Who we are
Flavorful varieties
What critics say

WHO WE ARE

We, the Maloney family — Terry, Judith, and Field — began making hard cider commercially in l984. We’d been making cider for ourselves and friends for years before that. We moved to the North East Berkshires from Northern California in l972, bang into Apple Country. Though we didn’t find grapes for our year’s supply of wine, instead we found a living, pleasurable tradition. Our neighbors had been fermenting for generations, using their own apples and those they gleaned from nearby favorite trees. We started doing the same, but applied California winemaking techniques to this seasonal Yankee tradition.

We were impressed by the variety and complexity of ciders that could be made from differing blends of apples and cellaring techniques. We decided that cider — a beverage long forgotten except in hill counties and countries — deserved another chance. There was no commercial market for cider: for most it was unknown, for some a distant memory. We fermented our first vintage for sale in’84, becoming the first U.S. winery to specialize in hard cider.Time for a CIDER REVIVAL!

For almost 30 years we have made cider. Pine Hill Orchards in our town presses apples for us, while we sort. We grow 3.5 acres of cider apples. Starting with 100 cases, we've moved forward to 1800 cases in 2012. The cider is made and bottled in our cellar,with us above. Making small batches, the ciders have been welcomed by those interested in apple possibilities. Though our cellar was once described as Rube Goldberg, Terry worked with great attention and growing certainty. I his wife Judith worked alongside, along with Mike Barnes. Field our son grew up as part of our upstairs/downstairs world. He has listened to, smelled, helped bottle and ferment since boyhood.

We are 'learning' apple growers, even after all these years. Michael Barnes has developed into a known apple man, as well as a cog that holds together so much.There is much joy in growing apple trees, and tasting the fruit.

Terry passed away during cidermaking in January 2010. He had been an emergency room doctor from 1972 to 2005. He had worked hard and followed a vision. He had many caring friends and a beloved family. We all miss him and sometimes try to piece together what we should do next.

 

West County Cider's
Judith Maloney shows off a gift package of three varieties with the
Catamount Orchards
behind her.

West County Cider's Judith  Maloney
Photo courtesy of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA, www.buylocalfood.com)

FLAVORFUL VARIETIES

We have an orchard of about 1400 trees of English, French, and American varieties of cider apples. Cider varieties are grown for pressing: their concentrated flavors that do so well in cider make for a surprising eating experience. To quote George Saintsbury, English bon-vivant, in ‘Notes on a Cellar-Book’ (l933): “Cider-apples furnish one of the most cogent arguments to prove that Providence had the production of alcoholic liquors directly in its eye. They are good for nothing else whatever and they are excellent good for that”. 

We begin making cider in late October, after the apples have matured. After we sort the apples, they are pressed into cider. Then we ferment and bottle the freshly-pressed juice in small batches at our Catamount Hill Bonded Cellar.

The varieties of apples fermented give each cider its particular flavor and structure. For example, Golden Russet is a sweet apple, low in acid and moderate in tannins. Kingston Black is acidic and tannic (bittersharp); Dabinett has lots of tannin and very little acid (bittersweet). We grow traditional American Roxbury Russet and Golden Russet, as well as Baldwin and Redfield in our orchard, along with the European varieties Tremlett’s Bitter, Reine de Pomme, and Dabinett.

The test orchard has over twenty traditional American and European varieties. We make test batches from the fruit, and select promising varieties for larger scale planting. 

WHAT CRITICS SAY

"The Next Great Drink
The Maloney family from Colrain, Mass, offers the lightest, cheerful bottled hard cider-the very thing to drink with dinner... To appreciate the subtle location in the musical scale of the mouth of the taste of this hard cider from West County Hard Cider, first rid your taste buds of the things it is not. It is not dark, swilly and robust like regular cider (however good), nor does it have that slightly frustrating neither here nor there quality of a wine cooler. It's not wine of course, though there's a distant cousinship-pingponging from grape to apple-between the lightest of light white wine and this bubbly hard cider, which has less than half the alcohol (from four to six percent), a difference you can pleasantly appreciate when you can still read a book after dinner. This family winery, in business since l984, uses local apples (not from concentrate!) blending bittersharp and bittersweet ones with sharps like northern spy and sweets like red delicious. Too bad it must be called 'hard' because if anything it tastes and makes you feel easygoing. Also too bad the word 'refreshing' has been overused by tinny tacky soft drinks, because it well applies. It's an Emma Thompson of a drink, both modest and bracing. Bottled (no six packs) and capped, this cider goes very well, unobtrusively, indeed enhancingly, with food. It comes in 'bone-dry'to sweet-and even that is restrained-and can be found at DeLuca's, Martighetti, Hi-Rise Bread Company-and on tap at the Plough and Stars."

Mopsy Strange Kennedy, The Improper Bostonian Newspaper


"The temptation is to compare these ciders to a white wine. They have a similar complexity, though the alcohol content is consistently lower (4% to 7.5% by volume, compared with 8% to 14% for wine). Ultimately, though, this comparison is misleading. In hard-cider tastings, wine connoisseurs may find themselves at a loss for words; the vocabulary used to describe wine doesn't quite apply. These ciders, in short, must be appreciated in their own right. They are American classics, and their only equals belong to another age."


Thomas Christopher, Martha Stewart Living, October 2001


More 'Acclaim' in Saveur (The Saveur 100'), Jan.'03; Wine Spectator(9/02); New York Times('A Guide to Apple Ciders'),Jan '97;