The apple doesn’t fall far from the cidery at Barker’s Blackbird Cider Works.
All of the apples used to make Blackbird cider are grown on site at Donovan Orchards, right next to the cidermaking operation and tasting room.
Blackbird Cider Works founder and president Scott Donovan purchased the parcel on Lower Lake Road in 2006 with cidermaking on his mind.
“In my past career, I had an opportunity to visit Europe, and I saw that cider was very popular there,” Donovan said. “I really enjoyed drinking it.”
Blackbird Cider Works opened in 2011 and was one of the first entrants to the Western New York hard cider market.
“The tasting room here has really helped us because we get thousands of people in here each year, and it allows us to gauge the direction of the market, things like dryness, sweetness, fruit flavoring,” Donovan said. “We’ve learned a lot about consumer’s desire for cider- what they like, what they don’t like.”
Last October, Blackbird opened Buffalo Cider Hall on Chandler Street in Buffalo, bringing their freshly fermented cider to Blackrock.
The space serves over ten varieties of Blackbird cider, as well as locally made wine and beer.
“About three years ago we started making plans to open an urban cider venue either in Rochester or Buffalo,” Donovan said. “Buffalo Cider Hall is a much bigger venue than our tasting room- I think the bar is three times the size in length.”
Though it’s about an hour away from the orchard and cidermaking operation, Buffalo Cider Hall has some of the rustic feel its Niagara County counterpart has. The tap handles are made from apple tree branches from Donovan Orchard, and a barrel motif runs across the bar.
Buffalo Cider Hall also offers food- paninis, pizzas made by Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen, and bar snacks.
It also features an event space.
“It’s a really fun place to go to,” Donovan said. “It celebrates agriculture and the growing and transport of agricultural products in the Buffalo and Western New York area.”
Blackbird Cider Works currently produces 17 different types of cider- including fruit cider, spirit-barrel aged cider, wood-aged ciders, and cider made with heritage apples.
The “heritage apples”, which are grown in Donovan Orchards, are European cider apples- some of which date back to medieval times. Their high tannin and acid content make them great for making cider.
Blackbird Cider is distributed throughout Western and Central New York, as well as New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Minnesota.
Donovan says that there’s a Blackbird cider for everyone.
“We have a wide variety of ciders, from very sweet to extremely dry,” Donovan said. “It’s a great drink not only for the fall but through the holidays and year-round.”
Blackbird Cider Works is located at 8503 Lower Lake Road in Barker. |Click here for hours and more information.
Buffalo Cider Hall is located at 155 Chandler St. suite 4 in Buffalo. | Click here for hours and more information.
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