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Highlights from Franklin County CiderDays 2013

[Photographs: Christopher Lehault]

There is a rightful air of seniority wrapped around Franklin County CiderDays. For nineteen years—long before every magazine was telling us that "this cider house rules" or that "hard cider is easy choice for fall"—farmers and cider makers in western Massachusetts have gathered to celebrate autumn and their region's long relationship with apples. Originally a small harvest festival for local producer West County Cider, CiderDays has grown into the most recognized cider event in the United States.

Franklin County is a bit of a microcosm for what we hope cider cider culture will accomplish throughout America. Here, orchardists are successfully transitioning from mass market apple varieties to cider-specific ones and saving family farms as a result. Local cider makers are partnering with local growers to get the fruit they need to make the cider they want. And, in general, there is a respect for the apple—and not marketing gimmicks—at the heart of local cider making.

And while CiderDays is best known for its annual Cider Salon (where guests can sample ciders from over forty international producers), the weekend is about more than a grand tasting. There are home orchard seminars, courses on making cider vinegar, and plenty of hay rides, wassails, and apple tastings for the family. CiderDays is a community event about farms and families, not restaurants and trends.

Of course, they make some damn fine cider up in Massachusetts as well. We walked the farms, tasted the fruit, and drank our way through two days of Franklin County CiderDays. Head over to the slideshow for more on the highlights and the best ciders we tried »

About the author: Christopher Lehault is a New Jersey-based cider journalist, craft beer documentarian, and home brewer. Follow his cider adventures on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

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