Nestled in the mountains of Vermont are an enthusiastic clique of cider lovers who are undergoing a sort of reverse-Johnny Appleseed effect — turning varieties of forgotten apples into a drinkable and internationally admired handcrafted cider.
Shacksbury is a cidery whose founders, for years, have been hunting down apples on foot from spots as close as their neighbor’s yards to picking through piles of fallen produce all around New England. Stemmed from the clever and certainly unique idea of creating an archival gathering of lost strains of apples and then using the most promising for cider making — it’s what they call the “Lost Apple Project.”
“We forage through thousands of trees while reading a map that shows where there might be higher concentrations of apple trees,” explains Luke Schmuecker, Shacksbury partner and Director of Business Development. “We’ve finally narrowed it down to about 12 trees that produce the right components.”
Growing up in a region full of wild apples, it’s something Schmuecker knows well. His hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, was lined with neighborhood streets named after different types of the sweet fruit. He describes these apples as dubious renegades to consistency, sometimes producing seedlings so unpredictable that if you were to plant them in attempts to grow the identical apple, they wouldn’t taste nor look the same as their predecessors.
“The only way to get the same apple is to take a cutting from one tree and graft it onto another tree,” Schmuecker shares. “We’re looking for apples that have the tannins and acidity you want in a great cider, and then we propagate cuttings of those trees onto trees in partner orchards around Vermont.”
The final result gets the Shacksbury crew just the right assortment and flavor point, a much better value than mainstream culinary growers, and, best of all, self-sufficient apples that are resilient to the Vermont rain and temperature fluctuations.
Shacksbury has been gaining speed pocketing their affiliations with the craft beer mob by collaborating with Modern Times Brewery, Threes Brewing, and Butch Judy’s (amongst many others), while keeping their batches interesting like they did when they used grape skins from Lo-Fi Wines.
Introducing variations like Rosè, Dry, and Arlo (their adventurous take on Basque cider), Shacksbury gives a variety of choice to the modern day drinker looking for a refreshing beverage in an assortment of artistic cans you won’t want to throw away.
Often the middleman between beer and wine, cider is carbonated yet uses classic fermentation practices — bringing you back to your inner 10-year-old who desperately wanted to chug apple juice straight from the family carton.
Born and raised on the salty sands of California’s coast, Manny Frausto is a journalist who appreciates the power of writing (much like he appreciates chugging straight from the family carton). He’s written for publications such as the LA and OC Register, OC Home Magazine, and beyond. Reach out to him at email@example.com.