A tasty collaboration between a Peru orchard and a Lake Placid brewery
Photograph by Nancie Battaglia
Bob Rulfs, a kid from downstate with hay fever, dreamed of becoming a farmer. When he was old enough, he took a train to the North Country, first digging in on a friend’s farm in Peru, just beyond the Blue Line. He knew this was the place for him (and those allergies disappeared), so he bought his own piece of Peru. Back then he had just four milk cows, two heifer calves and a small apple orchard. And then his farm grew. And it grew. Even the Northway, which sliced through his land when it was built in the ’60s, didn’t stop Rulfs and his plans. It turned out that close proximity to the interstate meant prosperity.
Today, Rulfs Orchard is an agricultural institution on hundreds of acres. It’s a multigenerational effort that includes Bob’s granddaughters Shannon and Amanda as well as a team of 15 employees and 16 Jamaican workers who come during harvest season. Still, Bob, at 91, is a constant presence in the farm’s massive retail store on Bear Swamp Road; if he’s not there he’s likely on a tractor, prepping the crops for planting. Retirement couldn’t be further from his mind. “I can’t imagine such a thing,” he says.
The farm grows produce, flowers, berries and 22 varieties of apples. In fall, families on both sides of the international border make pilgrimages to Rulfs to pick out pumpkins, stock up on apples, cider, donuts, pies and other baked goods. They bump through the orchard on tractor rides, wander the corn maze and pet the horse, alpacas, goats and donkeys. On a crisp, sunny September or October day as many as 5,000 people will come here. What Bob has created is the American dream come true.
That’s why Kevin Litchfield, director of brewing operations at Big Slide Brewery & Public House, in Lake Placid, hoped to work with the Rulfs family. Litchfield, ever on his quest to experiment with new ingredients, sought the flavor of the northern Adirondacks and wanted to create a brew using the freshest cider—a concoction that would be half cider and half barley kettle-soured beer.
Litchfield shared his plan with Richard Howard, who’s worked at Rulfs since he was in the fifth grade. (The story goes that Bob Rulfs asked one of his sons to bring a hard-working, reliable classmate home to help with picking up “drops”—apples that have fallen to the ground. Fifty years later Howard is an indispensable part of the farm.) Litchfield and Howard coordinated a Macintosh pressing at the farm in Peru that resulted in 60 gallons of fresh, unpasteurized cider that were immediately poured into Big Slide kegs, delivered the same day to the Lake Placid brewery, and dumped into the brew kettle.
The result, what Litchfield calls ’DACKS—Delicious Apple Cider Kettle Sour—is a delicate hybrid beer that’s fairly tart and very dry, with a higher carbonation and slight malt character and slight cider character. “There are very little hops in the beer,” he explains, “so it’s not bitter at all, and we put just a touch of cinnamon in it. All of the sugars in the cider and the malt get fermented out to low degree, so it ends up being not sweet.”
While it tastes refreshing on its own, Greg Sherman, Big Slide’s head chef, recommends pairing the beer with salty and savory cheeses, white meats and lighter fare like fish with fruit chutney and other citrusy finishes. But a perfect accompaniment, he says, is his Flatbread with Peaches, Burrata, Prosciutto and Pesto. (See recipe below.)
Going forward, Litchfield hopes to again collaborate with Rulfs, maybe experiment with “a strong, malty kettle sour brown ale and apple pie spices or pumpkin spices, or a harvest brown ale with sweet potato.” He says, “There are so many possibilities with this type of fermentation.” And given the variety of the region’s fruits and vegetables, “there are just so many options.”
Want to taste the beer? Visit Big Slide Brewery & Public House, in Lake Placid, on September 25th, when Kevin Litchfield taps ’DACKS—Delicious Apple Cider Kettle Sour. The beer will be available while supplies last.
Flatbread with Peaches, Burrata, Prosciutto and Pesto
1 medium sized pita or naan bread
1 peach, pitted and sliced thin, peeling is optional
1 piece of burrata cheese
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese or grated Parmesan
2–3 slices prosciutto, torn
1–2 tablespoons minced garlic, to taste
2 tablespoons really good extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons basil pesto
Fresh ground black pepper
Shelled pistachios, crushed (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit
2. Drizzle olive oil on flatbread
3. Spread garlic evenly
4. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt and pepper evenly
5. Arrange peach slices in a pinwheel fashion
6. Sprinkle Pecorino cheese evenly
7. Bake 5 minutes or until cheese starts to brown
8. Remove from oven
9. Tear burrata into quarter-size pieces and scatter over flatbread
10. Return the flatbread to the oven, bake 5 more minutes, remove
11. Scatter prosciutto and pesto around flatbread
12. Sprinkle a pinch more pepper over the top
13. Sprinkle some pistachio on, if using
14. Cut into wedges and enjoy!
Tip: You can also make a smaller version of this on a toasted, sliced baguette for an appetizer.