Another fine fall day lured us out last Sunday with the prospect of some exercise and fun in a rural setting in the heart of Frederick County, MD. Both my sister and my friend had signed up to participate in the Great Grapes Race Series, this time at Distillery Lane Ciderworks, and I was happy to join in!
The Great Grape Race is a series 5k (give or take) trail runs/walks in the local, Frederick-area vineyards and orchards, followed by tastings of either wine or cider, live music, and a picnic or a bit of local fare (available for purchase). Proceeds from the events benefit the March of Dimes’ mission to improve infant health by preventing premature birth, birth defects, and infant mortality.
I am a walker at these events, and yes, I walk with the heavy camera around my neck, snapping photos all along the way — I’m all about the experience, but definitely NOT the speed! But I’m learning that I’m not alone in walking the course, there are usually other people walking too. It’s a great way to commit to getting some exercise, see the apple orchards and enjoy the beautiful weather in the rolling hills of Frederick, while supporting a good cause. After the race, there are the usual speeches and the race winners for the Distillery Lane Ciderworks event each received a bottle of the distillery’s DLC Hard Cider.
We also were treated to a tasting of four of the distillery’s hard ciders: DLC, Jefferson Cider, Celebration (my favorite — I bought a bottle of this bubbly cider), and Witches Brew, a Halloween “special.”
Once apples have been allowed to fully ripen, DLC presses them. Each press (13 to 14 bushels) yields around 35 gallons of juice. After the apples are pressed, the distillery takes the pressed juice and uses it in fresh and hard cider production. The pomace (the pressed apples, seeds, and skin) goes to local dairy and pig farmers to feed to their animals. For fresh cider, they bottle the pressed juice at this point. Hard cider involves several more steps. First, the distillery ferments the juice (special yeast are added for this process). Fermentation takes between 2 weeks to 6 weeks and results in a hard cider with a seven to eight percent alcohol content. After fermentation, the distillery “racks” the cider. Cider naturally has a lot of sediment, and during fermentation, the sediment settles at the bottom of the barrels and is carefully filtered out.
I’ve been to a lot of wineries since I’ve begun writing this daytrips blog, but this is the first cider distillery. I wasn’t sure what to expect, although I do know I enjoy fresh cider, and I figured it wasn’t much of a leap to hard cider. With an alcoholic content lower than most wines, it seems like a nice after dinner or with dinner drink.
If you enjoy cider and remember it from your childhood, you’re solidly within the great American tradition. Cider was the most popular drink in North America and England from the early settlers’ times, and with good reason: water was potentially lethal. This cider was probably a diluted cider called Ciderkin in the U.K., made by steeping pomace (the remains of pressed apples) in water.
Getting there: 5533 Gapland Road, Jefferson, MD 21755
Cider Farm & Cidery Fall Hours: Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 12-5
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