Peter Fleckenstein does the work his father, grandfather and great-grandfather did before him at Beak & Skiff Orchards, home to 1911 Spirits. The hundred-year legacy of cultivating the apples here ensures the family ownership maintains complete control of hard cider and spirit production from “tree to bottle.”
One of only a few in the country distilling gin and vodka from apples, Beak & Skiff debuted its cider and spirits in the early 2000s, allowing a new family legacy to grow.
Peter: Beak & Skiff Apple Farms was founded in 1911, the first trees went in the ground that year, by two families that got together. One had been a potato farmer. One owned some land here on the hillside. They met down at the market in Syracuse and said geez, we could grow apples and make some money at it. That was the start of what is now a 103 year old business.
Every generation has put something into the business that’s added some value. The first generations put in the apple trees. The second generation put in the packing line and the trucking and the shipping and the distribution. A third and fourth generation worked on the cider mill. Now that we’re the fifth generation here, we’re doing the spirits business. Every generation has built on what was left before them.
The initial thought of the spirits business was that it was a good diversification. It was another value-added product that we could sell and have complete control over. The intent was just to sell it at our own retail store. We had no intention of selling it through distributors or even regionally at the time when it was developed.
Tree to bottle really is our way of saying we own the entire process. We own the trees. We own the land. We make the cider out of our apples. We ferment it into hard cider and then we put it through the still using our own recipe from top to bottom. We’re one of the few, if the only, people that grow the apples, press the cider, ferment the cider, and then distill it into either vodka or gin. I don’t know if anybody else out there, especially not in the Northeast, that has control of the entire process. The fact that we have that control plus we’re family-owned and operated makes us pretty unique.