Let me take you back to a time, long before Drink Craft Beer existed. A time when I was a young boy, living in the suburbs outside of Boston...viewing the start of the Boston Marathon every year. Yep, I grew up in a little town called Hopkinton, MA. Really famous only for being a place where elite runners and bandit runners alike flea as fast as they can (otherwise known as running a marathon). I grew up with a good group of friends, we played sports together, hung out, drove around aimlessly...perhaps even sampled an illicit adult beverage now and again...the typical things that kids in suburbia do. Then we all grew up, and moved on with our lives...college, work, etc...I kept in touch with a few, and lost touch with others.
A while ago, one of those friends reached out to tell me he was moving back to the U.S. from England. OK, why do you care? What makes this noteworthy is that he was coming back to open a cidery in Salem, MA after training in wine and cider making in England and apprenticing across Europe. And this friend was Far From the Tree Cider co-founder Al Snape. He had heard that I dabbled in the industry and wanted to get in touch.
Al and I had been good friends throughout growing up in Hopkinton, lost touch a bit in college, got back in touch and ended up being housemates in Boston, then we lost track of each other again. Now, somehow, here he was, back again. And with a really cool idea to do some awesome stuff with cider nonetheless! We were stoked to have them at Summerfest 2014 for the first time, and have had them at several fests since.
Since then, they've blown up, and just recently signed with distributor Mass Bev Alliance for statewide distribution. If you've tried the Far From the Tree Cider, then you know it's delicious. If you haven't (or, even if you have), I'd recommend you come out to Drink Craft Beer's Beer & Cider Fest in Boston on Friday, October 16 & Saturday, October 17 to try it, and many others, out.
But enough about how Al and I know each other...let's get to the questions:
Drink Craft Beer: How did you get into craft cider?
Al Snape: I grew up next to an orchard in Hopkinton, MA and have loved fresh sweet cider for as long as I can remember. I truly became obsessed with hard cider while in Europe. I spent years there traveling and learning from families how to make a hard cider that represents who you are and where you are from.
DCB: What was the turning point (a cider or a moment) that made you love craft cider?
AS: During my vintage in Champagne (while receiving my degree in Oenology [the science of wine-making]) I had an exact moment that I realized I absolutely had to move back to Massachusetts and make hard cider. I had to make real hard cider, a hard cider I could stand behind and would represent what I believed in. A lot of the people I was meeting while traveling around Europe were doing this with wine and have been for hundreds of years but it wasn't really happening in Massachusetts and I deeply wanted to change that and to do it with the beverage and fruit of my childhood.
DCB: You walk into a magical cider/beer shop with every beer/cider currently available. You can put together one six-pack. What do you walk out with? Only one cider can be from your cidery.
AS: I'd walk out and go to a wine shop. I like beer and cider but really how could this magical place have no wine, what a travesty.
DCB: You have one night in your favorite beer/cider city. What city are you in and where do you go (it doesn’t all have to be beer/cider)?
AS: As a 7th generation Bostonian I'm required to say Boston. I would start at Nightshift and do a flight with friends, then to Deep Ellum for several wonderful beers. This would inevitably lead to a lubricating of inhibitions and over priced "Greatful Deads" at the latest night club down town then end it all in China Town, cause every good night ends in China Town.
DCB: You can make any cider you like, no matter the cost and consumer demand, what would you make and what dream ingredients would you use?
AS: I'd go back 20 years and plant an orchard with every apple tree that's ever existed. I'd love to do a horizontal tasting of single varietals of every apple ever from one specific orchard from one specific year, it would be absolutely mind blowing.
DCB: Thanks for the time, Al! And look forward to seeing the Far From the Tree crew at Beer & Cider Fest!
If YOU want to join us at Beer & Cider Fest in Boston, get your tickets here.