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People enjoy hard cider varieties at Long View Ciderhouse at Rogers Orchards in Southington, Thursday, September 14, 2023. Dave Zajac, Record-Journal

Long View Ciderhouse at Roger's Orchards provides hard cider, great view  

Long View Ciderhouse at Roger's Orchards provides hard cider, great view  

SOUTHINGTON — Long View Ciderhouse at Roger's Orchards aims to wow you with hard ciders and great views.

“We’re very excited to be open and for people to enjoy our ciders and the space,” said Jeff Rogers, head cider maker and a member of the eight-generation farm family. 

The 36 Long Bottom Road property was a private family picnic spot for the Rogers family for generations. 

“My great grandfather would have after-church picnics up here, we’d do Christmas Eve, caroling and fire pits, and my brother built the deck many years ago,” Rogers said. “We had to bring it up to code, I redid the railings, took out the fire pit and added a wheelchair ramp.”

There is a nice panoramic photo on the deck of what the valley looked like in 1926.

“You really get a lay of the whole valley of Southington and Cheshire, and it’s pretty much an identical landscape but for the lack of all the farms,” Rogers added. “There's actually a lot more tree growth now that it’s gone suburb. It used to just be pasture so that’s pretty neat.”

Ellie Cyr, who was there Thursday with a few other people, said they appreciated this space being shared because they were never able to come out this far into the orchard for the view.

“The views are amazing and we absolutely love it here. The atmosphere is incredible,” she added. “There is nothing we would change about this spot. We can't wait to continue to come back here. We’re already planning weekends to bring our friends and families up.”

10 cider flavorsoffered

Guests can head to the tap truck next to the deck where they can order from a variety of 10 different hard cider flavors.

“There is a draft list and a bottle list,” Rogers said. “The draft list is more seasonal and actually a little more sweet because not all the sugar has fermented out of it. The bottle list is a little more complex and has a higher ABV (alcohol content) and has been aged a lot longer. That’s again why it’s more dry, because all that sugar has turned into alcohol.”

The bottle list includes Omija, Apple Pear Elderberry, Cherry Apple, Blueberry Apple and Homemade Apple Brandy. 

The draft list includes Farm Cider, Peach Apricot, Green Tea Peach and Apple Peel.

“One popular flavor so far is the Green Tea Peach, which is on draft now but will be in bottles soon. It has the tartness from green tea and is rounded out by the sweetness of peach,” Rogers said. “The Apple Pear Elderberry is another popular one. I’m really happy with that one; that was a very complex one to make. It was a combination of apple and pears aged in charred oak so you get that barrel flavor like a whiskey. But then I steeped it like you would steep tea leaves in a hot tea with dry elderberry so you get a lot of complex flavor from it.”

Joshua Ulmer, the owner and chef of Joshua Sea Food Truck that is parked on site, says that he’s tasted them all. 

“My favorite so far is the Green Tea one. It is amazing, so good,” he said.

Cyr had a flight of six: Farm Cider, Green Tea Peach, Apple Peel, Omija, Apple Pear Elderberry and Peach Apricot.

“I appreciated that none of them were overly sweet, they were very well-balanced and dry and you got the hints of the flavors that you were supposed to,” Cyr said. “My favorite was the Green Tea Peach.” 

Brandy ‘a liquidapple pie’

Rogers needed a distillery license to distill the ciders down to a spirit.

“So I distill them down to like a rum or in this case a brandy, an apple brandy,” Rogers added. “So we have a nice apple brandy available by shot. It tastes like a liquid apple pie, very sweet and very alcoholic.”

Rogers shared that all of their drinks can be pretty powerful with the lowest ABV (alcohol by volume) being 6% and highest being 8%.

“I like dry ciders so they’re all pretty dry, and a dry cider is pretty low-tech too,” Rogers said. “To keep sweetness in a cider, it takes some extra machinery and things like that, and we’re pretty low-tech right now so we don’t pasteurize, and we don’t douse it with any chemicals to keep the sweetness or anything like that. So we are pretty natural in that sense and very much inspired by natural wine.”

The cider house is attached to the Shuttle Meadow farm store. Cider is only sold there and not the Sunnymount location on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike.

“For the last 15 years or so, my brother and brother-in-law have been co-presidents of Rogers Orchards and they’ve been doing a fantastic job managing the farm,” Rogers said. “And I’ve always wanted to find a way to make it back to the farm, and find a way to add value to it.”

When Rogers discovered cider, he realized it could be his way to add something new and different utilizing second-grade apples produced on the farm. These are apples that have blemishes that make them tougher to sell but have nothing wrong with the taste. 

“This was also something I could bring, some artistry and creativity, too, in the sense of wine making,” he added. “My background is in the arts and I have recently been in a creative position sort of in media arts, filmmaking and photography in my education position. So it was always about being creative with things, problem solving, project management. So this felt like a good shift and all of the things that go into making a business design, the sheer amount of work.”

