for glasses of cyder in a rack

From Orchard to Glass: A Cider Lover’s Guide to Vermont Cider

Along with craft beer and maple syrup, Vermont cider is part of our culture, with several apple cideries within a short drive of our Waterbury bed and breakfast. Apple growing goes back generations in New England, producing some of the best varietals in the world, which become delicious ciders as varied in flavor as the apples from which they derive.

These cider makers take pride in their mostly “dry” style, not adding additional sugars or sweeteners, imparting their ciders with a smooth, complex, and not overly sweet flavor. They are also naturally gluten-free, and both Cold Hollow and Stowe Cider have plenty of non-cider options, so everyone in your group will find something refreshing to sip on. As we head into fall and prime apple-harvesting season, there’s never been a better time to visit Waterbury and explore Vermont cider!

fresh cyder from the tank
Discover Apple Cider at Cold Hollow Cider Mill

Nowhere in Vermont exemplifies apple cider’s history, tradition, and wide-ranging flavors like the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. They stay true to their mission of being “Vermont to the core,” supporting local apple orchards, producing cider in an old-fashioned way that best preserves its true character, and running a sustainable operation (the cider mill is run almost entirely by solar power). Their authentic cider mill is only 4 miles from The Old Stagecoach Inn, an easy drive north on Route 100.

For decades, they have been making Vermont cider from apples grown in the Champlain Valley and utilizing a traditional “rack and cloth” system to separate the delicious apple cider after being ground and mashed. It’s a sight to see, and you can get up close to the action as you tour their rustic facility, watching as their cider makers work the magic of filtering the initial raw apple mash (which includes seeds, stems, and skins) and then pressing it hydraulically, resulting in a remarkable 200+ gallons of fresh cider with every press! 

This same hands-on process produces their legendary line of apple ciders, both the non-alcoholic and “hard cider” varieties. Their tasting room, open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., is the best place to dive into their selection of 10 hard ciders, each distinctive in taste.  Most of their ciders are 5.9% ABV, making for easy sipping, but a few pack more of a kick, like the “Good Altitude,” which is 7.2% ABV and made from English bittersweet apples. Their ciders have creative and fun names, like the “Grateful Sled,” which incorporates spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, making it a perfect cider for the chillier fall and winter months. Others, like the “City Slacker,” are seasonal and feature summer fruits like raspberry and lemon.

After tasting a few ciders and finding your favorite(s), grab a growler or 4-pack to go. Stop by their bakery and pick up some of their world-famous apple cider donuts (which you can also see them make in real time) and a sandwich, panini, or salad at the cafe. The gift shop is also a great place to bring home goodies or souvenirs, with their wide selection of apple cider jellies and Vermont cheddar cheese from their farm (the leftover apple mash turns into compost or feed for animals, a nod to their regenerative agriculture roots), and their signature Cold Hollow Cider vinaigrette. Bring your sandwiches and ciders across Route 100 to the banks of the Waterbury Reservoir, where you can have a picnic near the water while sipping some of our state’s most delicious ciders.

bar area without people

A Decade of Keeping Cider Dry at Stowe Cider

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, Stowe Cider started with the humble mission of “keeping cider dry,” a refreshing antidote to the standard cloyingly sweet ciders that have always dominated the market. Less than 20 minutes from our location in downtown Waterbury, their massive corrugated metal barn is impossible to miss, located in the buzzing center of Stowe right near the banks of the Little River. The outdoor tables are ideal for a warm summer day of cider tasting, while their indoor tap room is cozy on post-ski session winter evenings.

Kick off your visit with a Vermont cider flight, which includes separate 4-ounce pours of four of their 13 ciders on tap, an excellent way to get a taste for their impressive variety of styles. Most of them are between 4-6.5% ABV, and although the “Tips Up” runs slightly sweeter, they all tend to be drier, staying true to their motto. Their ciders are among the most creatively flavored you’ll find anywhere – the “Safety Meeting” uses Citra hops, imparting notes of citrus; “Apple Haze” takes after the hazy IPA craze with its recipe; “Tuned Up” includes orange and cranberry; and “Rattle the Chains” uses grapefruit and Cascade hops, a unique combo.

True to the free-wheeling spirit of this classic ski town (also the home to legendary Alchemist Brewing, a must-visit for beer lovers), Stowe Cider has brightly painted murals on the taproom walls and live music on weekend evenings – a lively and welcoming atmosphere to relax and enjoy some fresh-off-the-press ciders with a bunch of friendly Vermonters.

Vermont Cider-Sipping in Downtown Waterbury

In addition to taking scenic drives to taste ciders in surrounding towns, you’ll find plenty of places to sample local ciders just blocks away from The Old Stagecoach Inn. In the downtown Waterbury historic district, celebrated restaurants like the Reservoir – which holds the distinction of having the most craft beers on tap in Vermont – serve several ciders on tap or in cans, including those from Stowe Cider. Blackback Pub, another downtown Waterbury institution, has multiple ciders alongside over 30 beers on tap. And if even one block is too far to walk, pull up a chair at our cozy on-site pub (built in 1826 and open each night until 9 pm) and try one of the half dozen or so local ciders we carry, along with an assortment of other local and regional beers and spirits.

After zeroing in on your favorite ciders, swing by the Craft Beer Cellar just a block away on Elm St. and browse their vast selection of ciders (and beers, of course) from around the state and region. You can also buy single cans, a convenient way to try other cideries from around Vermont and add them to your cider collection.

Stay with us in Waterbury, where the apples are as fresh as the ciders are refreshing!