In many ways, Harvest Moon hard cider took more than a century to get here. Matthew and Juanita Critz use an antique apple press, name the ciders in tribute to their farm’s 200-year history and use hops with roots in the 1800s.
It’s all about taking time at Critz Farms Brewing & Cider Co. Matthew spent five years perfecting his award-winning ciders made from carefully selected and locally sourced apples – many from their own orchard at Critz Farms.
The evolution of Critz Farms in Cazenovia began 30 years ago, when Matthew and Juanita purchased the 325-acre former dairy operation and became farmers for the first time. For Matthew and Juanita, it’s about taste, tradition and the farm-to-table philosophy that drives their business.
Matthew Critz: We started with Christmas trees and then people started wondering, “Well, what are you doing to do in the Fall?” And so we started picking pumpkins, and once we started picking pumpkins then we started adding rides and a petting zoo and all this other stuff, and then everybody said, “Well, why don’t you have apples?” We said, “OK, we’ll have apples.” We planted the orchard and bought the cider press at the same time and we started pressing cider when we first started picking apples. It couldn’t have been the first week we were pressing cider and everybody started saying, “When are you doing to make hard cider?”
I start thinking about that and say, “Well, that’s not a bad idea. People are asking for it”, so we actually started trialing. We trialed for three or four years, different yeast, different apples plans and stuff, before Nita and I were confident that we had a quality product and one that we could duplicate. Then we took the big plunge and built a winery and here we are in the hard cider business.
Juanita Critz: We make nine ciders besides the seasonal ciders that we make, and the first one that we came up with is called Rippleton Original. This is a champagne style cider that does its secondary fermentation in the bottle. We do something sort of different; we use maple syrup as the charge in the cider to cause that secondary fermentation. Because we’re maple syrup producers and we make the syrup right here on the farm, we thought that was a nice touch, and we think it adds a complexity so the cider.
Next in the line is Blissful Moon, and Blissful Moon is named after Solomon Bliss, who was the original owner of the farm. He purchased the farm in 1793 for $1.50 an acre, or something amazing like that, so we wanted to salute Solomon. The next cider is what I guess we would consider our flag ship cider. It’s called Four Screw. We named this one after our four screw cider press, which is a 120 year old antique press that we press all the apples on, it’s a rack and cloth style press. Four Screw is real popular, it’s a crisp cider that has a lot of depth of character, I would say. It’s probably one of our most popular and widely distributed ciders.
Matthew Critz: Standing behind the counter and having a bunch of smiling people in front of you that are actually drinking a product that you’ve created is very, incredibly satisfying. Everybody’s on the patio and there are bands playing and everybody’s having a great time, it’s great. I have to tell you there’s a little more feedback. The feedback loop is much better than in the Christmas tree business.