BAR HARBOR — For the first time in more than 100 years, Maine farmers are making a living from growing apples.
The reason lies with the rebirth of interest in fermenting apples into hard cider, which has given rise to a cottage industry consisting of dozens of small cideries that are producing regional, European-style ciders. Though still in its infancy, Maine’s hard cider industry is expected to follow the robust growth trajectory of craft beer, and to diversify into the production of other types of alcoholic beverages, including spirits and brandy.
In the presentation, entitled “Apple Culture: What Microbes Can Teach Us About the History of Maine Craft Cider,” they will discuss the elements that go into giving each cider its unique flavor and aroma, including apples, yeasts, fermentation conditions, aging practices and terroir, a term referring to the natural environment — soil, topography and climate — in which apples are grown.
Café attendees will have the opportunity to sample regional hard ciders, to “meet the yeasts” under a microscope and even to learn how to culture their own wild yeasts. The café will be held at 5 p.m. in the Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation on the campus of the MDI Biological Laboratory, 159 Old Bar Harbor Road, Salisbury Cove.
He will also talk about efforts to identify, rescue and reestablish heirloom apples, especially the astringent varieties best for hard cider. His research has played a part in the establishment of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)’s Maine Heritage Orchard in Unity and to COA’s Down East Heirloom Orchard at the Peggy Rockefeller Farms on Norway Drive in Bar Harbor.
“There’s an enormous interest in heirloom apples,” says Siebold-Little, a self-described apple tracker with “tree radar.” “Every year, hundreds of Mainers bring apples from their heirloom trees to the MOFGA Common Ground Education Center for identification. For them, their apples are a palpable treasure that offer a direct connection to the past. They know they have something valuable.”
He will also discuss the role of the artisanal alcoholic beverage market in the preservation of some of the thousands of apple varieties that once thrived in Maine, as well as in the creation of new orchards consisting of heirloom varieties.
Hartig, who has a strong interest in science communications, will handle the science end of the program. She will discuss the role played by citizen science in tracking down heirloom apple varieties, the importance of genetics in identifying and tracing the origins of heirloom varieties and the diversity of yeasts and bacteria that give each regional cider its unique flavor.
Her talent for science communications has been a benefit to both the MDI Biological Laboratory, where she mentors high school and undergraduate students and helps teach courses, and to the larger community, where she has volunteered as a judge at the Maine State Science Fair, collaborated on science-related presentations with a local children’s theatre and actively promoted science on social media.
For information, please visit mdibl.org/events/ or call 288-3147.
About the MDI Biological Laboratory