Downeast's Cider House Tour
The rain was coming down outside, and the sun was obscured by clouds. With outdoor activities having been rendered impractical, it was the perfect day to spend inside and learn about cider making while imbibing the very substance. Being Boston based, we naturally made our way to the city’s best known cidery, Downeast.
Situated in Eastie along the waterfront, Downeast’s taproom and production facility is located in a large warehouse. When you enter the building, the taproom is situated to your right, illuminated by twinkle lights strung from above. A wall of barrels comprises the back of the bar, with the middle row of barrels bearing the names of the current ciders on draft. There are a few tables located in front of the bar where you can sit and sample their ciders. Beyond the bar to the right are large, metallic fermenting tanks, and to the left of the taproom are stacks upon stacks of empty cans and kegs.
Once the tour began, our guide led our group, which included four people aside from ourselves, to a large wooden table located directly in front of the fermenting tanks. In front of each seat on the table was a complimentary flight of four of their ciders: Original Blend, Drier Side, Double Blend, and Summer Blend. One by one, our guide described each cider, talking about the apples and other ingredients, as well as the inspiration for each blend. After his brief description, we then drank our sample of the respective cider. It was very low key; we were able to ask our guide questions and talk amongst ourselves. More importantly, it never felt like we were being rushed to finish drinking our ciders so we could move on to the next phase of the tour. We were allowed to take our time and enjoy the ciders.
After about 15 minutes, once everyone had finished their flights, we headed upstairs to the office space, where we sat down in an employee break room and learned more about the history of the company, including how and why it came to be. We also sampled the non-alcoholic cider that is used as the base for each of their hard ciders, and we got to meet/pet the office dog, Rhonda (she was a sweetie).
Next, we moved into the adjacent room, which was the cidery’s lab. This is where they test out new flavors, as well as perform quality control tests. To get a feel for the type of work done in the lab, we each completed a tetrad test. This test involved being given four samples of ciders, two of which were samples of one cider and two of another. Our task was to identify the cider pairs by tasting and smelling the ciders. Ramsay was spot on with his guesses – me not so much (I’m going to blame it on my allergies :P). Our guesses, which we had written down on paper, were collected by our guide, who said that the lab actually used visitors’ answers as quality control data. After our tetrad test, we stayed in the lab and sampled four more ciders: Aloha Friday (a pineapple-infused cider), Drier Side: Hopped Grapefruit, Hard Arnold (a taproom exclusive blend of cider, decaffeinated tea, and lemonade), and Cranberry (which sadly is no longer being made).
After finishing our samples, we headed back downstairs to view some of the equipment and learn more about how the cider is made and canned. We were also shown the giant refrigeration room where they store all of their ciders waiting to be distributed. Shortly after that, the tour ended, and Ramsay and I made our way back to the taproom to purchase a four pack of the Summer Blend and some glasses to take home.
All in all, it was a great time. The tour was fun and informative, and being that it was free, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of samples that we received. As a big dog person, I was also a fan of the fact that Downeast has an office dog. We’ll definitely return to the taproom in the future to sample new taproom exclusives, and perhaps next time we have family or friends visiting, we’ll take them on the tour.