Jeff Rogers moves to the farm

Rogers was born in New Britain General Hospital (currently Hospital of Central Connecticut), but grew up on the farm in Southington. He spent some time at Flanders in Southington, went to schools in Middlefield and then went away for high school. He graduated from high school outside of Philadelphia and got a degree in photography from California Institute of the Arts.

After college Rogers lived in Los Angeles and in Korea, and he dabbled in photojournalism in the Middle East. He received his master’s in special education and general education from Bank Street College in New York and was teaching for the past 15 years. He lives in Southington.

Rogers decided in 2018 or 2019 that cider making is what he wanted to do. In the summer of 2021, he left his position in New York City and started working on the farm, putting things in motion.

“Our original plan was to build a cider house up here, which would have been a  building with a production space in the basement,” he explained. “We got as far as an architect, designs, contractor and quotes, but the quotes came back more than what we were willing to spend as a farm. We have never really been too much in debt, ever, and it’s really important for us to work within our means and never have to get in over our heads with lenders or anything like that. So we had to pivot to something different and this is what we came up with.”

The cider truck is a 1954 International Harvester.

“We bought it in Wolcott and our mechanic on the farm didn’t have to do much. He just tuned it up and it was ready to go, it actually runs and everything,” Rogers said. 

Rogers said that the construction of the truck was a really fun and creative process.

“We had a carpenter do the framing, sort of the bones of it, and then I’ve been busy in construction the past six months building it myself,” he explained. “It is a little more fashion over function, though. There is quite a challenge getting the kegs up to the back of it, but it works.”

The taps are built into the truck, and on the other side of the wall, there is a walk-in cooler where all the kegs are stored. 

“It was kind of a shock to the system since we opened that I was no longer in construction anymore and that I was managing a bar all of a sudden,” Rogers said. “It was a very different line of work I found myself in because before, it was all technical, making sure all the tap pressures are right, the truck gets certified with the health department and all the logistical things. And now it’s very much about keeping my bartenders and the customers happy and being a good host and making sure their cups are full.”

The Longview Cider House is a partnership between Jeff, his brother, his sister and her husband and their parents. The grand opening was on Sept. 1.

“The grand opening was exciting and was a hit, but it was kind of surreal,” Rogers said. “We had a lot of family and some friends from NYC come. And actually the person who taught me how to make cider came up from New York City, he was the art teacher at a French International school where we both used to work together. He's very well-versed in French-style ciders.” 

Guests can enjoy seating in a number of different areas around the space, including in front of the deck, pasture and under a tent.

“There were apricot trees where the tent is. Because they were still young, we were able to move many of them to a different orchard,” Rogers said. “The toughest part was taking down peaches and nectarine trees where the parking lot is. It wasn't fun to see the orchard turn into a parking lot, but it had to happen.”

Grab a bite to eat, too

There is also a food truck stationed at the site. 

“The one that is here tonight (Joshua Sea Food Truck) probably has the most spots on our calendar through the fall and is definitely worth a visit,” Rogers said. “He’s a serious chef and like a five-star restaurant on wheels; he’s the real deal. And that’s what we were hoping for, to attract food trucks that regularly show at Gastro Park in Hartford and really take their craft seriously. We want top quality on both sides.”

Joshua Sea Food Truck is owned by Ulmer.

“I am a young, inspired chef from New Jersey who moved to Manhattan and worked from places like Madison Square Garden in little French Bistros,” Ulmer said. “I met my wife in Manhattan, lived in Savannah where she got pregnant and moved to Connecticut where her family is.” 

Ulmer opened the truck about a month and a half ago and got connected with Jeff through mutual friends.

“We linked up and it’s been great ever since. It has been such a great time,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback. People have been having a great time and, I mean, you can’t beat this view. Kids are having a great time running around, parents could actually hang out and enjoy some hard cider, and you could have some great seafood as well.” 

Ulmer said that the two top dishes have been That Fish Life and the Seared Scallop Roll. 

“We try to keep things as local as possible,” he added. “I deal with local fishermen and farms.”

They will also be adding some fire pits as the weather gets colder, as well as movie nights.

“Our hours are currently set to align with our pick-your-own-apples right down the hill, which is going on from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Rogers said. “So it was really by design to bring customers in, maybe they come and buy apple cider donuts or pies or fruit at the store, maybe pick their own apples and finish the day here with some cider.”

Longview Cider House will be seasonal. They’ll be open until about mid-November, maybe doing some pop-ups during the winter, and then reopening in April.

“It has very much been fingers crossed because this is all new to me. I'm just figuring this all out as I go,” said Rogers. “But things have been going great. We had some bad weather last weekend, but the tent was full despite the rain.” 

Long View Ciderhouse at Roger's Orchards is open Thurday, 4-8 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Visit the website https://www.longviewcider.com/ or Facebook @LongviewCiderHouse or Instagram @longviewciderhouse.

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