While hard cider has been a thing in the UK for as long as anyone can remember, most people in the US probably never heard of “a cider drink” until that 90s hit about getting knocked down… and getting back up again.
The popularity of hard cider has skyrocketed stateside since the 90s and gotten a lot more sophisticated in the last two decades. Craft ciders are no longer just that thing for people who don’t like beer. Ciders can be highly complex and as dry as a prosecco, or as earthy as kombucha.
Making craft cider since 2011, BlackBird Cider Works has been riding the wave of rising popularity and the company recently opened its first proper tasting room. Currently the BlackBird Cider Hall has over 30 ciders and beers on tap with a focus on local and New York State. They also offer bar snacks and small plates such as Caramel with pretzels and apples and cheese boards.
On our visit, the Buffalo Bisongrass cider was particularly tasty, and had a taste that was more oaky than fruity, like a California Chardonnay. The Dry Oak Aged had a robust earthiness underpinning soft apple flavors. The Dabinett English Style was dry as a bone, with a bit of funky freshness.
Owner Scott Donovan had been an influential member of the US Cider Producers Association and New York Cider Association, and he recently told us about the growth of the cider industry over the past 7 years. When Donovan launched BlackBird, there was less than 20 cider producers in New York State. He said there are now more than 90 cider producers in the state and the industry recently saw 50 to 60 percent growth, from 2014 to 2016.
“I think people just need to discover it,” he said about cider being less popular than beer. “There’s so much competition in the alcoholic beverage industry. It’ll just take time.”
Donovan said there are many different varieties of New York apples that can be used for cidermaking.
“Some heritage apples in particular are a great combination of bitter sweet and bitter sharp such as the Kingston Black Apple,” he said. “This is an English Apple that grows well in New York, so we’ve planted many trees in our orchard. We also grow many varieties of New York apples for eating such as Empire and Jonagold.”
The new cider hall is one of the lucky tenets in the newly-refurbished Linde Air Manufacturing complex at 155 Chandler Street. The mixed-use facility includes a massive courtyard and a massive, freshly-painted mural by local artist Chuck Tingley. Another tenet at the Chandler Street complex you might be interested in is the Barrel + Brine Café and Taproom. Across the street you can now find the recently opened Tappo Pizza @ Thin Man.
On our visit to the complex, temperatures were well around the 50-degree mark, but people were happily playing cornhole in the courtyard. Expect this Black Rock location to be a hive of activity once all the tenets get up and running.
The cider hall has kept the industrial look and feel of the old manufacturing plant, while adding a few unique touches. For instance, the tap handles are made from trees out of BlackBird’s orchard.
Donovan said he does plan to take full advantage of their Buffalo location for events and suggested that our readers follow BlackBird Cider Works on social media for information on those. The Black Rock location may be a bit out of the way, but there’s no doubt that the cider hall, and the rest of the complex, will be a hotspot in due time if not already.
BlackBird Cider Hall
155 Chandler Street, Buffalo, NY 14207