LOCKE — The barn adjacent to Grisamore Farms' store is an aromatic laboratory for hard cider. There's a small press at one corner of the room that Simon Ingall, owner of Grisamore Cider Works, made for small batches of his hard cider. At the opposite end of the barn is the family farm's large cider press that makes about 150 gallons in an hour.
There's a plastic barrel, filled with cider mixed with bits of ginger, that Simon and his brother Jesse are still testing. And in the middle of the barn is an oak barrel filled with cider — another experiment in the works.
Sectioned off by strips of plastic is Grisamore Farms' cold storage room stacked high with apples of all varieties — some better for eating, some better for pressing into hard cider. This is where the apple smell that is faint throughout the barn comes from, and it is so fragrant inside the room that it wraps one's clothes and hair in a fruity perfume.
Having grown up on the farm in Locke, Simon and Jesse know a lot about the pome family of fruit. They know even more since Simon moved back to the area after a decade stint in New York City and started up the new hard cider business. The 31-year-old has been experimenting and taste-testing for years, finally releasing his first four hard ciders Nov. 22.
"I found something that I really like to do here," Simon said about moving back. "There are so many different fruits and vegetables that we sell here, but I've found one that really has called to me. I really enjoy picking apples. I really enjoy making cider."
The idea to start up his own business didn't start at home. It was when Simon was in the city working as a professional photographer that he and his friends tried making beer. When friends suggested Simon try making cider with some of his family farm's apples, things started to click.
Grisamore Farms already makes sweet apple cider, but once the fall season is over, the store shuts down and the press goes quiet. With the support of the family, Simon moved to Lansing with his wife and son, started a job at Cornell University's Olin Library digitizing rare materials, and after more than a year, got both his state and federal license to make and sell booze.
Now the press runs even after the farm's store has closed up shop — and more of the family's apples are put to use.
Jesse, who hopes to become Simon's official partner someday, has helped his older brother with the operation, picking apples in the orchard together while discussing new flavors and names for the ciders.
"I love working here, and this is another thing we can do together," the 25-year-old said.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, Jesse packed his bags and flew to the United Kingdom to work as an apprentice at Cam Valley Orchards. Their father, Tim Ingall, is from across the pond, and Simon had worked at the orchard for a few weeks in 2014.
"It's important to get hands-on experience from lots of different places," Simon said.
The first batch the brothers have released will likely not stick around for next year. Simon said the weather impacts how apples taste. Between that and his experimentation with blends using fresh ginger, raspberries or blueberries, three of their current four kinds of hard cider may be swapped out for something new.
The one staple Simon plans to make each year is called Alice. Named after the family's former pet cow, Alice was originally destined for the family's dinner table until the children started to play with her. Though she passed away, Grisamore Cider Works' labels don her image.
Simon described the cider as more apple-y, and blended with yeast that gives it a peachy taste.
The three other ciders are 24.4², named after the number of square miles in Locke; Dan's Crabs, named after a neighbor who gave the brothers his foraged wild crab apples; and Fillmore, named after the 13th president of the United States, who grew up in a log cabin down the road in Moravia. Simon said he's received some complaints over some of his name choices, but he brushes it off.
"It doesn't need to be so serious," he said. "It's just alcohol, and we want to have fun with it."
For now, Simon is selling his cider by appointment. He's hoping to open a store and tasting room on the second floor of Grisamore Farms someday. He also plans to distribute his cider for others to sell, maybe even to places in New York City where, he said, people have no idea how they get their cider.
"There's a lot of young people coming back to the farms to make cider, to make beer," Simon said. "I hope we can get that kind of excitement back."