The Best Hard Cider Taprooms within 1 Hour of Boston

By Emily Millian
10/31/2022
PONY SHACK

It’s hard to beat New England in the fall. The air is crisp, the leaves are brilliant—and then there are the familiar fall flavors. For us, it's all about the apples, from cider doughnuts and apple pies to hard apple cider. Luckily, we don’t have to go far from Boston to get a 21-plus taste of the season: Check out these picturesque places serving up the best hard cider.

Carlson Orchards

Carlson Orchards | Best Hard Cider Taprooms to Visit within 1 Hour of Boston
Credit: Chris McIntosh

The apple-shaped logo of this Harvard, Mass., orchard is iconic when it comes to Bay State cider. Founded in 1936, Carlson Orchards now spans 100 acres, with the second-generation Carlson family overseeing maintenance of original apple trees, along with other fruits like peaches, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries. Originally known for sweet ciders, Carlson Orchards has grown into hard ciders, like the flagship Oak Hill Blend made from Macintosh, Empire, Golden Delicious, and Macoun apples grown right on property. The aptly named Harvard Harvest, a semi-sweet hard cider with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, is produced annually as a tribute to the seasonal haul. After a visit to the orchards for a little PYO action, swing by the Cider Barn Taproom for a pint or two along with homemade flatbread pizzas, apple cider doughnuts, or a bite from the rotating food trucks.

Artifact Cider Project

Artifact Cider Project
Credit: Samara Vise

As the name implies, Artifact Cider Project digs into the past, but this Massachusetts maker isn’t stuck there: Artifact is moving beyond traditional cider with the utmost respect for local apples. At its innovative Central Square taproom, called The Station, cider fans can choose among more than a dozen options on draft. Fan favorites that get canned—like dry and vivacious Slow Down; rosé-tinted By Any Other Name; and the cozy Feels Like Home, which is aged on rum-soaked oak—join rotating, limited releases and small-batch cellar projects highlighting different apple varieties. Want to try a whole bushel of ciders? Ask for a flight and have the crew choose for you. Seating is first-come, first-serve inside the chic Station and on the Mass. Ave. patio. Plus, Mimi’s Chuka Diner is now a permanent fixture, serving bar bites like Sichuan Chili Wontons and Mochiko Lemon Pepper Wings whenever the taproom is open.

Far From The Tree

Far From The Tree | Best Hard Cider Taprooms to Visit within 1 Hour of Boston
Credit: Chris McIntosh

Best known for history’s most famous witch trials, Salem is the most popular town to visit during spooky szn and is easily accessible from Boston. Far From The Tree is a destination there for juice that’s “rooted in tradition, unique to the core”—meaning Salem’s cider house follows traditional practices, from apple-pressing to canning, to offer tons of potions. Year-round ciders include Juicy Mix, an unfiltered blend of hard cider and sweet cider; and the dry-hopped cider Nova. Visitors will also discover a plethora of special releases, such as Apple of My Chai (with flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom) and the Halloween-ready Ectoplasm. FFTT has a first-come, first-served taproom and patio, and it often teams up with local eateries for food pop-ups. 

Lookout Farm

Lookout Farm
Credit: Lookout Farm

Lookout Farm in Natick is one of the country’s oldest continuously working farms; it was established in 1650 and currently comprises 180 acres. From pick-your-own apples to open-pit barbecues (with weekend brunch and live music in between), this MetroWest plot offers a lot—but it’s the cider that brought us here. Home to a cidery and brewery run on solar power, Lookout produces hard ciders and beers using, obviously, ingredients grown on its farm. Farmhouse is the company’s original hard cider, with First Crush rosé, Pearadox (made with Asian pears), and Pumpkin Patch hard ciders among the rotating favorites. Outdoor dining (with covered greenhouses in the colder months) is open year-round and reservations are encouraged. There’s also a market on-site for ciders to take home, along with farm-fresh honey, jams, and apple cider doughnuts.

Pony Shack Cider

Best Hard Cider Taprooms to Visit within 1 Hour of Boston
Credit: Chris McIntosh

What started as an accidental hobby turned into a full-on passion project for one man in the heart of apple country. Pony Shack is now a small, artisan cidery in Boxborough (a 10-minute drive from Carlson), producing a series of “core ciders” and seasonal releases for a low-frills tasting room and limited distribution. Pony Shack’s ciders are made in a similar process to wine beginning with a blend of local apples to apple juice then fermented with cultured yeasts. Bliss, for example, is a semi-sweet cider, while Fifer’s Dream is a bone-dry, champagne style cider. Then there are cocktail-inspired creations, like the gingery Russian Donkey, and Shangri-La, a sangria-like sip made by co-fermenting pressed Marquette grape skins with fresh-pressed apple cider and cherries, blueberries, and raspberries. The tiny taproom is open year-round, though it’s best to check Instagram for the most up-to-date hours. Visitors may also book guided group tours in advance. 

Downeast Cider House

Downeast Cider House
Courtesy of Downeast Cider

The idea for Downeast began in a Bates College dorm room, and the recipe for the unfiltered Original Blend was derived after a great deal of tinkering on an old Maine orchard. Ten years later, cider lovers can find Downeast in a large East Boston warehouse overlooking the city skyline and harbor. The Original Blend is a tried and true favorite, Boston’s apple juice, if you will. In recent years, Downeast has expanded significantly, now producing flavored ciders, like seasonal delights Cider Donut and Pumpkin Blend, as well as spiked lemonades and vodka sodas. Currently, the taproom only serves tasting flights of four ciders, but an outdoor pop-up bar returns in warmer months on the pier next door offering full pours and canned options.

High Limb Cider

High Limb Cider
Credit: High Limb Cider

A bit newer to the cider scene with a taproom in Plymouth, High Limb opened in 2020 as part of G Pub, a dining and entertainment venue. Founder Jeremy Quaglia has been honing his craft for many years, however, finding inspiration in seasonality and experimenting with various flavors. High Limb produces multiple series, from the Core ciders, a collection of unfiltered ciders like the OG and Honeypot; to the Noble series, paying homage to traditional fermentation of cider and wine; and the more limited Batch series. The Freshly Baked series is a line of dessert ciders including Blueberry Crumble and Dutch Apple Crisp. If you visit the cidery in person, you may even find some taproom exclusives.

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