Even in a country where there is a perry tradition as old and as established as it is in England, France or Central Europe, selling perry and spreading the good word can be heavy work. In Hereford, the city at the centre of England’s perry country, the former Mayor knew of two pubs or bars where perry could be bought. Most people have either never tasted it, or are barely aware of what it is.
So imagine how hard it must be to move perry in a country where there is no perry tradition whatsoever.
Enter Simon Ingall, who makes perry at Grisamore Ciderworks in New York State. American perry is almost a complete unknown to me, barring a few from Eve’s and South Hill in the Finger Lakes. But better-travelled perry palates than mine — the likes of Gabe Cook and Tom Oliver — have spoken highly of several American perrymakers, so it’s brilliant to have Simon’s insights into the world of American perry today.
CR: Introduce yourself and your company.
Simon: Grisamore Cider Works, founded in 2015 by my brother and I on our family U-pick fruit and vegetable farm. We are the fourth generation on the farm. All of the fruit used in our cider/perry is estate grown. We are making many different co-fermented ciders as well as cider and perry.
CR: How did you come to start making perry?
Simon: We had some pear trees that were 30 feet tall on our property that were planted by our father and grandfather in the early 80’s. These are Seckel, Bartlett, and Flemish Beauty. We pruned them in 2015 to bring them down in height to about 15-20 feet so they are more easily managed and harvested off ladders. We also started planting a new pear orchard of perry pears in 2015 that are just starting to bear fruit but are still very young in terms of pear trees.
CR: Tell us about where you are. Its connection to perry and pear trees. The landscape (perhaps even the terroir!) and any perry culture (or lack thereof).
Simon: We are in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, USA. The perry culture is very hard to find here. There are a few other producers making perry in New York. The summers are extremely hot; today we are expecting 90 F but in the winter time I have seen as low as -20 F. Late spring frosts making growing pears quite a challenge.
CR: Tell us about some of the pear varieties you work with. How they are to grow and work with and the different flavours they bring? Tell us about any of your favourites.
Simon: Currently the pear varieties we are making perry with are Bartlett, Seckel, and Flemish beauty. I have planted some more perry pear varieties in the new orchard (Hendre Huffcap, Butt, and Barland to name a few) but I suspect it will be years before they bear fruit of any amount.
CR: And about the sort of perry you make? Your methods of making it as well as the styles you make.
Simon: We have made both pitched yeast perry and last years perry was a natural fermentation perry.
CR: What are the challenges you find in working with perry? Making, growing and selling?
Simon: The main challenge for us is getting enough fruit from our trees as they are very biennial, or possibly late frost. This year we had basically zero cropping in our Seckel pears which is the main fruit we use.
CR: What is it that inspires you about perry? What do you love about it, both as a maker and a drinker?
Simon: I love that the customer either abolsutelu loves it or aboslutely hates it when they try it for the first time. Its a very polarizing drink. I really want to put in more pears and I havehopes to have a similar crop to our apples in my lifetime.
CR: And what is your greatest frustration around perry?
Simon: Cropping and how biennial the trees are.
CR: And, finally, what is your all-time favourite of your own perries … and your all-time favourite from another producer?
Simon: I love how different all the perry is around here that is being made. Steve Selin of South Hill Cider recently shared with me two perries he had made in 2021 and they were completely different just based on the yeast he pitched. I think there is plenty of space in the market for perry but the challenge will be procuring the fruit, just like hard cider in this part of the country.
It’s not too late to take part in our Perry Month Spotlight series! If you’re a perrymaker reading this, be it in the Three Counties, Domfront, Mostviertel … or anywhere else, we would love to learn about you too. Just drop us a message with your email, and Adam will get the interview out to you.
Pingback: Meet your (perry)maker – Raging Cider & Mead Co | Cider Review