Beak & Skiff / 1911 Spirits, Lafayette, NY

Located about half an hour’s drive south of Syracuse, NY and situated near the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region, is Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. The orchards have been around since 1911 producing apples to sell at local markets,expanding into cider production and pick-your-own apples in the 1970s. In 2001 they expanded yet again to start producing hard ciders and wines. Let’s explore the various concoctions that Beak & Skiff, in conjunction with its distillery 1911 Spirits, is producing.

As the day wound down, we left Syracuse and headed to Beak and Skiff. If you decide to visit during the winter, be aware that the main visitor’s center located at Apple Hill is not open. Instead, travel back to Route 20 to visit the distillery. The building itself appears inviting and has a gorgeous view of the surrounding valley. When we arrived, we were the only ones there and Jackie was able to give a lot of information about the Distillery / Winery / Cider making. First, here is a look at the various beverages we sampled during our visit.

1911 Hard Cider
  • 5.5% ABV, Semi-Dry
  • Made from Somerset apples.
  • I enjoyed the subtle apple taste in this cider.
1911 Light & Crisp Cider
  • 6.5% ABV, Semi-Dry
  • Crisp and refreshing, with just a hint of oak.
1911 Raspberry Cider
  • 5.5% ABV, Semi-Dry
  • NY State raspberries add an earthy, mellow flavor to this cider.
1911 Blueberry Cider
  • 5.5% ABV, Semi-Dry
  • NY State blueberries; nice natural blueberry aroma, not overpowering. Their most popular flavored hard cider.
1911 Sweet Apple Cider
  • 2% ABV, Semi-Sweet
  • Very sweet tasting, the apple really pops out at you.
1911 Vodka
  • 40% ABV
  • Triple distilled, started as a sweet cider.
  • Very smooth, hints of vanilla and caramel.
1911 Gin
  • Distilled four times from the vodka, 1st apple gin produced in the United States.
  • Lots of botanicals, not just juniper!
Empire Apple Wine
  • 12% ABV, Dry
  • Nice tart flavor, the apple does not overpower your palate.
Northern Spy Apple Wine
  • 11.5% ABV, Semi-Dry
  • A lot more apple aromas and flavors. Most apple like of the three apple wines.
Gala Apple Wine
  • 11% ABV, Semi-Sweet
  • Full bodied, delicate; a tad sweeter than the other two wines.

Not sure what you want to try when you visit? The tastings are complimentary, so you can try it all. I recommend starting with the wine and hard cider as they are much more delicate in nature and the distilled spirits will overpower your palate.

Beak & Skiff began back in 1911 when two families decided to join forces and enter the apple business. As stated previously, they started producing hard cider and wine back in 2001. In 2010 they expanded their offerings yet again and opened 1911 Spirits; starting with the production of vodka. 1911 Spirits is actually the first distillery in Onondaga County since prohibition. Their first gin was released in 2013 with future plans include the crafting of whiskey and brandy made from apples.

The tasting room is beautiful with a great view of the valley from large open windows. In the back of the facility, you can peer into the distillery and check out all the distilling equipment. All of their products are available for purchase here; wine, cider, and spirits. You can also buy individual glasses of the wine and cider to drink out on the deck. In warmer weather I can imagine this is a great idea, especially  since it does not get as crowded as their main Apple Hill Campus. In fact, during the regular season, they once set a record of 2,300 people visiting the tasting room on one Sunday alone!

Steve Morse is the master distiller in charge of all the operations. He is slowly training other people to help as the business expands. Beak & Skiff is proud to advertise all their products as gluten free as many people today have gluten allergies. Also, they do not add sugar to the products, with all the apples sourced from their own orchards. You can buy their wines, ciders, and spirits throughout New York State. In fact, their beverages are even available on five cruise lines!

I really enjoyed the diverse range of products that Beak & Skiff has to offer.  If you visit, be sure to go to the distillery as the more intimate experience, coupled with great views of the valley and distilling equipment, make for a great time. It might seem like it is off the beaten path, but Beak & Skiff is easy to get to and less than thirty minutes from Syracuse, NY. The prices are all very fair and consistent with the great products they produce. I will be sure to visit again in the future when they have more spirits available to try and purchase.

Beak & Skiff is located less than fifteen minutes from Otisco Lake, the eastern most of the Finger Lakes. Otisco Lake is only six miles long and is a popular fishing spot, especially on Memorial Day for the annual fishing derby. As with many of the Finger Lakes, it is currently dealing with a large influx of zebra mussels, an invasive species that causes water quality problems.

Beak & Skiff / 1911 Spirits

1911 Spirit’s Facebook Page

Beak & Skiff’s Facebook Page

4472 Cherry Valley Turnpike, Lafayette, NY 13084

Visited January 11, 2014

Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.


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