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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

B.F. Clydes Cider Mill - Old Mystic

It's fall so and the leaves are turning and PSLs haven taken over the nation.  So, let's rave about some boozy cider and a historic cider mill.  Today we are talking about a mill in Old Mystic, the iconic Fall New England day trip, B.F. Clydes.

Oh, B.F. Clydes.  I had such high expectations for you.  I have heard so many amazing things about your boozy cider and oh-so-New-England vibe.  Here are my first impressions on my visit:  The cider was good (really good) and I loved the variety from normal cider, to alcoholic/fermented ciders, to fruit wines.  The setting cute and the history of the place makes it what it is.  You can purchase a variety of locally made goods from dressings to pickled eggs, and a variety of baked goods. 

But the reality was the customer service was awful, the whole operation crowded and confusing (and highly unorganized) and the apple cider donuts were a cold sad mushy interpretation of one of the best things about fall.  The weekends are a zoo and I am sure a trip mid-week would be much more inviting. So now that you have a quick overview,  let's discuss the good, the bad, and the 12% cider.

Clyde's Cider Mill is the oldest, and currently the only steam powered cider mill in the United States. B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill is also a National Historic Landmark established in 1881.  The cider mill is currently run by the 6th generation of Clydes.  You can see how the cider is made the same way B.F. Clyde did it in 1881. While other establishments use electric powered hydraulic presses, the Clyde's operation is run via a 'train like" steam powered engine. 

The steam engine "pumps metal shafts and rotates leather belts. The cast-iron and pine contraption resembles a giant vise that squeezes mashed apples into a liquid that is then funneled into bottles and sold immediately (as the soft stuff) or piped into charcoal-lined wooden casks and aged with a yeast and sugar (if it's destined to be alcoholic.)".

True classic old school hard ciderright here in Connecticut.  

First thing you will notice is that Clyde's is in, well, a weird spot.  You take a turn, drive through a residential area and bam, you start to see the line of cars parked on the road to get to Clydes.  The parking lot is small and parking is limited, so many visitors resort to parking their car on the main road and walking up to Clydes.  ** You can park on the road only if all four tires are off the pavement (there are about 200 signs telling you this along the road). We were lucky enough to park in the lot, where we left Olive in the car while we walked around Clydes.  Clydes has a few basic rules: No dogs, watch your kids, don't bring your own food or booze, and stay away from the press.  

We parked the car and did what everyone else was doing. We picked a line and stood in it.

There are several different buildings on the property.  The actual mill where they press the apples (with the alcoholic/fermented cider tasting on the bottom floor of this building), one where they sell the jarred and baked goods (and fruit wines) and one where you can sample the wines.

We decided to stand in the line to watch the steam press demonstration (demonstrations are at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays). We got in line, expecting a walk through tour, maybe someone talking, maybe a demonstration?  Nope, we just stood in the back of the line with NO idea what was going on, hearing some clinking and clanking in front of us.  

Stop 1 at Clydes was a dud.  It would have been nice to
A: hear what was going on or
B: have a walking tour through the building so
C: everyone could see the operations.

Instead, we all stood in line for nothing before leaving to head in the next line, the boozey cider tasting line. 

Next task at B.F. Clydes was to stand in our second line.  Line 1 was for tasting and sales while Line 2 was for sales only.  The line for tastings was long, down the sidewalk a ways and was not moving (at all).  After about ten minutes of going nowhere (again!) we decided to leave Line 1 and join Line 2 to forgo sampling and instead buy some cider to go and sample it at home.  

There are a lot of different options for their alcoholic ciders.  They are expensive but like I said, they are 12 % abv and are absolutely tasty.  There is no alcohol added (this is not like adding rum to your cider) but instead, is fermented over time.  Think -leaving a jug of cider under the stairs for a year.  We decided on the Boomerang (apples with cranberry, giving this a nice tart flavor) and the Blackout (the smoothest, with the addition of raisins giving the cider a whisky flavor).  There is something for everyone between tart and sweet, apples to berries and cherries.  If you leave here with anything, leave here with a jug of spiked cider which is classically Clyde's.

We quickly got our cider but what was next at Clyde's? Another line.
 We got in our third line of the day, this time the line to the store and bakery where we could get some normal cider and apple cider donuts.  Again, this was a confusing process as the line was for the register only.  You had to walk into the store, get what you wanted, and walk out to stand in line to pay for it?

The good news is that the store was awesome.  Pickled veggies, sauces and mustards, jams and baked goods.  There is a lot of locally made goodness within that building.  I settled on a mustard, a champagne sauce, a jug of cider, and two apple ciders donuts.  The cider is d e l i c o u s and has been called the "Best sweet cider on earth". But the apple cider donuts.........Cold and soggy, sad.  If you want the apple donuts, head to Scotts Farm in East Lyme.  But while you are at Clyde's, get the sweet cider, but skip the donuts.  

There are a few other booths and tents at Clyde's, offering some other Connecticut local goods.  We stopped and sampled the Mystic Hickory Syrups,  one was made with the sap, and one was made from the bark.  They were both delicious, a less sweet version of syrup with an awesome nutty flavor. I highly recommend picking up some Shagbark Syrup if you are looking for an alternative to super sugary and cheap syrups often found in stores.

We headed over to our last stop which, amazingly, did not involve a long line.  We headed to the building where you can sample the wines and with just one person ahead of us, got right in to try some of their wines.  While they have a ton of different fruit wines, you are allowed to sample four for free.  Blueberry blends, orange blends, dry whisky style blends and cranberry blends, I was pleasantly shocked.  There is sweet if you like it but for the most part, the fruit wines were tart, and dry, and really (really) good.   

Cider, Hard Cider, and Fruit wines... pick your poison. Just be prepared to stand in a few lines to get to them.

Overall, I was glad to finally see Clyde's.  In hindsight, I would avoid this place on the weekend like the plague.  The lines are long, the crowds are awful, and the employees acted like they rather be anywhere on earth.  It was a confusing set up, with long lines and no idea what the lines were about half the time.  Also, because of all the sugar, there are a lot of bees. If you are allergic make sure you have an epipen on you just incase. 

But on a good note, I loved the history of this spot.  I also really loved their products.  Their normal cider is one of the best I have ever had.  Cinnamon-y and not to sweet, the perfect fall drink, especially when paired with rum.  Their hard apple ciders are equally as good, with fun combinations and high percents.  The wines are also delicious unique in their fruity yet not so sweet flavors.  Lastly, the story is a fun spot to peruse with awesome jarred goods from sauces to dilly beans.

If you want a classic New England fall experience, this is the spot.  They are open until December but let me remind you, the weekends are a little crazy.  This spot is best to visit during the week and I will definitely be back mid week to buy some wines. 

NOV. – DEC. 9AM – 5PM

Saturdays & Sundays
October – 11am, 1pm, 3pm
November - 11am, 1pm 
Weather permitting

B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill
129 N. Stonington Rd
Old Mystic, CT 06355


  1. I have to say, I think you just went on a particularly busy day. I've been nearly every year, but opt to go towards the end of the season. Lines aren't too long, and the donuts are AMAZING! You should definitely give it another try on a less nice day or later in the season, or maybe even later in the day closer to their closing time.

    1. Yeah maybe I just caught them on a bad day. My donut was cold and soggy and everyone working there was not nice! Planning to give it another shot mid week :)


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