Farm-to-table dinners, hosted by celebrity chefs around the world and the most renowned chefs in the state, served around a 26-foot-tall Argentinian grill.
Festivals, garnering up to thousands of visitors, featuring menus spotlighting the best ingredients of the season.
Zumba, forest walks, meditation and planter workshops.
Nope, this events calendar isn’t from the local co-working space, downtown plaza or empty venue. It’s from the state’s arguably most popular hard cidery.
Ironbound Farm, the 108-acre home of Ironbound Hard Cider, has had a packed-to-the-brim events calendar since its grand opening party three years ago. Since COVID-19, major events have been tapped out here, but that doesn’t mean the farm has been empty. Attendance boomed during the summer and fall of last year, said founder Charles Rosen.
“We were busier than we ever had been as a tasting room, and we gained a presence as a safe, socially-distanced outdoor dining destination throughout our area and beyond,” he said. “We’ve still seen an increase in attendance throughout 2021, and as we head into the fall, the numbers are still climbing.”
That wasn’t without some serious strategizing. After the farm had to shelve its entire planned 2020 calendar, Rosen and his team got to work reimagining the farm’s business model.
Ice cream delivery, selling outdoors:How NJ businesses adapted to survive COVID-19
Ironbound Farm sold its produce, meat, cider and other products to-go and created a farm market. It then created its cider garden for outdoor table service, which drew visitors well into the winter as people bundled up around firepits, drank mulled cider and made s’mores while enjoying winter menu items like chili and Belgian waffles.
It also expanded its food menu to better showcase farm ingredients, developed a line of cider and wine cocktails and grew production of to-go items, like turkey liver mousse topped with a cherry burdock cider jelly, sauces, salsas and bone broths.
“Although the pandemic really hurt our business — both on-site and sales to restaurants and bars throughout the state — it also gave us the opportunity to re-imagine the business and how we could better connect with our community moving forward,” Rosen said. “We have live music which has drawn a crowd of its own, and we’re still busier than we ever were in the past, even with our big weekend events.”
Local accolades:Ironbound Hard Cider named one of country’s top cideries by Yelp
This fall, Ironbound Hard Cider is continuing to expand its food menu, which now features hearty fall offerings with farm ingredients like a pulled pork sandwich, roasted beet salad and polenta special topped with either farm ratatouille or gumbo.
Its also focusing on an upcoming limited edition specialty cider release and live music, performed at its outdoor stage Fridays 5 to 8 p.m. and Sundays noon to 3 p.m.
Ironbound Farm isn’t the only hard cidery ready to serve a taste of fall to those looking for an autumn destination for live music, country views and local eats. Here’s what’s happening at other Garden State hard cideries this season.
Armageddon Cidery, Somerdale
Cider maker Christian Annese of Somerdale and his partners opened the doors to Armageddon Brewing LLC in Somerdale on Jan. 31, 2020, barely getting the taps flowing before COVID-19 struck.
South Jersey’s first craft cidery is located in an industrial park, just steps away from Flying Fish Brewing Co. Armageddon added outdoor seating during the COVID-19 lockdown, so visitors can now choose to sit at picnic tables under string lights or try flights of cider in the tasting room, where Annese shares his experience growing a pilot apple orchard and brewing core and seasonal hard ciders.
The cidery also offers mead (13% ABV), an ancient honey-based drink, on tap and in 500-milliliter bottles to-go. The tasting room has an 11-tap system, eight for cider and three for mead. Mead offerings include coffee, strawberry-rhubarb (inspired by Annese’s mom’s pie) and a traditional orange blossom mead.
Annese is overseeing a production scale-up which will allow the cidery to offer its products to local restaurants, he said. That has held up the pumpkin cider, but it will be on tap in time for Halloween. Cider lovers will also find core and rotating brews including raspberry, blueberry, tart cherry (spiced with blood orange peel) and pineapple-cinnamon ciders. Ciders are available by the glass and to-go in crowlers.
“We also have hopped cider,” he said, “and we have a sour cider on tap, a Spanish Basque sour-style cider, as a spontaneous fermentation – sometimes it comes out like vinegar, and sometimes it comes out really good.’’
Missing summer already? You can look forward to blueberry lemon cider, blackberry cider and a Jersey peach cider hopped with Citra hops for a highly carbonated pour. Craving a more autumn sip? Go for the cranberry-rosemary.
While Armageddon does not host on-site events, the cidery has begun to show up at area events such as Sippin’ on Station in Haddon Heights and Glassboro Beer Fest. You will find them at Witchcraft in Hammonton on Oct. 16, a beer festival coming from organizers of the A.C. Beer Fest.
Go: 900 Chestnut Ave., Suite J, Somerdale (in Cooper Towne Center); 856-599-5214; armageddon-brewing.com.
Beach Bee Meadery, Long Branch
Looking to try something fresh and new? Beach Bee Meadery in Long Branch is releasing a slew of seasonal meads and ciders to tantalize your taste buds all fall.
Beach Bee just released their turmeric-based Autumn Spice and soon, they’ll release a Pumpkin Pie mead; their Strong Currant Reserve, which is made with black currants, Zambian wildflower honey and aged in red wine barrels for a year; and their Strawberry Banana mead, which was aged in rum barrels.
