When September rolls around and the golden days of autumn start descending upon the fair state of Connecticut, the locals know that a visit to B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic is in order. Visiting Clyde’s is a quintessential New England experience.
Not only is it a National Historic Landmark, but a visit to Clyde’s is like walking into a scene in a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s one of those places of tradition, familiarity, and comfort that locals and visitors flock to when preparing themselves for the upcoming cooler months, planning their holiday dinners or just need a nice autumnal treat and a break from their hectic day.
B.F. Clyde’s, which bears the same name as its founder, Benjamin Franklin Clyde, began in 1881: one hundred and thirty six years ago, and since then continues to be owned and run by generations of the Clyde family. The business’ current owners are Annette and her husband Harold Miner, with Annette being the great granddaughter of Benjamin. Amy Miner, a 5th generation Clyde, daughter of Annette and the great great granddaughter of Benjamin, took some time out of her busy pre-opening schedule to sit down with this writer and talk about their wonderful family business.
When Benjamin first started out in business, his products included only vinegar and hard cider. Hard cider, still popular today, is an alcoholic beverage made from crushed and fermented fruit, usually apples. Refrigeration was an issue in the 1880’s and there was no way to keep sweet cider cold so he produced and sold hard cider.
Benjamin initially used someone else’s press, just up the road from the current property, until he saved enough money to build his own apple pressing mill and buy equipment. The structure he built in 1898 still stands on the Clyde property and proudly bears the sign “B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill”. It was built specifically for apple pressing and is the oldest working steam powered cider mill in the United States. Visitors can enter the building and watch the traditional technique of apple pressing still done by Clyde family members.
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A few years ago, Clyde’s added a Tasting Room, a small building on grounds where people can sample handcrafted hard ciders. Prior to being a tasting room, it was a barn and a grist mill, so the look is delightfully quaint and rustic. Craft items are also for sale in that space.
Also on the property and surrounded by the beauty of Connecticut’s trees, sits a house-like building which is the main B.F. Clyde’s store. It has a great wrap-around porch where visitors can sit and soak up the fresh autumn air and chat as they enjoy a treat. Customers who walk into the store are met with an array of delicious products. Whatever you choose, your taste buds will thank you.
Amy shared that Clyde’s most popular products tend to be their sweet cider, hard cider, pumpkin bread, and donuts. Also available are apple wines, jams, jellies, local honey, maple syrup, fudge, apples, apple pies, gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins, candy apples, and kettle corn. They also have beverages, slushies and other sundries.
Amy loves working with her family, and shared that many people make yearly visits to Clyde’s as part of their own personal or family autumn traditions. She also commented that there are not many people who can say they have the same job as their great-great grandfather, with their “hands on the same press that he had his hands on,” and she thinks that is “pretty awesome”.
A band called “Happy and the Moonshine,” based in Westerly and consists of locals Dave DeAngelis and Michael Chicoria, entertains on weekends in September and October. Amy described the music they play as upbeat and sort of modern-country which delights the visitors who gather on the lawn and porch. Children are often seen dancing along in the grass. Clyde’s is a delicious, old-fashioned, and wholesome place to visit – a comforting escape from a stressful world.
At the end of the interview, members of the Clyde family who were on grounds that day gathered for a group photo in front of the original building.
B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill is open seven days a week: September through October from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM, and November through usually mid-December from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. There are cider making demonstrations on Saturdays and Sundays in October at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM and in November at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, weather permitting.