Sometimes events come together in delightful and unexpected ways. There’s even a word for it: synchronicity. My wife and I had a sweet little dose of that this week.
For a while now we’ve been huge fans of a cider called Fire Starter from North Country Hard Cider Company in Dover. Flavored with cinnamon, habanero, and pomegranate, this cider is delicious, inspired, and comforting.
When we learned that North Country would be hosting a presentation of live raptors to discuss the birds’ adaptations and conservation needs, we put it on our calendar right away.
When the time came, off we went. Only about 40 miles and a little under an hour’s drive from Manchester. Not exactly next door, but we were confident it would be worth it. And it absolutely was, without question.
North Country Hard Cider Company is two brothers and a college friend who love cider. Silas & Ivan Gordon and Ronald Dixon have built their own process to avoid any additives or preservatives. All their ciders are gluten-free.
North Country Cider began pressing apples in Ron’s driveway, and eventually grew into a space in Salmon Falls Mills in Rollinsford in 2014. They continued to grow and in 2022 they moved to Dover.
They’re now in a small industrial park, like many similar businesses, but certainly not a harsh nor unfriendly space. Plenty of trees surround them, and they have outdoor seating on a deck they added. They own this building, whereas in Dover they were tenants, so they now have much more flexibility. The exterior is basic but nice, with plenty of parking, and the deck off to the left of the main entrance.
The central tasting room is spacious, warm and comfortable. Wood paneling behind the bar features a live edge, always a nice touch.
Their production space is quite large. At present, they use some of the extra space for events (such as this one) or just overflow seating on a busy night.
Music playing at a background level in the tasting room seemed centered on the ’80s, with some wandering back to the ’70s and up to the ’90s or beyond. We got some Fleetwood Mac, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, and “Drift Away” by Dobie Gray. Also John Waite, George Michael, Prince, Kenny Chesney, Chris Stapleton. A nice assortment.
North Country is focused on making the finest natural hard cider possible. For food they have several food trucks that visit periodically. Patrons are also welcome to bring their own snacks, take-out, or leftovers – and snacks for dogs are also welcome, it’s a very dog-friendly space.
After the Raptor program, on our way back to Manchester, we stopped at Boone’s Thai Kitchen in Epping, reliably good and a handy spot when you’re in that neighborhood.
I’d had North Country ciders before in a few places, and some are available locally. But I had no idea how many varieties they actually make. When we visited they had 20 on tap. TWENTY!! Covering a variety of ingredients and a full range of dry to sweet. Beside apples, some of the ciders also included:
Quite a spectrum! And of those, some were aged in bourbon barrels or gin barrels.
In the taproom you can buy four-packs to go, growlers to fill and refill, full pours or flights. We opted to share a flight of eight.
I tended to favor the ciders toward the sweet or dry ends of the spectrum, I found those in the middle just not as much to my taste. The Cranbarrel was quite good, with noticeable cranberry flavor. Fire Starter was a stand-out, as always. (Though in defiance of what I just said, it lies right in the middle of their dry-sweet range. Never trust me!) Also delicious were Wulf Kitty, Passion Crush and Blue Crush. My favorite out of this session was – well, nothing beats Fire Starter, but others came close. I would probably put Blue Crush in second place. Love that color! I brought home four-packs of Blue Crush and Wulf Kitty. (I can get Fire Starter at Hannaford and many local shops.)
Bonus – Lovely Birds of Prey
The raptor presentation was a collaboration between Climate Action NH (a project of the League of Conservation Voters) and Tailwinds, which is a local NH charitable organization focused on education and conservation centered around raptors (birds of prey that primarily hunt and feed on vertebrates). My wife never tired of joking that we were going to see little dinosaurs. May Michael Crichton rest in peace.
This was the first time Tailwinds had come to North Country but it all seemed to go off without a hitch. North Country’s production room has plenty of extra space (at least for now), so they were easily able to use some of that space for the raptor presentation.
I would estimate that we had between 30 and 40 people come to see the raptors. A few were kids, from elementary to high school, but most were adults. And all were positively enchanted by the birds.
Four people were on hand with the birds from Tailwinds:
They did a great job of arranging display materials for “show & tell,” also of answering questions and, most importantly, handling the birds.
The presentation began with some discussion and display of artifacts that could be touched and felt – some taxidermized legs and wings, some skulls, etc.
Tailwinds has federal and state permits allowing them to use live raptors for educational purposes. They currently have four raptors in their care, and the cost to feed these four raptors for one month is $600, so they are happy to receive donations. At present there is zero federal and state funding available for rehabilitation of injured birds. NH is currently experiencing significant raptor habitat loss, most of which is due to expansion of human dwelling space.
The live presentation began with George the barred owl. (Yes, each bird has its own name.) George was pretty mellow, not moving much except for his amazing head swivel. At one point someone was trying to pose behind George for a photo, but George was curious about the poser so was gazing at them, facing directly away from the camera.
Next to emerge from a cage was Phoenix the red-tailed hawk. Phoenix came to Tailwinds while still young, and at that time had no tail. They believe this was due to an infection of West Nile virus. But today, Phoenix sports a healthy red tail. When just out of the cage, settling onto the gloved arm of Linda, Phoenix got a little rambunctious, but then settled down.
When the presentation began I was not aware of precisely what species we would be seeing, but I had noticed that they were progressing from smallest cage to largest, suggesting that the next bird would be even larger, and so my anticipation was growing. What would be next?
The bird that then appeared was the very impressive Greta the turkey vulture, with a wingspan of probably six to seven feet.
Like the hawk, Greta took a few minutes to settle down after emerging from her cage. Once she did, she spread her wings wide in what is called a horaltic pose, which she maintained for the entire time she was out. It is a very regal pose, seeming to shout, Look at me! Am I not the most impressive thing you’ve ever seen?! Ornithologists have multiple theories as to what drives this behavior in vultures and related birds, but no one really knows for sure. But it is definitely a sight to behold!
Turkey vultures are obligate scavengers, meaning they virtually never kill any prey, instead subsisting primarily or solely on already dead animals. When they are feeding they are of course on the ground, often with their head down, so at that time they are at their most vulnerable to other predators. One of their few abilities to combat other predators is – get ready for it! – an ability to projectile vomit whatever they’ve eaten up to ten feet. Imagine that flying in the face of a wolf who thought he was sneaking up so silently. Could make the grossest Warner Brothers cartoon ever. Tough luck, Wile E. Coyote! And yes, I would pay to see it.
In summary, if you ever get a chance to attend a presentation by Tailwinds, do not miss it!
Just the Facts
North Country Hard Cider Company is located at:
38 Littleworth RoadDover NH 03820
(they are set back a bit off Littleworth Road, behind Northeast Electrical)
Sun: Noon – 7 PM
Wed: Noon – 7 PM
Thu: Noon – 8 PM
Fri: Noon – 8 PM
Sat: Noon – 8 PM
From their website: “If you’re not happy with it, we’ll take it back for a full refund.”
Who can do better than that?