On an eighth-generation family farm in rural Edgecombe County, Michael and Anderson O’Brien turn bins of North Carolina apples into bottles of L.L. Draughon’s Fishing Creek Sparking & Dry Hard Cider. The small craft cidery produces about 4,000 bottles each year, using over 8000 pounds of apples and two 1000-liter fermentation tanks. They named the cider for both their farming ancestor, L.L. Draughon, and the scenic creek that winds past the farm.
Around the turn of the new century, Draughon’s descendants planted a new orchard of antique southern variety trees and trees grafted from the limbs of great-grandfather Draughon’s trees. The 600-tree orchard contains over thirty varieties, including Winesaps, Staymans, Limbertwigs, Russetts, and unidentified old-timers. The orchard is not certified organic, but the antique varieties need almost no additives except a little fertilizer and, occasionally, some irrigation water from Fishing Creek. The orchard doesn’t yet produce enough apples, so the Fishing Creek Cidery purchases additional apples from the NC mountains.
Companies that mass-produce hard cider often add flavors and sweeteners and sometimes use imported concentrates instead of actual apples. Small cideries, on the other hand, make small-batch, hand-crafted cider with local high-quality juice apples. Fishing Creek ferments their cider to completeness, leaving no sugar. The result is not sweet but retains the subtle aroma of apples. It is comparable to dry sparkling wines such as Cava or Prosecco.