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Author Sarah Kirton
Sarah Kirton
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
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Farmstead Cider 2022: Wyoming Dry Hard Cider

Orion Bellorado & Ian McGregor, Co-Founders of Farmstead Cider, chat to DeliveryRank about their finest dry hard ciders, unique because of the slow wild fermentation of crab apples in oak barrels, at high altitude and in cold temperatures whilst using a small-batch approach. ‘Deciderly’ delicious!

Where lie Farmstead Cider’s origins and how has the company evolved over time?

The origins of Farmstead Cider really stem from two separate paths; one of camaraderie, and one of sheer chance. One without the other renders the other insufficient, so first I would say that Farmstead Cider is the necessary manifestation of my friendship with Ian McGregor, and our shared wish to work as friends and partners in the realms of our myriad interests. 

Ian and I grew up together in the magical world of Jackson Hole in the late 90’s. We had a number of shared experiences, and over the years became friends. Chance, as it was, threw us together at an Ian’s Farmers Market stand in 2008 and from that birthed Mr. McGregor’s Garden and its descendant Roots Kitchen and Cannery. Over the 4 years working together, we had so much fun that, after Ian and I moved back to Jackson with our respective families, we really had no recourse but to try and start a new business together that allowed us to keep having fun ideally forever. 

That is the one piece; two like minds who love sustainable foods, systems, and our amazing ecosystem here in the wilds of Wyoming. The other piece is that odd way that the universe takes those who are open to what might come and creative enough to adapt, and gives them an “allie oop”. 

2015 saw Ian back in the mountains and my wife and I married. One of our first wedding presents was a small 5 gallon hobby fruit press. Ian, who in his travels worked in California wine country, aided us in identifying and harvesting some neighborhood apples and pressing them for juice the way our New England wives had done when they were kids. 

This random act of urban foraging was identified by our local conservation district as a means to mitigating a recurring problem they then had (and still do to various levels) with bears and other wildlife entering residential and commercial neighborhoods and consuming backyard apples and crabapples. These apples often fell to the ground and contributed to human/animal (in particular bear) conflict. In these interactions, the animals were often the ones who paid the highest price. 

It was in this world that we presented ourselves as hapless neighborhood fermenters, and applied for a grant to start the harvest of what we now call our urban orchard. As the years passed we no longer are paid to harvest, but we harvest several hundred trees throughout Teton County, WY and the surrounding communities

We are a little more refined, and streamlined, but in the end we are still largely going out and shaking trees in the backyards of Jackson Hole.

As we became more savvy to apple fermentation, we recklessly abandoned many of the norms within larger viticulture and cider culture. For one, we are a zero additive Cidery. We wild ferment juice, letting the natural process take hold. Throughout the process we don’t add anything and at the end of the process we choose not to add any sulfates. 

As flavors are made from our wonderful crabapples and allowed to evolve over time, we find dynamic and intriguing flavors that we never would have thought to make if embracing the chemistry that many wineries or cideries are often culturally relegated to adopt. Our products never taste the same, from year to year and batch to batch. Each small batch has its own characteristics, themes, and identity. We embrace this and hope to change the perception that homogenization is representation of the highest quality. The spice of life is its diversity and the flavors of that diversity are what we hope to harness.

Why, in your opinion, were many apple varieties discarded from regular farming practices?

We are still suffering from the cultural and ecological destruction of prohibition. Once upon a time the vast majority of apples were grown as fodder for the cider mill. These diverse and often not so palatable apples were perfect for hard cider, which was at the time one of the most consumed liquids available to the general public. With the stroke of a pen, orchards were forced to either decimate their trees, or graft cider apples to sweet, eating apples. 

To think that many apples were pippins (grown from the seed), it is beyond imagination the diversity of apples that once existed in the fields of America. Nowadays, people are still stuck with the idea that apples that taste good when eating are the only ones that matter. I would argue that our journey and education into the world of Malus has taught us that some apples are brutally unpalatable, some are amazing to eat, and most are somewhere in the middle

We love the flavor differences, and with the selection of species we can make apples like the Dolgo Crabapple or the Thunderchild Apple into unique and delicious ciders, but would never use them for a pie. It is the idea that apples continue to evolve that forces us to evolve our perceptions of their application. Yes we love honeycrisp, macintosh and macoun, but in time the crabapple will have its day, and we will all be better off because of it. 

What can you tell us about the ingredients and manufacturing process that go into making your unique dry hard ciders?

Well we hand harvest apples at the peak of their ripeness, we wild ferment them and add no other ingredients, unless we are talking about co-fermenting with other fruits. We then age the cider until it is blendable and palatable to the general public. That is kind of it. We let the apples do the heavy lifting, and just try not to rush the natural process of fermentation and aging.

What impact is Farmstead Cider having on the local environment and community?

We try to live our beliefs, focusing our harvest in the highest conflict areas for animals, and on removing the greatest quantity of human caused animal attractant, we hope that we are making our community fit better with the wild lands that surround us. 

How many different ciders do you have available and where can we get hold of your golden elixir?

We have six ciders currently and will be releasing a dry cider in a can called “Wild Cider”, and two new flavors in the coming year (Tart Cherry Bourbon & Chokecherry Cider). Folks can order our products online from our website (farmsteadwyo.com), and we have a cider club for those who want to walk with us on the wild side of cider. 

Regionally we sell to all our surrounding states - ID, UT, WY, CO, & MT. If folks want to pick us up we can figure out a way to get you some goods. We are just a few guys making some pretty delicious dry cider, so let us know and we can help you out. 

Where to from here?

From here, we are slowly growing to expand and maximize our mission of offsetting animal attractant for the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. We want to start organizing apple drives in the communities around the Yellowstone caldera, as there are many trees that still drop their fruit to rot on the ground. 

We hope that we can also start saving and documenting some of the unique apple varieties that still exist out west, and encourage greater diversification of apple varieties into mainstream consumption. Cans are going to come out, and how we work to get dry cider in the hands of the public at large is going to be an exciting challenge, but we are up to it. We are as ‘excidered’ as ever, and welcome what comes. 

If you would like to find out more about Farmstead Cider visit https://farmsteadwyo.com/ or follow on https://www.instagram.com/farmsteadcider/

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