New England Cider Company is one of Connecticut’s first draft cideries. It’s co-founder, Miguel Galarraga, is proud of this fact, and of his cozy, artistic tasting space. His pride is well-placed, too, as New England Cider Co., is popping up in more bars & restaurants by the day! He attributes his success to meticulous attention to detail and a strong connection to the community. I talked about this, and more when I sat down with him the other day.
New England Cider Company Gets Its Start
Before opening the cidery, Miguel was a mechanic for over 15 years. He took this curiosity and technical aptitude into cider in 2009. During this time, he and co-founder Seth Hart experimented with homebrewing. Using any apples they could get their hands-on, and making a homemade press and chopper, the two experimented with a wide variety of styles and brews, slowly falling in love with the unique and versatile taste of cider. “We wanted to do something different,” Miguel told me, “there were cideries at the time that sold bottles of cider, but that was more wine oriented. We were focused on running off draft lines.”
These dreams of a cider taproom were realized in 2013, with the two men opening New England Cider Co. in their first location in Wallingford. Business proved to be so good that they moved up the road to a bigger location just this past year. Miguel attributes their success to paying attention to their community. “We have fun with any cider style, but at the end of the day we want to listen to the customers and make cider that they really want to drink.”
This community focus shows up in ways large and small. Just recently, New England Cider changed out the whole tasting board to cater more directly to their clientele. In addition to this, the reviews and feedback for New England have been astounding. Most people talk about the knowledgeable staff and a warm inviting environment as the top reasons to stop by. This atmosphere has been calculated by Miguel. “Education is big for us. We want people to know where cider comes from and exactly what they’re drinking.”
The evolution of New England’s ciders has followed pace with this “community-first” philosophy. Miguel said they started off brewing mostly clean, dry, traditional-style cider. After some feedback and tweaking, however, the cidery now produces more of their Fresh Blend than anything else. The Fresh Blend is essentially a dry cider blended with fresh juice. This turns out to be a sweeter variety and especially beloved by the fans. Their current lineup supports this “fruit-forward” approach. For the next few months, they plan to have on a cranberry, pumpkin, spiced, black currant, and ginger cider, along with their staple styles. As Miguel explains, this is to give people a variety of tastes to experience, as well as the classics.
Cider Marches On!
For the future, Miguel tells me that he’d love to work with heavier stuff. He has already produced some apple brandy with Litchfield Distillery and is waiting for a good time to release it. Also, he’d love to barrel age more cider, a process with beefs up the flavor complexity and ABV! Finally, Miguel told me that he wants to work more with ice cider. Ice cider is made by pressing apples while still frozen, then carefully controlling the temperature through a rather grueling process. The results, says Miguel, are worth it. Ice cider comes out rich, deep, and almost winey in complexity. It is a tough style, but one that Miguel says he would love to master, as it’s singularly delicious.
Talking to Miguel, it’s obvious that he loves his product, his cidery, and his community. His earnestness is infectious, too, as his cider is flying off the shelves. These days, most area bars and restaurants have at least one or two devoted lines for the cider!. One of his biggest buyers, in fact, is Kinsman Brewing Company. Working with breweries, says Miguel, is a great way to give beer fans another drinking option. This idea seems to be embraced by the craft community as a whole, with more cider taps showing up in local breweries state wide.
Cider’s growth (with such recent events like Cider Conn and Cider Week) is due in no small part to Miguel and New England Cider Co., who show us that not only can beer and cider live together, but the community is a better place when they do! For more info on New England Cider Company, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To stay up-to-date with my ramblings and brewery notes, follow me here, on Facebook, and Instagram. Until next time, I’ll see you where the pints live!