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Artifact Cider Project
Photograph: Courtesy Artifact Cider Project

The best craft ciders in Massachusetts

Beer isn't the only thing getting the craft treatment these days

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Olivia Vanni
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There’s been a hard cider revival sweeping the nation in recent years, especially right here in apple-abundant New England. Though it’s steeped in rich Colonial history, cider-making had a bad rap for the last couple of centuries, thanks to a handful of mass-produced and cloyingly sweet brews dominating the beverage market. Luckily, that’s all changed within the last decade, and we’ve seen a much-needed return to cider artistry, with many Massachusetts makers leading the charge. If you want a taste of true, local craft cider, we’ve compiled a list of the best cideries in Massachusetts that are pairing tradition with innovation to honor this drink’s past and bring it into the future.

Best ciders in Massachusetts

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The apple can actually fall quite far from the tree, as clearly proven by this Salem-based cidery and its slew of sometimes unconventional craft brews. All year round, you can find its classics, Macachusetts (it’s made with McIntosh apples, hence the Bay State pun in its name) and Nova (a super dry libation that boasts aromatic and floral depth, thanks to the addition of hops). But with an extra focus on seasonal ingredients, Far From the Tree releases different varietals over the course of the year, like its summer Rickey (cherry lime cider), pre-Halloween Ectoplasm (an obvious nod to Ghostbusters, it gets its neon green color from green bell pepper, jalapeño and kiwi) and wintery Glogg (it gets you into the holiday spirit with black currants and mulling spices). While you can snag a four-pack of its tallboys at many liquor stores in Mass, be sure to stop by its taproom and accompanying dog-friendly patio, where you can also sample a number of its exclusive concoctions that can’t be found in a can.

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Make a day-trip out to West Brookfield to stroll through Ragged Hill’s orchards—and then straight to its tasting room for some flights, full pours and bottles to-go. As small batch and artisanal as it gets, Ragged Hill’s ciders are truly special. While you may be tempted to stick with its Traditional Dry and Semi-Dry brews, we encourage you to branch out and indulge in a bottle of its Honeycrisp (a semi-sweet libation with whispers of caramel and, you guessed it, honey) or its renowned, award-winning Rasé (a raspberry rosé cider made with a blend of Empire, Baldwin and Cortland apples). While Ragged Hill mostly sells its craft ciders onsite at its tasting room on Saturdays and Sundays from 12—5pm, at farmers markets or in stores throughout Central and Western Mass, there are a couple of Whole Foods in the Greater Boston area that carry them.

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Although rooted in tradition, Artifact strives to take cider into the current century. Amongst its beloved modern brews: Feels Like Home, an unfiltered cider aged in rum-soaked oak barrels; By Any Other Name, a dry, tart and crisp cider made with blueberries, resulting in a rosy hued drink (hence its Shakespearean-inspired name); and Wolf at the Door, a complex, wild-fermented beverage with a bitter bite of tannins. Visit its bustling taproom in the heart of Cambridge’s Central Square, The Station, to get your hands on draft pours and flights of normally canned favorites, as well as its selection of “cellar projects” that aren’t available anywhere else. And, if you’re up for a drive to Western Mass, make the trek out to The Cellar in Northampton, which will bring you close to all of the apple orchard action.

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Pony Shack’s small-batch, specialty craft ciders are well worth the ride out to Boxboro. The Central Mass cidery impresses with approachable yet elevated brews like its bone-dry, champagne-style Fifer’s Dream or its Barrel Me Over cider, which is aged in rye whisky barrels. But Pony Shack does like to spice things up—literally—with brews like its Orchard Spice (there’s just a kiss of warm, fall aromatics in there), Russian Donkey (a cider-based take on a Moscow Mule with notes of lime and ginger) and Ginger Up! (it’s aged with ginger and really packs a punch). To taste them all—and so many more—book a tour and tasting at the cidery, or commit to one kind and grab a can at a local store or restaurant.

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High Limb has been rocking Plymouth with its modern takes on traditional cider-making. On the more conservative side, you’ll find The OG and Core, which are straightforward and meant to let local fruit shine. But High Limb gets playful when it comes to its selection of festive seasonal releases (i.e. its Maple Days and Pumpkin Spice), as well as its newly launched line of “Freshly Baked Ciders” that boasts homey flavors like Dutch Apple Crisp—not at all like grandma made. Brewing sophisticates can also find a number of its ciders inspired by beer favorites, like its saison-style Honeypot. High Limb also offers a collection of high-end ciders under its Noble Series, whose bottles are crafted using top-notch ingredients—no low-hanging fruit here—and elaborate brewing techniques as a nod to hundreds of years of fermenting practices.

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Made out in Sherborn, Stormalong’s selection of ciders let local and heirloom fruit sing—whether it be a traditional sea shanty or a super rad remix that’ll rock the boat. More classic flavors include its Mass Appeal, a balanced blend of sweet Golden Delicious and tart Macs made for easy drinking, and Legendary Dry, an ultra-dry and tannic libation with big champagne energy. Meanwhile, its unconventional brews comprise: Red Skies at Night, a fruity yet herbaceous brew that serves serious tropical vibes, with the help of passionfruit and hibiscus; and Light of the Sun, a citrus-heavy hopped number punched up with guava. Whichever voyage you choose, it’s sure to make waves in how you view cider.

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If you’re searching for some cider with deep-rooted local history, be sure to stop by Lookout Farm for a taste of its hard libations. Made from crops found on its very own farm in Natick—one of the oldest operating farms in the country that dates back to the 1600s—Lookout’s ciders shed a light on the orchard’s past, present and future. Stick to tradition and try one of its more conventional brews like its original cider, Farmhouse, or its heritage cider, Row 7. If you don’t want to limit yourself to apples alone, there’s an array of adult beverages featuring other fruit harvests from this spot’s 180-acre fields, such as its Strawberry Fields and Saturn seasonal releases (made with strawberries and peaches, respectively.) True non-conformists can sip on some more creative concoctions, including the habanero-heavy Barn Burner or Meyer lemon-laced Lemonade Stand. 

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  • East Boston

Get your farm-fresh cider fix without ever having to leave the city by heading to Downeast. Situated right near the waterfront in East Boston, this local cidery has been pleasing the masses with its unfiltered brews for about a decade now. Its selection of ciders lean towards the sweeter side, with each sip seeming like a juicy bite out of an apple. Seasonal blends (i.e. its pineapple and pumpkin cans) are usually a hit at parties, while its limited Cider Donut release created an utter frenzy when it was introduced last fall. Meander over to its Jeffries Point taproom to try all of its offerings with ​​personalized flights—or full pours at its parking lot pop-up bar.

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