A Groundbreaker in Belfast
At Perennial Cider Bar and Farm Kitchen, Khristopher Hogg raises the flag for cider culture
Given the thirst for fermented beverages and the ubiquity of apple trees in New England, it surprises me to learn that the region’s first cider bar opened just last April in Maine. Perennial Cider Bar and Farm Kitchen offers more than 24 ciders, many from Maine and most from the Northeast, in a snug, subterranean space on Main Street in Belfast with a long copper bar and an exposed stone wall. When I visit on a late August morning, owner Khristopher Hogg greets me wearing work clothes and rubber boots, fresh from pressing cider on the Swanville homestead where he lives with his wife, Lizzie Hogg, and their eight-month-old son, Pippin. Khristopher, who is also Perennial’s chef and curator of its cider list, is excited about the delivery of the season’s first boxes of heirloom apples—Pomme d’Or, Peach of Montreal, Duchess, and tiny Centennial—which he will serve with local cheeses or use in dishes he cooks in the simple kitchen that’s fully visible behind the bar.
Before settling in Maine, the Hoggs lived in Lizzie’s native Northwest. There they discovered Capitol Cider, the first cider bar in Seattle. “I was fascinated; I had no idea cider could taste like that,” says Khristopher. By the time they were ready to move across the country, he had made up his mind to open a cider bar, where the food and drink go hand in hand. With the exception of the organic cooking oil, everything on his plates is locally sourced and organic.
As Khristopher is setting up ciders for me to taste (the tasting glasses are arranged in a handmade local-applewood box), one of Khristopher’s cider suppliers, Justin Glover, comes down the stairs with a delivery. Glover and his partner, Laura Sieger, make cider under the label Bent Bough in Newburgh, using 100-percent foraged fruit. The ciders on the menu at Perennial are made with heirloom and wild varieties—sometimes upwards of 50 blended in one batch. The first cider I taste, Farnum Hill Dooryard Blend #1901 from New Hampshire, is clean and elegant, almost like a dry white wine. Khristopher encourages neophytes to start with this cider because it has inspired so many of the current crop of cidermakers. Next is Bent Bough, an unfiltered cider with just a hint of sweetness from being conditioned in the bottle with maple syrup. High Ridge Feet on the Ground cider from Montville is a bit acidic for me, but the “funky” Rocky Ground Cider Flora and Fauna #1, which Khristopher introduces by saying, “If you like sour beers you’re going to like this one,” is tart and delicious (and I don’t like sour beers). Only 120 bottles of this cider were produced, so the chance of my tasting it again is slim, but there’s much more cider territory to explore on my next visit to Belfast.