Wayside Cider Tap Room: Showcasing Cider and Community in Andes, NY
55 Redden Ln | Andes, NY
Just off Main Street in Andes, NY, down a meandering dead end road that weaves through tree-spotted rolling hills, something special is brewing — or rather — being pressed. The Wayside Cider Tap Room, which officially opened its doors late last month, is a handsome gathering place serving cider bottled just beyond the bar, as well as other New York State libations and locally sourced meats and cheeses. It is a collaboration between Wayside Cider owners Alex Wilson and Irene Hussey, and designer Sean Scherer who owns the antique and curiosity shop Kabinett & Kammer just up the road. Together, with a handful of hardworking and talented community members, they have transformed a run down barn into the bright new face of a cider revival that is swiftly taking hold across the state.
With its walls dotted by relics from near and far, the tap room channels the warmth and conviviality of a European watering hole while showcasing both the heritage and the creative capacity of Delaware County. A given glance might produce a late 19th century image of the Catskills, aged clippings from American Agriculturist magazine, or a handmade light fixture made of vintage ale bottles; each piece is at once thoughtful on its own and an integral part of a larger collection. A wall of floor-to-ceiling glass doors opens up onto a courtyard lined with Bavarian beer hall tables and fire pits. “Cider is very much a social drink,” Alex says of the decision to open shop, “and we really wanted to have a space where people could come and experience it with good food, amazing music, and a beautiful backdrop.”
The tap room is pressed up against the cidery itself, where Alex and Irene are on track to make about 10,000 bottles of cider this year. 2016 will be the third vintage for Wayside Cider and although they have more than tripled production since their first year, the duo are humbly pacing themselves. “We’d spoken to other cideries,” recalls Alex, “and they said, ‘if you want to stay small, a tap room is a great way of keeping small.’” The pair plan to produce just enough cider to satisfy the tap room needs while continuing to provide for their existing clients both upstate and down. Wayside Cider can currently be found on the menus of establishments such as Wassail, The Pines, Brunette, Brushland Eating House, Table on Ten, and Spruceton Inn. Opportunities for the new space are seemingly limitless, but it is clear that creating an incubator for community activity sits at the top of the list of ambitions. The outdoor area will eventually host open-fire cookouts, discussions led by local cheese makers and distillers, and amateur cider competitions. “Cider doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” says Alex. “Where cider really works is where there is a culture of cider. And cider goes with the food, the cheese, the community, the music, and this is a place where we can develop all those things.”
“Cider is a really beautiful, simple, and unpretentious yet sophisticated drink,” says Alex. “It doesn’t need to be exclusive or horribly expensive but it can be really beautiful, and I guess that’s the same mentality we had with the tap room.”
Opposite the courtyard is another barn and carriage house that will host private dinners and events. When the weather allows, guests can flow between the bar and the courtyard where on a given day they may find anything from whole animals being roasted to a local farmer showcasing their vegetables. And as winter ascends, the team plans to slowly embrace a menu of hearty yet unassuming comfort foods — stews, sausages, loaves of bread you can cut yourself while sitting next to a fire — food that is fundamentally of the area both because of where it is produced and in the way it is meant to be shared by the community.
The desire to create a space that would appeal to both a local population and a growing number of weekenders and visitors is reflected in everything from the seating to the price point. “If you can create a beautiful space that people enjoy being in and you’re decent to everyone,” the team proposes, “you’re always going to have a market.”
Sean, who is originally from Miami and has lived in Paris, Toronto, Chicago, and New York, wanted to create a space that could feel at home in any one of those places. His antique and curiosity shop, Kabinett & Kammer, opened in 2007 with similar goals and has been a longtime staple of the area.
Using producers and materials from the area was an easy decision. All of the metal and about 90% of the wood used on this project came from manufacturers in town. The carpentry work, including the tabletops and benches, was done in house by A.J. Mason, James Waldron, Sal Ventimiglia, Chris Langford, and Jason Shurte.
The tap room is also serving as a platform for cider experimentation. A new batch currently being served on tap is made from one-year old cider left on its lees to add a touch of acidity, and then mixed with fresh wild apple juice straight from the press. “We’re going to be able to do a lot of things like that in the tap room that won’t be served anywhere else,” Alex muses, “and that will really help inform us about what people are enjoying.”
Alex credits the breweries of England as inspiration for how a place like this can become a linchpin for a town. “I’ve had the advantage of seeing everyone sit together — the dairy farmer next to the lord of the manor next to the local carpenter next to the dentist — and everyone is having a drink on a Friday night,” he recounts nostalgically, “and I think that’s really important for this area.”
For every moment of ambition expressed, there are ten more devoted to giving credit where credit is due. There is a palpable sense of respect in this establishment — for those who contributed directly to this project and to those who, as Alex says, “have been fighting for this area for years.” He cites the farmers and the restaurant owners and the townspeople who have long been investing in this community. “Without the work that all these other people have done, we wouldn’t have this platform. They’ve made the soil rich, and we can just kind of plant the seeds now. So that’s really a good thing.”