Al and Denise Snape started the business in September 2013 in Salem, Massachusetts. Far From The Tree began fermenting apples in January 2014 and released their first cider in mid-May 2014. Although they’ve only been in business a short time, the business has been brewing for years.
The Snape’s met in 2007. At the time, they were both in different careers. As a hobby they experimented with wine they had made using home winemaking kits. Al jokes that he “even came up with a way of making sparkling wine using old corks and duct tape, which considering the base materials came out pretty well!” Before long, the couple’s passion for wine deepened and they both decided to quit their jobs to move to England.
Al obtained a student visa, and enrolled in the University of Brighton, Plumpton College Bachelor of Science program in Viticulture and Oenology. The chemistry and biology-intense Plumpton College program is located in Lewes, England, and takes three years to complete. It has the distinction of being the only European winemaking degree program taught in English.
During breaks, Al lived in different winemaking regions while learning about that area’s wine and working at a winery. He worked in Germany’s Mosel Valley, Bordeaux and Champagne.
Over the course of their time in England, they both became more and more interested in the process of making cider. Lewes’ town market had an apple press, and residents and visitors (including Al and Denise) often gathered apples from the area’s abandoned apple orchards and pressed them.
Al had wanted to open a winery for years. “The idea of starting our own cider house was a bit of an epiphany during my dissertation, while studying and reading paper after paper about the difficulties of growing grapes in New England, and harsh climates in general. Time and time again the best solutions were always just to grow what worked best in that area without trying to force something to grow where it just isn’t meant to grow. Thus, the idea was born that we should make hard cider, not wine, in New England—its ingredients are what grow well here and as New Englanders that’s what makes the most sense to us. Don’t try to force it. Do what works, and do it well.”
With Al’s degree and hands on experience, and the couple’s new idea of opening a cider house, they returned to the United States. After spending time on the West Coast visiting winemaker friends and exploring the region’s hard cider culture, they briefly considered moving to Washington or Oregon. A craft cider movement was underway and hard cider bars were a growing trend in both states. After their wedding in New York State’s Finger Lakes region, the couple decided to settle on the East Coast. Only a day or two after they married, they began the process of launching and searching for a home for Far From The Tree. They found that home in Salem.
Located on Jackson Street, Far From The Tree operates in the unheated cellar of a building that they share with their landlord, who runs a marine construction company. The entire back section of the cellar contains an abandoned walk in freezer. Oak barrels fill the front and back sections of the room. It is, Al notes, perfect for them. “It’s wonderfully designed to hold a constant temperature. The Champenoise knew digging 50 feet down into the limestone would be worth it for the same reason. Cider, much like white wine, needs to be kept under 60 degrees and maintain a very steady temperature as it ages. With the insulation provided by the abandoned walk in freezer unit we can very easily do this with little to no energy. I would not be able to make this cider in a conventional space without a massive investment in temperature control.”
Far From The Tree’s cider bears no resemblance to large mass produced hard ciders. It is not super sweet, but rather dry and refreshing with light carbonation, and tastes deliciously of apples. That’s because the first ingredient in each of the company’s three current varieties is, in fact, pressed apples.
Making hard cider, Denise notes, is a natural extension of the processes that Al learned while studying in England. Far From The Tree’s goal, she says, is to use these techniques to create a product of which the company can be proud. The company gets its apples October through April from orchards in central Massachusetts. The apples then go to a cider mill in Stow to be pressed. The same day, the fresh juice is brought to Far From The Tree’s Salem cellar, where it is pumped into oak barrels to begin the fermentation process.
Far From The Tree originally started with three varieties of its dry ciders: Roots, Rind and Sprig. Since opening their tasting room in August 2015 the cider makers have concocted dozens of new ciders for you to enjoy!