It’s a cider revolution in New York’s Capital District and the Hudson Valley

Nine Pin Cidery

Nine Pin Cider Works became the first licensed farm cidery in New York State shortly after Governor Cuomo’s new farm cidery licensing law went into effect January 15, 2014. Nine Pin Cider Works, founded by Alejandro del Peral, opened its doors to the cidery and tasting room in Albany’s warehouse district in February, 2014.

After a chance meeting with three guys in Burlington, Vermont who had a startup cidery Citizen Cider and tasting their cider, Alejandro got his “Aha” moment. Having grown up on an apple farm in Ghent, New York, Alejandro realized the potential of producing cider using locally-sourced apples from his family’s orchard, as well as neighboring orchards in the Hudson Valley. The whole philosophy of cider making and apple growing, and the relationship between the two was exactly how Alejandro felt. Apples are a bountiful resource as New York State is a huge producer of apples second in the nation only to the state of Washington.

At age 25, Alejandro began experimenting with making cider and testing the waters under the radar due to archaic laws for cider producers. By 2013, after several years of making cider, he had perfected his blend. In that year, he won a gold medal at the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition for a non-commercial cider, his signature cider Catskill Thunder. And, Nine Pin Cider Works was about to be born.

Prior to founding Nine Pin, Alejandro started learning the process of making cider by interning with Citizen Cider’s cider maker who held a Ph.D in chemistry. Learning the real science behind the fermentation process appealed to Alejandro who majored in biology at the University of Vermont and worked on a Master’s degree in hydrology at McGill University in Montreal.

Setting up his cidery in Albany was a strategic move as the location was close to his family’s farm in Ghent, as well as numerous small apple orchards in the region. Because his family’s farm is a small producer of apples, about 97 percent of the apples come from Samascott Orchards (owners are business partners) in nearby Kinderhook, which grows about 86 varieties of apples. Alejandro says that his ciders can be made with a minimum of 15 to 20 or more varieties of apples.

His most popular style of cider is, not surprisingly, the Nine Pin Signature Blend made with Samascott apples. It is an off-dry (adding hops to the blend), crisp sparkling cider. Other bottled styles are – Belgian made with Belgian Abbey Ale yeast; Blueberry, apples co-fermented with blueberries, and Ginger, a blend of dessert apples infused with ginger and orange peel. There is a limited reserve of: Raspberry, co-fermented cider with early season apples and late season raspberries; Willsie Dry Hop, a blend crafted by cider maker Ethan Willsie with late season apples and hops from his organic hop yards, and Hunny Pear, a blend of New York pears aged with honey and a touch of cinnamon. In the Nine Pin Tasting Room, there are about 33 experimental in-house ciders served on a rotation basis.

Nine Pin Cider is distributed to bars, restaurants, retail vendors and supermarkets primarily in the Capital Region and as far south as New York City. Originally, Alejandro assisted by three talented cider makers was making 27,000 gallons of cider. Today, the cidery is making 70,000 gallons. In compliance with the New York State Farm Cidery Law, no more than 150,000 gallons can be produced annually; the hard cider must be made exclusively with apples that are grown in New York State and the cider can contain no more than 8.5 percent alcohol. Nine Pin Signature Blend’s ABV (alcohol by volume) is 6.7 percent.

Nine Pin Cider Works was aptly named after the Rip Van Winkle story about the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s sailors playing ninepins (the Dutch form of bowling) in the Catskills during the American Revolution. The cidery is a family affair with Alejandro’s mom, an attorney, helping with the business side and his dad helping with the cider equipment, the tastings, and the art. Nine Pin cidery and tasting room are located at 929 Broadway in Albany in a warehouse that abuts a large building where, in 1997, Alejandro’s father had painted a 32-foot rose on the brick wall of the building owned by Mr. Rose. For anyone visiting the Hudson Valley, it is worth the short jaunt to Albany to visit Nine Pin.

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Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

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