- November 6, 2017
- April 13, 2017
Bantam Cider Company
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Admit it: When you think of hard cider, what comes to mind is saccharine sweetness—a boozy version of the Martinelli’s you enjoyed as a kid. But Dana Masterpolo and Michelle da Silva believed this beverage had the potential to be far more complex and sophisticated, with just as much nuance as craft beer. They proved that hunch to be true when they launched Bantam Cider Company in 2012, just two years after they began experimenting with making cider at home.
Nowadays, the Somerville cidery boasts beverages to satisfy lovers of dry, sweet, smoky, hoppy or funky alike, almost all of them made with apples from Massachusetts farms.
It all began with Wunderkind. Numerous batches testing different apple varieties and yeast strains were required, but the effort was well worth it: The ultra-crisp flagship cider remains a fan favorite perhaps in part because it’s so versatile, easily enjoyed solo or paired with cheeses and desserts. Bright, effervescent, and laced with flower-blossom honey, it could almost stand in for champagne.
Bantam’s other ciders are worth sipping on, too. Semi-dry Rojo, launched a year after Wunderkind, is aged with sour cherries for a distinct tartness plus black peppercorns for a savory-spicy kick. Masterpolo tells us that The Americain, a farmhouse style brewed with Persian spices, started as a small-batch trial—but became a long-term fixture following massive success in the taproom. Brimming with cinnamon, clove, and cardamom, it tastes like apple pie in a glass. La Grande clocks in with the highest ABV of the bunch (6.9 percent). It’s part of Bantam’s special series of unfiltered blends aged in bourbon and rum barrels.
In addition to the year-round collection, Bantam offers seasonal varieties. The limited-edition Smoked Saison is made with apples that are slowly roasted until they caramelize and fermented with a Belgian saison yeast. Earthy, sweet and smoky all at the same time, it’s the kind of cider you want in hand at a fall campfire or a summer barbecue.
The production facility and tap room—located just outside Union Square—share space in an open layout, so while you’re sampling different varieties you’ll see fermenting tanks and aging barrels. The industrial-yet-elegant taproom is relatively small (1,300 square feet) and there’s no seating, but no one seems to mind hovering around long, communal tables nibbling on mason jars full of complimentary pretzel sticks (the only food served on-site).
Eight ciders are on tap at all times, including four that rotate to feature seasonal or small-batch blends. Savvy cider drinkers will order a flight—sampling five different selections for just $10 (pro tip: a Yelp check-in gets you one more for free). The best part? Flights are served gradually, in courses. Hello spontaneity, goodbye awkwardly large flight board.
Purchase Wunderkind, Rojo, and Americain on-site in bottles and cans, or take home growlers of any cider on tap (plus some swag; a growler and some glasses makes a nice gift for the cider lover in your life). When your take-home supply has dwindled, spot Bantam’s products at restaurants and bars around the Boston area (The Independent, Back Bar, Sarma, Saloon, Red Bones, Cambridge Brewing Company, Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, B&G Oysters, Stephie’s on Newbury and Tremont, and The Salty Pig).
Annual events here include an oyster shucking competition in the summer and a cheese-and-charcuterie shindig in the fall. Bantam has also organized food pairing parties, spin and yoga classes, and even Friday evening runs. Beyond that, the cidery has been known to host wedding rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, corporate outings, and team events, too.