Peter Yi was a wine guy for 25 years. But a Basque cider changed all that.
The founder of retailer PJ Wine had tried hard cider a few times before and didn’t care much for it. But when he had it during a wine trip to Northern Spain, it blew his mind.
“It was the first time I really understood and fell in love with cider,” said Yi.
Today, he is the cider maker for Brooklyn Cider House and owns a Hudson Valley orchard where he actually makes the cider. Brooklyn Cider House is also opening a tap room and cidery in Bushwick, at 1100 Flushing Ave., later this year. The team includes Yi’s sister, Susan Yi, and friend Lindsay Storm, who both became “crazy” about cider after a few tries, Yi said.
“I kind of describe it like wasabi — something that’s difficult to understand, but once you get it, it’s great,” said Yi, 49, who splits his time between Astoria and New Paltz. “It was hard for me to understand cider because it’s not fruity — it’s really dry, it’s bitter, sour. Once you understand the flavor, you want to keep drinking it. It got to the point where I wanted to know how to make cider.”
Yi, who has made wine in the past, said he applied his wine knowledge to blending cider. Brooklyn Cider House makes five styles, from its approachable Kinda Dry and Half Sour, which both have a touch of residual sugar in them, to the dry ciders Bone Dry, Still Bone Dry and, Yi’s favorite, Raw.
“That’s the cider I’m super-passionate about,” Yi said. “It’s the black belt — it’s the most difficult cider to understand.”
Brooklyn Cider House’s ciders aren’t sweet; they don’t have added sugar. “We are definitely purists when it comes to cider,” Yi said.
They also are designed to pair with food. Back to the wasabi comparison: “If you never had wasabi before and someone gave you a bowl of wasabi without raw fish and without soy sauce, it will be pretty hard to get,” Yi said. “But if you had it with sushi and soy sauce, then you understand why that spice really works under the right circumstances. I think cider is the same — when you have it with food, you’re able to see the light faster.”
When Brooklyn Cider House opens its Bushwick cidery later this year, the space will include a restaurant with a menu designed to be paired with ciders, from its own to selections from New York, Oregon, the Basque region, Normandy and beyond.
Until then, you can find Brooklyn Cider House cider at shops and restaurants all over the city, as well as during Cider Week NYC, a celebration of state cider makers from Oct. 20 to 29.
“It’s incredible exposure for the whole industry,” Yi said of the seventh annual festival. “I think people are discovering that cider can be really great.”