paciderfest.com.