By Doug La Rocque
Driving by his weekend residence on East Hollow Road in Petersburgh, you would never know that is where Seth Jones makes some of the most unique blends of hard cider, very popular in a number of New York City restaurants and eateries, and soon he hopes, for sale as well around Eastern New York State. You won’t see a large commercial orchard yet, though Seth has a number of apple trees scattered about his property, and has recently planted hundreds more. To meet the demand for apples to make his product, Seth has turned to another source. Wild apple trees growing on properties around the area, trees that have often been abandoned or forgotten about, but still produce fruit. And according to Seth, there are lots of them, left over from small farmsteads that flourished years ago but have now gone by the wayside.
The apples from the trees they planted years ago were more for cider than eating, as cider long ago was as popular as water for hydration purposes. It’s just finding them that is the challenge. So he is asking anyone who might have such trees, bring him your apples. Of course he will pay you for them.
Making hard cider, sometimes with honey called a cyser, sometimes with elderberries or other natural additives, has become his passion, so much so that he is even considering retiring from his full-time job as a graphic designer, to devote all his time and energy to making his cider. When he became licensed as a cidery last year he was at that time the only one in Rensselaer County. And because he is a home/farm producer, he can sell through a distributor, or from home and at local craft fairs. It’s the same way the many craft beer producers scattered about the area do, only his product is hard cider.
While Seth is looking for the wild apples to meet his production needs, the trees he has planted “are specific for making cider, English and French trees that bring canons and acids, the kind of flavors you want. The idea is that we would then blend that with all the wild apples.” Besides flavor, the wild apples bring another concept into the brewing process that excites Seth – community. Using apples that have been grown on neighboring properties or homesteads around the eastern part of the County, he hopes lends a sense of a community effort to the process. They also help when dealing with a sometimes fickle partner, Mother Nature. Seth said the crop from 2015 was so heavy, that some trees did not produce their typical quality of apples simply because of the volume. Last year, so many trees did not even bear fruit, he had to purchase juice from an outside source. This year, he is very optimistic. The crop seems to be at such levels that the quality of the apple should be much better.
Don’t look for an opulent or large commercial operation. His cider press is located in his garage, while his fermentation barrels, often old whiskey kegs, his bottling operation and storage facilities are in his basement. It’s reminiscent of the home cideries found here in colonial times, and speaks to the resurgence in popularity that hard cider is now enjoying. Expect to see a lot more from Seth and his cider, as he looks to make his mark on the industry and in the process again put Petersburgh on the map, this time for a very tasty reason.
Seth’s operation is called East Hollow Cider; you can find out more on Facebook/easthollowcider or by calling 646-228-8888.