By Sandra Hutchinson
During the past two weekends, we’ve taken leisurely rides in Washington County and ended up partaking in some local brews — craft ales at R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery in the sleepy town of Hebron, and hard ciders at Slyboro Ciderhouse, at Hicks Orchard, near Granville. In both spots, we ran into some old friends who were doing exactly the same thing we were—enjoying both the glorious late summer weather and the small batch, locally produced libations.
In Hebron, we had a nice talk with brewer Richard Taylor, who said the brewery specializes in English-style ales and offers seven of their own ales on tap, as well as a “guest tap” of Slyboro hard cider (more on that below). Opened only last year, the brewery is located within a new, beautifully designed American farmhouse-style structure, with a tap room where visitors can enjoy ale, purchase bottled ale to take home, and order a variety of locally-sourced “tavern foods” like cheese plates, soups and sandwiches.
There’s also a nice outdoor patio, where you might happen upon live music, as we did on a recent Sunday afternoon, when a group of bluegrass musicians offered the perfect accompaniment to our ales and cheese plates.
Hours and open days, from the R.S. Taylor & Sons Web site: “The Brewery and Tap Room at Misty Bleu Farm is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Saturdays from 12 noon until 9:00 pm, and Sundays from 12 noon until 6:00 pm. We are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Monday holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day, the tap room is open from 12 noon to 6:00 pm.”
Next stop, Slyboro Ciderhouse, at Hicks Orchard, Granville.
Hicks Orchard is said to be the oldest “U-pick” orchard in New York State, now in its 111th year. But by adding the production of hard cider several years ago, Hicks has opened up a whole new line of product, made from its own orchard-grown apples. Owner Dan Wilson tells us their ability to produce hard cider has been enabled by changes in New York State’s regulations that govern agriculture, breweries and wineries.
The Slyboro Web site says that the ciderhouse is “dedicated to reclaiming cider — “true cider — as America’s favorite drink.” It explains that hard cider was the beverage of choice in early America: “Fermented ciders were consumed in this region more than any other drink bar none. In 1726, the per capita average consumption of cider was 35 gallons per person! Farms, families and towns would work together to put up thousands of barrels of cider each year. Barrel fermented cider could either be mild or strong, depending on the recipe or treatment and no doubt fine ciders were made. These ciders were relatively low in alcohol, so children and adults drank cider regularly. In some cases it was considered safer to drink than the local water. President John Adams was known to drink a tankard of cider each morning to promote his good health.”
The Slyboro Ciderhouse has a large tasting room where you can sample either still cider, sparkling cider, or ice harvest cider (made from frozen apples or juice).
The Ciderhouse is attached to the Hicks Orchard store where you can find bags of apples, other foodstuffs, homemade cider donuts, non-alcoholic cider, and more.
Hours and open days: The Slyboro Ciderhouse is open noon-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends. There’s a nice covered porch and area with tables and umbrellas where you can enjoy your cider, and pretzels are complimentary.
Click here for the Hicks Orchard Web site for much more information on farm activity and the “picking report” (cherries and blueberries, too). Please note that dogs are not allowed in the orchard.