Step Up to the Cider Saloon, and Taste them All!

A few selections of hard cider from the Cider Saloon, at the Arts Block on Friday night.
A few selections of hard cider from the Cider Saloon, at the Arts Block on Friday night.

I never knew how much people in the Valley loved cider until I showed up at the Arts Block to see a long line of imbibers waiting at the cider saloon.  It was one of the busiest nights of the venue’s life, packed upstairs and down, with all sorts of cider-related activities and even a taco bar hosted by the friendly couple who owns Greenfield’s best cafe, The Brass Buckle.

There was draught cider from Uncle John’s Fruit House in Michigan, a barrel-aged cider with six months of fermenting and maturing in oak casks from Carr’s Cider House in Hadley, a Gold Rush bittersweet variety from Herefordshire England (apparently the most popular but not my type!) , tart Pippin cider from West County cider and many more.

Outside a cider press crushed apples and lasses  carried out free samples to enjoy. Downstairs in the Wheelhouse, a highlight was a group with two sweet young women singers one of whom played ukelele, their sound was lovely and the crowd loved them.  Later on though, it got really exciting when the headliner Bright Lines burst on the stage with a handsome lead singer plucking a sweet banjo.  The energy of the room was amazing, and even though most of the songs sounded very similar, it was a wonderful old timey sound that everyone danced to and enjoyed.

JC Hairston and Anika Balconis, the proprietors of the Brass Buckle, served fish, chicken and beef tacos and I got a chance to ask them about their popular cafe. I wanted to know where the women pictured on the walls of their bathroom is, she famous for being a blonde herpetologist. “That’s my mom,” JC said. He grew up in Brownsville Texas and that’s where she learned her snake handling.  Anika told me they tasted about twenty different coffees before deciding to carry Atomic Coffee from Beverly. “Their espresso was just so good, and they also care about the quality of their decaf too,” she explained.