By Hailey Clark, Lia Ding, Cory Fernandez, Tobi Thompson
Upstate New York’s 1911 cider brand is a family business with more than a century of history behind it.
A half hour drive away from Syracuse University campus, a large, red barn-like building sits on hundreds of acres of apple orchards. The black, oversized “1911” on the building’s white metal roof represents the year in which the hard cider company began its apple production. As an extension of Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards in Lafayette, 1911 cider is only getting more popular inside and outside of the Syracuse area.
“We’re a family business and growing apples for over 100 years now,” said head cider maker at 1911 Spirits, Yann Fay. “We grow everything here on our farm. We’re a completely vertically integrated operation: everything is picked by hand, pressed on site, stored on site, and fermented under my supervision.”
The company has only been making cider for 16 years, but Fay said that what sets 1911 apart from the others is that they know how to grow apples. Beak & Skiff harvests more than 30 different varieties of apples, 10 of which are used for cider production. In 2010, 1911 started creating gin and vodka spirits by distilling apples. More recently, Beak & Skiff also started making apple-flavored wines, such as honey-crisp wine.
The company has more than a century of apple production behind it, thus earning its motto and selling point: “From tree to bottle.” 1911 cider can be seen in popular student staples such as SU’s Carrier Dome, Faegan’s Café & Pub and downtown’s Kitty Hoynes.
As many Syracuse students have been to Beak & Skiff for seasonal apple picking, the cider brand is becoming more recognizable among students as cider sales increase.
Mark Tewksbury, the Carrier Dome’s assistant director of concessions and merchandise services, said that the sports arena started stocking cider because customers wanted a hard cider product. One of its biggest appeals is that it is gluten-free.
“It’s more fan-demand,” Tewksbury said. “Cider became the up-and-coming thing and whenever we can purchase locally, we try to.”
Since 1911 is not as recognized as national cider brands such as Angry Orchard, its sales are still growing. Even though Tewksbury suspects that most students drink Angry Orchard because it’s what they know from back home or an average bar, he said that cider sales in general have grown in the last three to four years. So 1911’s local popularity only increases as cider sales increases.
Back in the barn-like building, a tavern on the left and a tasting room on the right draw in the local crowd. The tasting room, stocked with unique 1911 Bloody Mary mixes and several varieties of cider on taps, gives off a homelike charm, which is characteristic to 1911.
Trisha Kellogg of Waterville joined her family at the tasting room bar one weekend in October. Kellogg said she liked the experience of the tasting room and Beak & Skiff’s “Apple Campus” (grounds) because she saw steps involved in production and also tasted her favorite ciders, spirits and wines.
“We came here to taste because I really enjoy wine and I have never had any 1911 wine,” the 21-year-old said. “What I really like is honey-crisp [wine], and I can’t wait to try it with cheese and crackers.”
And for the die-hard beer drinkers that deny the growing cider popularity, 1911 still makes a hops variety hard cider called 1911 Hopped IPC.
The growth of cider consumption spans the population of SU students as well. At Faegan’s during Flip Night, college-aged customers drink 1911.
“I love 1911, and it’s probably one of my favorites,” said SU graduate student Hermela Dereje. “I like it just because the sweetness is not as overwhelming, and it’s a nice alternative to beer. I don’t really like the taste of beer so it’s great for me.”