Boston Beer Acquires New York Apple Orchard


Boston Beer Company, which produces and markets the Angry Orchard line of hard ciders, today officially announced it acquired a 60-acre orchard located in upstate Montgomery, New York.

The company also plans to build a small innovation cidery and taproom, a space that will be used primarily for experimentation and consumer education.

“From a cider makers perspective, we are excited to have an orchard where we can plant different apple varieties and get some of the traditional cider apples growing again,” said David Sipes, Angry Orchard’s cider maker. “And a big part of this project is having a place where people can come taste and learn about cider.”

Brewbound had originally reported on Boston Beer’s plans to purchase the orchard last September. At the time, Jeffrey Crist, the president and principal family owner of Crist Bros. Orchards, which sold the property to Boston Beer, said that about 40,000 bushels (each weighing 40 pounds each) could be grown on the orchard.

Boston Beer – which anticipates producing small scale, limited-release ciders onsite – will look to experiment with different apple varieties and yeast strains, blending and fermentation techniques as well as barrel-aging, said Sipes.

An official taproom opening, anticipated for “late fall” according to Sipes, will depend on the company’s ability to press and ferment apples currently being grown on the orchard.

Dollar sales growth in the cider category has decelerated in recent weeks, according to the latest Nielsen scan data. In the most recent 4-week period, dollar sales were up 33 percent, which is slightly below the 35 percent growth seen over the last 12 weeks and well below the 52 percent growth seen over the last 52 weeks. Angry Orchard, which leads the category, posted dollar sales growth of 32.6 percent and volume growth of 30.9 percent during the period.

A full press release with additional details is included below.

WALDEN, New York – Angry Orchard today announced a new home for research and development at a historic apple orchard in Walden, New York. The cider makers at Angry Orchard have been exploring different apple varieties and crafting ciders for twenty years, and are looking forward to greatly expanding that experimentation and driving innovation at their own 60-acre orchard, located in the heart of the Hudson Valley of New York State. 

This orchard is a particularly good fit for Angry Orchard due to its rich apple growing history and the region’s exciting craft cider culture. Also, the town, state and a number of local organizations have all been very enthusiastic and cooperative in helping the cider maker establish roots in the region. 

“For some time now, we have been looking to establish a home for our cider research, and this orchard is perfect for us. Not only does the orchard itself have a great history, but the Hudson Valley has such a vibrant group of apple growers and craft cider makers,” said David Sipes, Angry Orchard Cider Maker. “Right now we’re focused on this year’s apple crop and also mapping out our research plan.”

This location has been a farm since at least the mid-1700s, with the first apple trees dating back at least one hundred years. The farm was completely converted to a full-time apple orchard by the 1950s. During colonial times, hard cider was a popular beverage in the US and the Hudson Valley was known for growing traditional cider apple varieties. Prohibition dealt a serious blow to hard cider production, and orchards began shifting production to culinary apple varieties out of necessity. Even today, traditional cider apples are hard to find here in the US. Angry Orchard plans to plant traditional bittersweet cider apple trees and other heirloom varieties on the orchard over the next several years. Today, the orchard grows a number of apples, including varieties like Empire and McIntosh.

Angry Orchard also intends to build a small cidery on-site with cider making equipment specifically designed for small batch experimentation. Using different ingredients, apple varieties, recipes and processes, the cider makers will develop innovative ciders to share with drinkers at the orchard that could eventually become part of Angry Orchard’s family of ciders available nationwide.

The cidery plans to be open for visitors beginning in late fall, so drinkers can visit to learn how cider is made and try samples of exclusive, handcrafted Angry Orchard ciders made on-site. While craft cider has seen explosive growth in recent years, it is still small and relatively unknown here in the US. To help continue that growth for all craft cider makers, Angry Orchard encourages drinkers to learn as much as they can about cider, and sees the orchard as a place people can come to explore. 

The Crist Family, the orchard’s previous owner, has a long history of growing apples in the region, and had owned the property since 1963. The family will continue to cultivate the orchard and retain all jobs associated with caring for and harvesting the land. With the cidery, Angry Orchard plans to add new jobs in the greater Walden community. Angry Orchard recently added Ryan Burk to the team, who will be the head cider maker on-site at the orchard. Ryan grew up in Upstate New York and began working in orchards at the age of six. He brings a breadth of life-long knowledge, passion and experience in cider making to the role. Previously, Ryan served as the head cider maker at Virtue, a craft cidery in Michigan, and led a large barrel-aging program. Ryan joins the other Angry Orchard cider makers in their commitment to experimentation and development of unique and innovative Angry Orchard cider styles.

Ryan and the other Angry Orchard cider makers will focus on a list of research topics like wild fermentation processes, barrel aging and unique apple varieties, particularly those known to grow well in New York. They are also exploring opportunities to work with local universities and community organizations, as well as other cideries, on additional research projects to maximize apple harvests and test new varieties.

“There are a couple of apple varieties growing on the orchard I’m especially interested to begin experimenting with, ” said Ryan. “Most people don’t know that small tweaks to the regular harvest process of some of the more traditional household variety culinary apples– like leaving apples on the trees a bit longer than normal – can create a really interesting cider flavor profile. Actually making cider on the orchard will allow us to experiment with these options.” 

First launched in 2012, Angry Orchard is the number one hard cider in the US , where cider has grown to nearly five times its size since 2010 . Hard cider is showing up on more menus than ever as a refreshing alternative to craft beer and wine. 

About Angry Orchard Cider Company:

Angry Orchard Cider Company’s cider makers have been experimenting with apple varieties and unique flavors to develop hard cider recipes for 20 years. The cider makers have travelled the world to find the best apples for cider making and chose specific varieties, like French bittersweet apples from Normandy and culinary apples from Italy and the United States, based on each cider’s flavor profile. It takes two apples to make each bottle of Angry Orchard, and some ciders are aged on oak before bottling for additional complexity and balance. Angry Orchard makes a variety of year-round craft cider styles, including Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, a crisp and refreshing fruit-forward cider that mixes the sweetness of culinary apples with a subtle dryness from bittersweet apples for a balanced taste. Angry Orchard also makes The Cider House Collection specialty ciders, as well as a variety of seasonal ciders. Despite the recent growth of hard cider in the U.S., the category is still small and relatively unknown. Angry Orchard is committed to drinker education and awareness-building to help grow the category for all craft cider makers.