Updated September 2018
If you love cider, take this mini road-trip
I’m just going to come out and say it: I don’t love beer. Yes it has its moments, but I much prefer a hard cider any day. Sorry ‘bout it. ICYLUR (In Case You Live Under A Rock aka our new favorite saying), hard cider is making a pretty solid comeback. Hard cider has always had long legacy within American history and culture, being notably enjoyed by the likes of early settlers, colonists, and even President John Adams who reportedly drank a tankard of cider every morning. And if a *President* can do it…just kidding (not kidding) (half kidding?). Nowadays hard cider is on virtually every drink menu and grocery store shelf you come across, and BlackBird Cider Works is a local hard cidery treasure that is brewing good stuff.
If you’ve ever been to Big Ditch, A.B.V., New York Beer Project, or many other fine drinking establishments in the Buffalo (and Rochester, Syracuse, and Saratoga) area there’s a good chance you’ve seen BlackBird cider on the menu. BlackBird Cider Works (founded by Scott Donovan in 2011) has deservingly won a slew of awards among their 12 hard ciders made by ciderer (possibly a made-up word for cider maker) Kristin Gregory from a variety of apples grown on BlackBird’s large New England style orchard.
BlackBird cider isn’t your typical alco-pop hard cider, which is one of the main reasons it stands out among the crowd (and probably how they’ve managed to win so many of those aforementioned awards). After many delicious experiences with BlackBird cider at several bars and restaurants we eventually discovered it was made in our own backyard. The cidery is located about 50 minutes from Buffalo in Barker, Niagara County. At first making the pilgrimage to BlackBird Cider Works seemed a bit daunting until we realized that 1) tasting ciders fresh out of the barrel is a heavenly experience and 2) what better way to spend an afternoon than to take a scenic drive/mini-road trip with your family/friends/lover/dog, etc. Plus with the right itinerary and the right playlist that 50 minute drive felt like it was 10 minutes. Side bar: we chose 90’s pop and hip-hop for our playlist because duh.
Our first stop along the way was New York Beer Project, which serves BlackBird cider and is conveniently located right at the halfway point between Buffalo and BlackBird Cider Works, so it only seemed like the right thing to do. The second half of the drive to Blackbird Cider Works partially takes place on the Niagara Heritage Trail, and let’s be honest how often do you find yourself on the Niagara Heritage Trail? Exactly. Make the most of it and learn some cool tidbits of history that happened just miles from where you live. Along your journey you’ll also come across a few small towns, the Port Canal, and Becker Farms, which is a delicious farm-to-table restaurant and working farm.
Now for the real reason you’re here: *the cider*. BlackBird Cider Works is located on the farm where all of its apples are grown, which is casually situated on Lake Ontario and also beautiful. Once you finish taking all of your Instagram photos outside you’ll head into the red barn-looking building where all the good stuff is located. The on-site tasting room gives you an inside look at the behind-the-scenes action while letting you taste many of the different flavors they have to offer…and then of course letting you bring them home. The folks at BlackBird Cider Works truly enjoy what they do and are more than happy to help you find the perfect cider(s) to make your taste buds high-five each other.
BlackBird’s ciders range from dry to sweet and are sophisticated, well-aged, and in some instances even certified organic…so there’s something for everyone including the inner hippie in you. We were fortunate enough to get our hands on their limited time only Christmas Cider, which has delicious hints of cinnamon and vanilla and apparently sells out in days. If you can’t find any it when you visit it may or may not be because we bought it all. YOLO. We also tried the England Style Cider, Organic Oak Barrel Aged Semi-Sweet Cider, Red Barn Farm Style Hard Cider, Organic Oak Barrel Aged Sweet Cider, BlackBird Cider Works OT Estate Blend, and BlackBird Cider Works Premium Draft. We loved everything we tried, but we *loved* the Christmas Cider and Organic Oak Barrel Aged Sweet Cider so we bought lots of it to take home and hold us over until our next visit.
TL;DR – Make the trip up to BlackBird Cider Works. It’s fun, it’s different, it’s new, it’s delicious. We should also mention that it’s conveniently located on the Niagara Wine Trail, so in the event that you’re planning a winery-crawl you can (and should) easily include BlackBird Cider Works along the way. Thank us later.
BlackBird Cider Works Info
8503 Lower Lake Rd, Barker / 716-795-3580
Neighborhood: Niagara County
Hours: Tasting Room: Monday – Friday 11am – 5pm, Saturday 11am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm