At Rogers Family Orchard in Johnstown, the groves stretch in beautiful rows and gently fade into the edge of the woods with colors especially bright against a gray fall sky. The sight of the gnarly apple trees illustrates a great upstate New York tradition for visitors and passersby.
Some of the trees here have been around for more than 100 years. Mitch Rogers has been here as long as he can remember.
As the third generation to occupy the property, the late 20-something wanted to stay in a meaningful way. So, he tapped into tradition to try something new.
Well-known to locals and agritourists as a place to purchase and pick premium fruit, Rogers’ family farm recently expanded into an emerging market based on a very old-school trade.
Rogers’ Cideryard is dedicated to the drink of the hard variety, a popular beverage in Colonial times, a large part of the pioneer-era upstate economy and a growing interest among craft brew connoisseurs today.
Despite its newness to the craft beverage scene, hard cider making is a big part of brew history here in Central New York. The majority of Rogers’ customers are curious beer drinkers, but some reminisce about grandpa’s barrels in the basement or dad’s stash in the shed.
Rogers was introduced at the age of 9 or 10 by a family friend. At that time, he was a helper, not a drinker. But, the time spent hauling barrels and bottles around and witnessing the process grew a fascination you can taste in Rogers’ beverages today.
He brews with apples you’d ignore at the store – his ingredients are small, tart and occasionally feature fungus. Rogers explains that each has a uniqueness that produces even more remarkable flavors when blended.
It’s the science, nature and tradition that keeps him combining. He’s grown a greater appreciation for planting, growing and brewing as he continuously learns and occasionally experiments.
Despite the youth of his body and enterprise, he has already added his own legacy to the farm as 130 trees producing eight cider-specific varietals are just taking root. Likewise, Rogers is just getting started.