Headwater Cider

New England Style Hard Cider


Aerial view of orchardThe Orchard is located in the town of Hawley, Massachusetts - on the eastern edge of the Berkshires and at the headwaters of Clesson Brook in the Deerfield watershed.

Over 2000 apple trees are planted on 20 acres (8 hectares) of south sloping land. At an elevation of 1800 feet (550 meters) the growing season is short, but due to ideal siting, gets plenty of sun. This combination of cooler temperatures and intense sun yield apples that are perfect for hard cider…as they are intensely flavored and contain a lot of natural sugars.

The orchard management goal is to grow a variety of apples that will create a great cider. Each variety has different strengths and short comings. For example: Cortland gives cider a great body, but has a poor start and finish, Macintosh provides a beautiful bouquet, and Empire has a great finish. So, a blend of all three makes a well balanced cider.

When I purchased the orchard in 2005, there were three varieties of apples, (Cortland, Macintosh, and Empire) these trees continue to produce well. Since then, I have planted 500 trees of five varieties that have natural disease resistance and also make great cider. The original trees are managed with primarily organic practices, but the Macintosh variety require extra care when it comes to controlling the fungal diseases that are prevalent in New England. As such, I must use a fungicide that is not certified organic. However, all nutrients and pesticides can be supplied through organic sources.

The varieties currently growing in the 500-tree block are Liberty, Nova Spy, Medaile D’or, Golden Nugget, and Alkmene. Trial grating of new varieties continues to examine potential candidates for the orchard. Current trial grafts include:

  • Black Oxford
  • Early Strawberry
  • Golden Noble
  • Jordan Russet
  • Pomme Gris
  • Brown Snout
  • Egremont Russet
  • Golden Russet
  • Kidds Orange Red
  • Rouxville
  • Coe’s Golden Drop
  • Ellington Orange
  • Hadlock Reinette
  • Michelin
  • St. Edmund’s Russet
  • Cort Pendu Plat
  • Fall Russet
  • Holstein
  • Oriole
  • Wynooche Early
  • Dabinette
  • Golden Granny
  • Hudson’s Golden Gem
  • Orleans Reinette
  • Zabergrau Reinette