LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – There’s a new locally-made craft hard cider on the market.
Clarksburg Cider hit shelves at Tops Markets in the Western New York area in late March, and the product will continue to branch out to other stores and restaurants in the coming months.
The cidermaking operation, housed in a 11,000 sq. ft. former warehouse on Walden Avenue in Lancaster, started when owner and CEO Michael Robb’s father returned to his passion of horticulture.
“He has an old subsistence farm in the hamlet of Clarksburg in Eden,” Robb explained. “The soil was best for planting apple trees, so he came to [my partner] and I and asked if we wanted to start a hard cider company.”
Robb and partner Bryan LeFauve took him up on the challenge.
Four years later, two varieties of Clarksburg Hard Cider- semi-sweet and dry- are on the market.
“The reaction has been fantastic,” LeFauve said. “Cider used to be very popular in the U.S. before Prohibition, and it’s seen this resurgence.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown did slow the operation’s timeline.
“It set us back a full year, if not a little more than that,” Robb said. “It gave us a chance to pause and reset, and I think we’re in a better place now than we would have been a year ago.”
Head cidermaker Edward Graves describes Clarksburg’s cider style as a “mix of traditional and modern cidermaking”.
“Once the apples are pressed- within ten miles of our facility- they come in and we load them into our fermenter,” Graves explained. “We take a slow approach to fermentation- we find it yields the best results.”
They also age cider in bourbon and cabernet barrels to imbue variations with notes like vanilla and caramel.
“Cider is like a white wine- it has so much room for benefitting from a barrel,” Graves added.
The space on Walden Avenue includes a taproom which will open sometime this summer.
The taproom will feature an expanded list of ciders as well as craft beers and cocktails, some based around cider.
It will also have a “full farm-to-table menu, sourcing as much as we can of locally grown and harvested products,” Robb added.
The cidery sits on a 17-acre parcel that has been planted with more apple trees. The idea is to use the apples grown on the property in special estate blends when they mature, Robb added.
“Everything we’ve done, we’ve tried to do locally,” Robb said. “The tanks were made in Geneva, NY, our apples and juice come from local orchards and farms, and we’ve had all local craftsmen in the buildout.”
Clarksburg Cider joins just a handful of other WNY hard cideries- but the industry is growing.
According to the New York Cider Association, New York State has seen its cider industry expand by 450 percent over the past ten years.
“Western New York has the second largest apple-producing region in the country besides Washington,” LeFauve said. “You’re getting ingredients that are coming from down the street into a facility here and then into your local taproom or grocery store- from being picked off a tree to being in your glass in a really short time, you can taste that freshness and crispness in the apples.”
Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.