ALBION—Right on the border of Freedom, Maine, an old dairy farm converted to an orchard is the site of the newly opened Freedom’s Edge Cider, a cidery and tasting room that opened to the public Saturday, October 2, drawing more than 200 people.
Friends and brothers-in-law Ned Ervin and Andy Kaplan have created this venture pledging a lot of hard work, humor, and a sense of community purpose along the way.
For Ervin, whose family hails from Waterville, creating this business was a natural progression from his longtime hobby as a homebrewer and a hard cider maker. In 2016, while working in New York City, both Ervin and Kaplan decided to leave their hedge fund careers, and move back to Maine for a simpler way of life. Not to say that the physical output of pressing tons of apples and crafting good hard cider is any easier, but for both men, it was a much more satisfying venture they could do with their families and share with the community.
“We were looking for something to do that was well suited to the state of Maine,” said Ervin. “And making cider was a great expression of what Central Maine had to offer. Once we decided to give this idea a go, Andy traveled to upstate New York and immersed himself in a course at Cornell in cider-making.”
Initially, the duo operated out of a tiny garage operation in Belgrade, and in only a few years, has built up their brand to being the best-selling cider in the on-premise segment in Central and Northern Maine. Freedom’s Edge Cider is available on tap or in cans at more than 120 bars in Maine.
The dairy farm they purchased has been converted into an orchard with a 2,000 square-foot producing facility inside a red barn and an outdoor 13 x 50-foot tasting room attached to the barn with a covered overhang.
Last spring, they planted nearly 1,500 apple trees of different varieties. But since the majority of their trees will still take a year or two to produce, Ervin and Kaplan have sourced their apples from nearby orchards in Central Maine, focusing on McIntosh, Cortland, Gala, Northern Spy, Fameuse, Liberty, Baldwin, Dabinett, Newtown Pippin, Spartan, along with some wild seedlings.
Good hard cider depends on a blend of different apples, from dessert apples to bittersweet cider apples.
“They give the cider all of the body, mouthfeel, and tannins, you associate with hard cider,” said Andy. “We’re growing the bittersweet apples because they’re really hard to find in Maine. Almost no one grows them anymore.”
During the week, they work with several presses, using the help of their families and kids, to make their small-batch cider and then age it for four to six months in stainless steel tanks.
Three blends that they offer right now commercially include the Original Blend, a semi-dry, a Redfield Rosé, which is made from a special apple with red flesh, so it comes out pink, and a Sweet Mullet, a cheeky play on a sweeter cider with mulled spice, perfect for the fall.
It’s the perfect time of year to take long drives in the countryside to take in the changing foliage and end up at a tasting room that overlooks the 90 acres of fields, woods, and orchards. But, they’re only open on Saturdays for now.
“We’ll have six rotating taps for people to sample as well as (bottled or canned) ciders people can purchase,” said Kaplan. “Out beyond are a bunch of picnic tables with a fire pit and we’ll have some lawn games such as horseshoes and cornhole as well as cribbage.”
Directions to get to the farm: 420 Quaker Hill Rd in Albion, at the intersection of Barnes Road, about two miles off Route 137.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org