Al Snape, the owner and founder of Far From The Tree, believes New England can have a hard cider that is distinct from the rest of the world. Like wine, hard cider offers distinct tastes from region to region, country to country. New England, though, does not yet have its own cider taste. From the way it seems, with their recently acquired 120-acre apple orchard, Salem’s Far From The Tree might become the New England cider.
Far From The Tree is not the first craft cider company to own an orchard; several mom-and-pop cider makers produce their cider from their backyards. That said, Far From The Tree is onto something a little different. Besides being able to grow their own apples specifically for hard cider, the long-term plan is to build a satellite tasting room right on the orchard. The orchard, which is located in the semi-remote town of Acton, Maine, won’t just be used to grow the company’s apples, says Snape. The hope is that someday the patrons of Far From The Tree will be able to explore the land, make their way to the tasting room, try out a few ciders, and actually camp right there on the orchard, avoiding the need for a long drive home. The whole thing, Snape says, will be educational for people—to help them understand the differences between apples grown specifically for hard cider and those grown for picking and eating.
Up until this point, Far From The Tree has received apples from orchards throughout Massachusetts, all of which were grown for straightforward eating purposes. With the orchard in Maine, Snape himself will be planting, growing, pruning, and splicing apple trees specifically for hard cider. The apples that most craft cider companies use—Far From The Tree included, currently—are not of a low quality by any means, but for the most part, the control of the apple growing is out of the crafter’s hands. Many hard ciders are flavored with certain yeasts or fruits or herbs to give them their unique flavor profile, but a lot of the time the apples themselves are only a starting point, the baseline for a funky drink. None of that is to say Far From The Tree does not currently make wonderful-tasting drinks; the ever-popular Lei (a pineapple jalapeno cider) tastes like it was sourced from a lake of apples and pineapples, with sliced jalapenos floating atop it like lily pads.
But Al Snape wants more. He doesn’t want to use just those ingredients for a nuanced taste; he wants the apples to be the star of the show. The cider that will come from this orchard will be a purist’s cider. Snape says he doesn’t want someone to enjoy his cider just because it’s cold and carbonated. Beyond getting a response like “Wow, the watermelon here is great,” he wants someone to take a sip and say, “Wow, that’s a good apple,” which is something that, for Snape, is not common enough in American ciders.
Far From The Tree is essentially an avant-garde cider maker. They never shy away from experimentation when it comes to cider. There’s the aforementioned “Lei,” as well as “Patch” (strawberry basil), “Nova” (hopped cider), and “Apple of My Chai” (take a guess). And there have been (relative) failures, including a mushroom cider (brownish in color) and a squid ink cider. Mr. Snape also told us that “Ectoplasm”—a kiwi jalapeno bell pepper cider—will be available in cans and in the tasting room this September. All of it, it must be noted, is made with heart, and soon it will be made all by hand, and in-house (with their new canning machine).
Far From The Tree is a special place. The cider produced in Salem, the apples soon to be grown and hand-picked in Maine, and the speakeasy vibe of the tasting room come together from an almost après-garde appearance—at times, it seems as though Snape and Co. are moving away from typical manufacturing processes, away from the modern, easier way of doing things, and back to their roots, and that’s part of the risk of buying a 120-acre orchard. Snape is relying on savvy cider lovers to appreciate the nuances of a specially grown apple. All of this runs in contrast to the avant-garde product: the cider itself. Of course, that gap, that discrepancy between the old school and cutting edge, the après- and avant-garde, allows Far From The Tree to stand astride time, to become, in fact, timeless, which is the essence of all true art.
Far From The Tree Cider
108 Jackson St., Salem