Who’s thirsty? Pennsylvania is now the fourth largest apple producer in the country.
Here’s something you might not know: The crab apple tree is believed to be the only apple tree indigenous to North America. It wasn’t until the Puritans, missing the fruit they enjoyed so much in England, brought apple seeds to Massachusetts that all those varieties of apples that you’re familiar with today found a home in North America.
It’s not known who planted the very first apple tree in Pennsylvania, but William Penn played a significant part in promoting the viability of apples in the colony. The Pennsylvania Cider Guild notes that a 1961 pamphlet written by William Penn mentions that cider, or sider as he spelled it, was a commodity the country could be capable of producing well. By the end of the 1600s, Pennsylvania was producing hard cider.
The alcohol in cider preserved the beverage and killed bacteria. It was often safer than water for the colonists to drink. Even children drank cider made from fermented apples. It remained a common refreshment in the United States until Prohibition, and the apples that make good cider—which differ from the apples that make good snacks—were plentiful in orchards. When Prohibition became the law of the land, sweeter apples made for eating began to dominate in American orchards.
It’s only been in the past several decades that hard cider has made a comeback in the United States, and agriculturists are once again propagating seeds from apple varieties that were all but lost because of Prohibition.
Pennsylvania is now the fourth largest apple producer in the country. Only a fraction of those apples go to make hard cider, but that fraction is getting larger as alcoholic cider gains in popularity and cideries embrace using the local apples, contributing to the state’s agricultural success.
While some cider makers import juice from states like Washington or New York to make their ciders, many Pennsylvania cideries rely on local orchards to source their apples. Here are just a handful of the many cideries across Pennsylvania that support the state’s apple industry.
(Note that not all cideries have onsite tasting rooms so visit their websites to find out where to buy the ciders.)
Brother Monk Ciderworks
Location: 779 Elm Rd., North Cambria, Cambria County
Tasting Room: No
It doesn’t get more clear than Brother Monk Ciderworks’ motto: Drink Local Apples. Owned and operated by brothers Dan and Joe Holoubek, Brother Monk’s is a farm that grows over 2,000 cider-specific apple trees in the orchards. The rest of the fruits used in their ciders are almost all sourced from Pennsylvania.
The majority of BMC’s ciders are dry, and many are made from heritage apples like Roxbury Russet, Kingston Black, St. Martins, Hewes Crab, Harrison, Bulman’s Norman, and Dabinett—apples that were traditionally used to make cider but fell out of fashion during Prohibition. Brother Monk’s doesn’t have a tasting room, but they do ship.
Davenport Cidery & Winery
13124 Townline Road, Meadville, Crawford County
Tasting Room: Yes
Apples don’t get more local than the ones that go into the ciders at Davenport Cidery & Winery in Meadville; they’re grown in Davenport’s own orchards. Many of their ciders are a combination of estate apples along with other fruit—the dry Elderberry, for example, or the sweet Black & Blue, which mixes blackberries and blueberries with the apples.
Guests can enjoy food, cider, wine, and Pennsylvania beers in Davenport’s tasting room, located in a restored barn and open Wednesday through Sunday.
301 Whiteland Ave, Downingtown, Chester County
Tasting Room: No
“One of our biggest passions,” say Dressler Estate’s owners Brian and Olga Dressler on their website, “is working with local orchards.” They only make cider from local apples, working with several orchards across the state of Pennsylvania. The couple takes a winemaker’s approach to cider, focusing on dry and off-dry styles.
They do not have an on-site tasting room, but they do offer online ordering and pick up or local delivery within 30 minutes of the estate. Dressler Estate can also often be found selling their ciders at local farmers markets mentioned on their website and other events that they announce on their Facebook page.
Ploughman Farm Cider
14 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, Adams County
Tasting Room: Yes
Ploughman Farm Cider, located in Aspers, makes cider from their own orchards at nearby Three Springs Fruit Farm, a farm that practices sustainable growing practices and land management. The cidery produces seasonal ciders, leading to a rotating lineup of styles, depending on what the harvest brings.
They focus on usually dry, wild fermented cider—some from a single variety of apple, others from a blend of apples or mixed with other fruits. Their taproom is in nearby Gettysburg, where they serve light bites, ciders, local beer, wine, and spirits from Pennsylvania.
4360 Red Rock Road, Benton, Columbia County
Tasting Room: Yes
Purchasing apples locally from orchards in Columbia and neighboring counties, Rickets Cidery adds very little else to their ciders: some sugar, a little yeast, and sometimes a little fresh fruit like blueberries or peaches.
The Rickets tasting room was voted 2019 Tasting Room of the Year by PA Cider Fest. It’s open Thursday through Sunday, and they often have live music. At the tasting room, visitors can sample and purchase their ciders, which vary from season to season depending on the types of apples available and the growing conditions.
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