If classic cider is more your fall go-to, Beach Bee just released their Peach Cobbler cider and will be canning their Fall Spice cider, a dry cider aged in allspice berries, cinnamon and nutmeg, soon. Cranberry Cinnamon cider is also coming this fall.
Curtis Blodgett, co-owner of the meadery, said while they are not planning on attending any festivals, they have been doing several farmers markets, including one in Scotch Plains every Saturday, and in Marlboro once a month.
“We have it geared up to have a great fall with great fall releases coming out, on the cider and the mead side. We got our fire tables outside, so it makes it a really cool atmosphere,” said Blodgett. “And, we have great music too, both inside and outside. We always love having people over.”
Go: 89 Long Branch Ave., Long Branch; 732-403-3558; beachbeemeadery.com
Burnt Mills Cider, Bedminster
Drive by Burnt Mills Cider on Route 206 during pretty much any sunny weekend and the one-year-old cidery’s popularity is hard to miss. Cars regularly fill the lot, with parking spilling onto the highway.
When it comes to activities, the hard cidery’s green, open field is a blank slate. Crowds of up to 200 people — including everyone from couples to families to groups of friends — come with their Frisbees, dogs, blankets and chairs. Onsite, there is a 1,000-square-foot tasting room and about a dozen picnic tables.
This season, find food trucks such as Testo Pizza, Angry Archies, Revolution Taco and Cousins Maine Lobster every Friday 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 12-6 p.m. Live music is also often on the calendar, with performers including acoustic bands and bluegrass groups.
Plus, you can currently get “apple pie in a glass,” as its description says, with the Fall Spice cider. It was released for the second season in early September and will be on tap through the end of the year. For the first time, it’s now also available canned. Another seasonal cider will also soon be available — hopefully before mid-October, said cidery owner John Coates — that will be a “revamp” of the Jersey Red, featuring fresh cranberries and spices, in celebration of the Far Hills Race Meeting.
The Pottersville Volunteer Fire Company will also host a cookout on Sat., Oct. 16 12-6 p.m. to raise money for the fire company. The free-admission, family-focused event will offer hamburgers, hot dogs and other fare, and all proceeds will go to the company. Ten percent of the cidery’s proceeds that day will also go towards the company.
Go: 3540 Route 206, Bedminster; 908-781-6000, burntmillscider.com.
Jackalope Cider House, Berlin
A new cidery taproom is coming to this township early next year. Husband-and-wife duo Nikki and Scott Golden plan to bring their hard cider with flavor profiles like cranberry and peach to White Horse Pike.
“One thing that we’re really excited about that we really want to bring is… English ciders … it’s something that I don’t think a lot of people have really had exposure to,” Nikki said. “There’s a lot of folks that don’t really care for beer, or maybe they want to try something different. So, we really want to provide a taproom experience but with cider.”
The couple started making their own cider because they couldn’t find one they liked. Their in-house operation grew, so they decided to use their passion and skills to start a business.
Eventually, they plan to host live music, trivia nights and other events at the micro-cidery.
Jackalope Cider House will be at the Berlin Fall Festival to meet the community and sell merchandise on Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Berlin Park and West Broad Avenue.
Go: 328 South White Horse Pike, Berlin; facebook.com/JackalopeCider.
Tomasello’s Winery, Mount Holly, Hammonton and various locations
Tomasello has been crafting its own Artisan Orchard Cider line for about five years and offers three different flavors: Artisan Orchard Hard Cider, Artisan Orchard Hard Pineapple Cider and Artisan Orchard Hard Strawberry Mango Cider.
All of the tasting rooms carry the hard ciders which can be included in tasting experiences or purchased by the bottle ($9.95) in-store and online.
Tomasello has locations in Hammonton, Jobstown, Mount Holly, Winslow Township, Smithville, Freehold, Lambertville, Cranford, Chester and Wyckoff.
There are plenty of fall events to attend at the various locations.
The Hammonton vineyard is hosting an Harvest Opera Gala on Oct. 17 at 225 North White Horse Pike at 2 p.m. for $80 per person. Held in the Vintner’s Room, it features fine wines, “elegantly prepared” cuisine and thoughtfully-selected operatic arias. The music is complemented by a four-course meal prepared by the executive chef who pairs his creations with Tomasello’s wines.
Johnson’s Locust Hall Farm in Jobstown hosts “Nights on the Farm” on Oct. 23 from 6-9 p.m. at 2691 Monmouth Road with live music, gourmet food trucks, wine by the bottle, lawn games, picnic space and farm market shopping. It will also host a Farm to Table Dinner on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. with the chefs of Toscano Ristorante, featuring a curated five-course farm-to-table dinner and live music in a farm setting.
The Smithville site will host an Irish Festival Oct. 9-10 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at 615 East Moss Mill Road with live music, food and children’s activities. On Oct. 23-24 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., it will host a Monster Bash & Witch’s Day Out. Here, find “scary good deals,” autographs from horror queen Genoveva Rossi, live bands, food, pumpkin carving and a costume contest.
The Cranford location at 109 Walnut Avenue has Autumn Sounds on Saturdays from 6-8 p.m., featuring live music from local artists. The Dave Easton band performs on Oct. 16; Band of Strays performs on Oct. 23 and The Zoos perform on Oct. 30.
Go: 225 N White Horse Pike, Hammonton; 800-666-9463; tomasellowinery.com.