Lookout Farm Brewing and Cidery
As I’ve stated before, I am loving the craft beer and distillery renaissance. Another type of alcoholic beverage having a resurgence is hard ciders. Ciders have a long tradition in New England. The soil here is less than ideal for farming wheat. Really, the rocks in the ground give birth to more rocks. Boulders lie everywhere on steep hillsides that are only traversable half the year. I cannot imagine being an early settler and having to try to clear stones and trees to create arable land. Fortunately, apple trees were (and continue to be) abundant. Serious Eats reports that, “by the mid 18th century, the average Massachusetts citizen was consuming 35 gallons of cider a year. [President] John Adams supposedly drank a tankard of cider every morning to settle his stomach.” If cider was good enough for our second president, a few steins every once in a while are good enough for me.
Off the Mass Pike, about 30 minutes outside of downtown Boston, lies bucolic Natick, Massachusetts. Well, some of Natick is rural and charming, other parts border the busy death strip of Route 9 and foist you into the maze of stores and streets around the Natick Collection - do NOT call it the Natick Mall. Avoid this area. Instead drive a couple miles south of the hellscaped thunderdome driving that is Route 9 and turn your car into Lookout Farm Brewing and Cidery. Established in 1651 - yes, that’s correct - 1651, this is one of America’s oldest working farms. With over 65,000 hand pruned trees on their 180 acre orchard, growing 29 varieties of apples, Lookout Farm provides an awe inspiring standard in farm to table alcohol consumption.
Fortunately, Lookout Farm has built a considerably sized tap room for your alcohol consumption. There is also a generous outside patio with picnic tables and a view of the farm. The farmhouse chic tasting space, with an expansive bar, large tables and a heated tent area with additional tables and cornhole is the perfect relaxing way to spend an afternoon with friends. A reasonably priced menu of bar food: french fries, chicken tenders, hot dogs and flatbreads is available as well as six beers and four hard ciders (at least when we were visiting - taps rotate). We chose to start with a fair priced $7.50 cider flight, trying all four of the ciders available (a 4 beer flight is $8).
First up was the ‘Hop up’ cider made with mosaic and el dorado hops. Although neither my husband or I are fans of anything described as very hoppy or bitter, this cider was actually pretty refreshing. The sweetness of the cider counteracted the bitterness of the hops. While it definitely wasn’t my favorite cider I tried at Lookout Farm, it would be an excellent cider for a beer drinker who wants to branch into ciders or someone who doesn’t savor an overly sweet cider. Our next choice, in homage to powerhouse 80’s girl group, The Go-Gos, was “We got the beet”, a rosey pink hued beet apple cider made with beet, pepper and lemon. My husband was very hesitant about this one but we both really enjoyed it. The beet gave the cider a crisper edge accompanied by a slight lemon tartness that prevented any cloyingness that accompanies some ciders.
Next was the Barn Burner Habanero Pepper cider. You could smell the habanero pepper wafting out of the glass before taking a sip. Based on the spicy smell I was expecting a liquified version of hell night and was ecstatic when my tongue did not spontaneously combust. The Barn Burners’ bark is worse than its bite. The cider has a sweet start with a throat tickle finish. There are definitely pepper notes at the end but it wasn’t overwhelming or uncomfortable to drink, however, my husband found it more piquant than me. I would start with a sample before plunging into a glass.
The winner for me was the Original Farmhouse cider. Semi-sweet with robust, dry apple notes and a tart finish. Light and crisp, it would pair perfectly with a cheese and charcuterie board. Highly drinkable, the Original Farmhouse is appropriate for all seasons.
I’m looking forward to a return trip to Lookout Farm, as evidently they have a tremendous Strawberry cider during summer months. The space, location and laid back attitude makes Lookout Farm an easy drive but a world away from bustling Boston. Next time you decide to brave the ‘Mario Cart ain’t got nothing on me’ Route 9 experience and the never ending parking lot of the Natick Mall, er... Collection, make the short drive to Lookout Farm for some exceptional relaxation paired with exceptional ciders.