I’ve tried a lot of brands over the years, but always come back to Woodchuck. Woodchuck is a Vermont company that’s been in the fermented apple business since 1991. I’ve tried all of its mass-produced varieties and the best is without a doubt, the Fall variety. This year, they tweaked their marketing plan a bit and are releasing it under “Fall Harvest.” According to the label, it tastes “Just like apple pie” and according to the website, it’s the same formula. So that means I don’t have to try to recreate it like I had to with poor old Diet Pepsi Jazz Caramel Cream.
Anyway, one day last season, after staring at the two dozen empty bottles of it strewn across my desk, I wondered if the company had something visitable—a gift shop or a facility tour or a giant inflatable woodchuck, anything that I could put on a Fall road trip itinerary while simultaneously stocking up.
In August of this year, they opened the Woodchuck Cidery at their Middlebury, Vermont, headquarters and I was able to visit it as part of our recent Vermont road trip.
I’d been to Middlebury, Vermont, a few times before. It’s the site of one of my favorite graves in all New England, that of Amum-Her-Khepesh-Ef, a two-year-old Egyptian mummy prince. Also the town where I got to see one of Patrick Dougherty’s twiggy sculptures. Of course, this time I wasn’t oddity hunting. I was looking for Fall fruit that gets you drunk
The woodchuck cidery looked brand new. On one side was a giant red barn that had never seen a cow in its life and, I assume, held offices while hiding the more industrial-looking buildings behind it. Connected to the barn was a smaller building that was the visitor’s center, adjacent to four, tall, gleaming silver tanks full, I assume, of rotting apples or however you make cider these days. CGI, probably.
After all, even though there’s not a whole lot to do there, it was a great opportunity to walk out with some of the more exotic varieties that I’d never laid my lips on. We carted out bottles of pear, raspberry, smoked apple, chocolate, and sour cherry cider.
I was going to review each variety as part of this post, but it turns out I don’t need to. Every single one tasted exactly like its name and strongly so (unlike “pumpkin” beer). Smokey apple was a campfire, pear was pear, raspberry was raspberry. The only one I didn’t enjoy too much was chocolate. No real reason that I can put a finger on.
So a worthwhile stop on any Vermont trip…and if you ever get a chance to nab their Fall cider in stores, do it. Your hangovers will shimmer like Autumn leaves.
Oh, and you can wear my motorcycle jacket anytime.