Hard cider is a fast-growing segment in the U.S. fermented beverage industry, and New York’s position as a leader in craft beverage production and expertise is paving the way for cider producers to succeed.
“The burgeoning craft beverage industry in New York state has helped create a lot of applicable resources and expertise for cider makers,” said Ian Merwin, M.S. ’88, Ph.D. ’90, owner of Black Diamond Cider and Cornell professor emeritus of plant science. “We can get bottles and equipment from well-established companies in the area. We have the legislative support we need and Cornell experts like Chris Gerling and Greg Peck to help us every step of the way.”
Merwin notes that the benefit of cider makers working with both Gerling, extension associate in the Department of Food Science, and Peck, assistant professor in the horticulture section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, is that they can gain expertise on both ends of the spectrum—when growing the cider apples and when making the cider itself.
Recently Gerling and Peck received major awards from the cider industry. Gerling was given the Apple of Appreciation award from the New York Cider Association (NYCA), and Peck was chosen as the Grower Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Association of Cider Makers (USACM).
Chris Gerling, who began his career offering extension expertise in the field of enology, found a natural transition into hard cider extension work. Wine and cider have many similarities, including the types of yeast used and the effect of climate, soils and terrain on the overall flavor profile.
“Chris has distinguished himself as being fully invested in improving the quality and profitability of cider made in New York and beyond,” said Jenn Smith, NYCA executive director. “He is as curious as he is knowledgeable, and in particular has been central in NYCA’s work to tackle the challenges of measuring and communicating the tricky concept of dryness to drinkers. We are grateful and lucky to have him as a partner in our work of developing a sustainable, excellent cider industry in our region.”
Greg Peck’s research explores ways to increase the quantity and quality of New York–grown cider apples, including best practices for fertilizer, crop load and harvest management. Peck also helps cider makers select varieties that will work best for high-quality and flavorful cider.
Michelle McGrath, executive director of the USACM, said the organization’s members overwhelmingly voted for Peck to receive the Grower Advocate of the Year award.
“His advocacy for cider at Cornell and his research collaborations with the industry are important for expanding our knowledge of growing cider apples. We know so little about propagating cider-specific varieties in the U.S., and Greg is such a valuable resource for cider makers looking to use specific apple varieties.”
While hard cider makers have many valuable resources in New York, the recent awards for Gerling and Peck underscore the fact that producers value experts who can help them piece together the many components that equate to a high-quality end product.
To learn more about Cornell’s hard cider research and outreach efforts, visit: https://hardcider.cals.cornell.edu
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