Inspired by some recent posts on cider, I went on a solo cider crawl out to the Acton/Stow area off of Rt. 2 yesterday. Began with Honeypot Hill Orchards -- the cider hadn't received any raves, so I just tested it with an 8 oz. container and two cider donuts (one sugared, one plain, aka lunch # 1). The cider was quite good, but not better than what I've found at the local farmer's markets (from Noquochoke Orchards and Cook's Orchards, primarily). Still, that's pretty good cider. The donuts might have been good right out of the fat, but these were emphatically NOT fresh out of any cooking medium that I know. Definitely worth asking when they were cooked.
I proceeded on to Derby Orchards, and One Stack Farm, both of which *have* received raves, and are nearly across the road from each other (on Rt. 117, near the Stow/Bolton border). GOt a half-gallon in both places (and checked out the apple varieties at Derby -- some interesting ones like Davey, which I tried -- a pear-like flavor, as their sign indicated, but unfortunately not much else in terms of flavor). At home, I did a head-to-head tasting. What I found was that both are excellent ciders, but different. Derby's is a rich brown color, with a modicum of sediment. It's taste is both sweet and rich, with a slight, but pleasant, undertone of muskiness from the sediment. If it's all I tried, I would have thought I'd hit the jackpot. Then I tried One Stack Farm's. WOW! Much clearer golden color than most good ciders, which I thought might mean less flavor. In fact, it was incredibly intense, as if all the extraneous flavors had been swept away, allowing the pure flavor of the apple to shine through. It's very sweet (probably because of how late in the apple season we are now; I'm sure earlier pressings were tarter), almost honeyed, but with a complexity that keeps it from being cloying. No sediment at all, and none of the aforementioned muskiness. Next time I go, I'll ask what varieties go into the cider, just to know. This was truly exceptional stuff.
I also had a second lunch of cider donuts from Berlin Orchards, which were quite good. BOth plain and sugared varieties were nice and fresh-tasting, not TOO greasy. Good to eat while looking at their farm animals (sheep, chickens, horses).
*Many* thanks to the hounds who posted about all these places -- I would never have known which places to choose.