The farm has used those apples in unpasteurized apple cider since 2007. Two-and-a-half years ago Jim posted what he thought was an inane question on a beer forum: pasteurized or unpasteurized cider? The response heavily favored the latter. Before he knew it, visitors were flocking to the farm to buy the cider by the gallon with the intention of brewing hard cider with it.
“Before I knew it I had more apples than I knew what to do with, and then I had more cider than I knew what to do with,” Morrison says. He figured hard cider was the next step, and for two-and-a-half years he worked on a formula for one he would enjoy for himself.
Morrison began brewing five gallons at a time. And then something clicked. “One day it just dawned on me,” he recalls. “Just like the maple syrup and everything else I’ve done on the farm, why don’t I just do this on a bigger scale?” After two years of work, a 20-barrel tank entered the brewing process.
“It was a big jump going from a 5-gallon carboy to a 20-barrel fermentation tank,” Morrison says with a laugh.
After another six months and he was able to create what he wanted—a semi-sweet cider his wife named Yellow Belly, a play on the farm’s name and the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker woodpecker.
“I may just be a simple guy with simple tastes, but I wanted something I enjoyed drinking,” Morrison says. “I wanted there to be no doubt that it was coming from apples, not an anonymous, sugary taste, but also have an appropriate kick to it.”
His take is resonating with cider lovers. “It’s been selling like crazy,” Morrison said. “We didn’t expect it. I learned in life to try and not count on too much, but you can certainly hope. But it was well received.
“One store called up and said, ‘We have a problem with your cider,’” he continues. “I was like, ‘Oh, no. What happened?’ I’m just feeling sick to my stomach. And they said, ‘It’s all sold out! We need ten more cases.’”
In a way, Yellow Belly has become a circuitous journey to Jim’s childhood, back to that first sip of apple cider.
“It all goes back to those days,” Morrison says. “It’s like listening to a song that you heard when you were a teenager; it puts you right back. You can see the place you were at. All your senses are reminded of what it was like, and it’s very much that kind of a thing for me.”
After achieving such a lofty goal with his cider, Morrison will continue to brew it with the hope of adding another flavor next year if the market demands it. As for adding anything else, the family is content—and busy enough—with what the farm already has. But they just never know.
“I think this will be as far as I go, but I’ve said that before,” Morrison admits. “This [hard cider] will keep me interested and very busy. There’s a lot to learn and that’s what excites me—I’m just beginning.”