SALEM - It’s hard to believe Far From the Tree Cider is already celebrating their two-year anniversary, but the local cider makers have grown immensely in that time. Their continuously evolving lineup now includes their first canned cider that launches this week, featuring label designs developed by Lesley University students and local artist Ben Stebbings.
Nova is one of the first ferments from Far From the Tree Cider, and will now become the first canned, hopped cider that utilizes 100 percent Massachusetts apples. The result of this local approach is an unmistakable crispness, citrus aromas that leave lots of tropical fruit notes on the nose, and a piney hop flavor with a slight bitterness on the finish.
“It’s kind of my baby,” head cider maker Eric Pudas said. “It’s a really nice and balanced cider that has a lot more flavor in both the aroma and the pallet compared to others out there on the market.”
Oh hey @farfromthetreecider how's those beautiful new cans of #nova coming along! How #epic is this mobile canning setup from @ironheartcanning these beauties will be available soon! Make sure and ask your local distributors to carry them. #salemma #fftt #creativesalem #mobilecanning also stay tuned for a great collab write up with our friends from @nobomagazine
The cider makers began playing with hops last year, initially experimenting with well over 50 varieties. They moved onto an additional 20 to 30 trials, however, they realized something truly special was brewing after just a few trials early on in the process.
To create the final profile, they began dialing into three particular hops, including one called Galaxy that ultimately made the cut and helped to inspire the blend’s name.
“A Nova goes through a tragic collapse and creates a new beautiful thing,” cofounder and cider maker Al Snape explained. “This cider was that idea of these ingredients collapsing and recombining and exploding into something new.”
The 16-ounce, four-pack of Nova is the company’s first canned release, offering a tallboy that is truly unique among its competitors. The first batch recently rolled off a mobile canning setup at their Jackson Street cider house, and the release will be available at select locations across the North of Boston region beginning March 1.
“I think they’re a really nice stable package,” Eric added. “They protect the cider, and there’s not much difference unless you’re really traditional and you love the bottle presentation.”
“If you’re having a hopped cider or a cider in the summer, you kind of want a can,” Al admitted. “It’s hard to explain why, but it just feels right. That too is a big part of it. It just feels like it’s a better fit for that kind of cider.”
“We definitely have our fans who like our drier, original products,” Denise explained, “but a lot of our newer customers like these off-dry products that we’re doing and that we’re being adventurous.
The cider will also be available at the Far From The Tree Cider tasting room with approximately half of the first batch packaged using limited edition labels designed by Lesley University College of Art and Design students available only there.
Their professor Elissa Von Letkemann, a Salem resident and independent graphic designer, spearheaded the project. She reached out to owners Denise and Al two years ago to offer her services, and has been repeatedly called upon since their launch to work with the company. She has even become close friends with the co-founders.
“Al is always looking for something new and exciting whether it is an unexpected cider variety or a new label, but as a branding person, I tend to stay close to the curb with their established logo and look,” Elissa explained.
During a design meeting late last summer, she proposed the idea that her class could potentially satiate Al’s desire to see some totally unexpected designs and new interpretations of Far From the Tree.
“For the students, I thought it would be a great, real world design project because they could work directly with a client, design a label from concept to shelf, and then have a beautiful, produced piece for their portfolio which otherwise consists mostly of school projects,” Elissa said.
Al and Denise visited with the students to give them some background on the company. The left the students with just a few basic, necessary descriptors and a quite open competition to explore their ideas.
“They really encouraged total creativity so it was a nice contrast to my more traditional design assignments where they had to work within an established brand,” Elissa explained.
The students were super excited according to their professor with one student even continuing their participation despite dropping the class due to a scheduling conflict.
“The spirit was to give everyone an opportunity to do something awesome,” Al said. “As students, getting a taste of the real world is priceless.”
The end results were quite varied. During a second meeting and presentation by the students, the cofounders believed there were many that represented the brand and the concept behind the launch.
In the end, nine labels were presented for the final production launch. 400 of each design were printed and canned earlier this week. They are available exclusively at Far From the Tree’s tasting room with a soft opening currently underway until they host an official launch party to share the student art on Thursday, March 3.
“It’s like an awesome art exhibition of design, and then you get to drink the product the art is helping to promote. It was really fun, and I wish I could do it for every product,” Al noted.
Nova cans that will be sold at package stores throughout the spring and summer will feature a design created by local artist Benjamin Stebbings who Denise and Al met during a live painting demonstration arranged by frequent collaborators Creative Salem at the annual Artopia event. .
“We just saw one of his pieces a few years ago coming to life, and we loved it!” Al said. “You look at someone like Ben and you say how is this guy not wicked famous. I’m going to get involved with him now because he is incredibly talented.”
Stebbings drew his inspiration for the Nova can following a brainstorming session with Elissa and Al in a local coffee shop. He brought a sketchbook, and completed some drawings of late-night hop heists, old trucks, super novas, car chases, and more. Elaborate and interesting ideas were bounced back and forth between the group, and Ben then began working on some additional ideas in his home studio. He eventually completed a group of small paintings for Elissa, Al, and Denise to choose from or combine.
“It was fun to exaggerate certain aspects of the shape,” Stebbings said about the hop shape, "making gestural brushstrokes by applying more pressure to the bush then letting off."
The hop was a clearly appropriate shape to incorporate into the Nova can design as it is an essential ingredient in the cider. Elissa moved forward with his paintings, and created a final design in Photoshop after presenting and working through a number of iterations with the cofounders.
Stebbings artwork has also been incorporated into the Far From the Tree Cider tasting room with designs emblazoned across its walls, and even the bathroom boasts a beautiful mural.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price for the Nova Four Pack is $11.99. To determine its availability at a local package store, click here.