Adams County of­fers a taste of pints bit­ter­sweet, sweet and sharp, plus Con­fed­er­ates in the at­tic

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - BY JAMES F. LEE travel@wash­

In Adams County, Pa., strange bed­fel­lows at a haunted inn, and a bumper crop of ar­ti­sanal hard cider.

“We’ve had nine run­ners. Some­times keys are left hang­ing on the door,” said Jack Pal­adino, owner of the Cash­town Inn in Cash­town, Pa.

A “run­ner” is a guest who flees in the dead of night fright­ened by ghostly en­coun­ters. Dur­ing the bat­tle of Get­tys­burg, the inn was the head­quar­ters of Con­fed­er­ate Gen. A.P. Hill and later served as a makeshift bat­tle­field hospi­tal.

Ap­par­ently, some of those Con­fed­er­ates never checked out of the ho­tel.

Cash­town is in Adams County, the heart of Penn­syl­va­nia ap­ple coun­try. My wife, Carol, and I are novices to hard cider, and we trav­eled there dur­ing the height of the ap­ple har­vest to ex­pand our palates. On our first night we stayed at the Cash­town Inn, noted for its res­i­dent spir­its.

Jack and his wife, Maria, don’t play up the ghost an­gle; they seem more gen­uinely proud of the his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion. Af­ter all, the inn has been around since 1797. Yet af­ter nine years as innkeep­ers they have ex­pe­ri­enced strange things: a dis­em­bod­ied voice say­ing hello re­peat­edly; a pres­ence walk­ing through the hall­way; some­thing tug­ging on an em­ployee’s leg in the early hours of the morn­ing. They have learned to live with it. “We re­spect the ghosts, and they re­spect us,” Maria said.

I asked whether our room was haunted. It does have a lot of “ac­tiv­ity,” she ad­mit­ted. Is that a good thing, I won­dered aloud?

“You tell me — af­ter you spend the night,” she said.

Be­fore re­tir­ing that evening, Carol and I drove over to­wards Biglerville to sam­ple the ciders at the Hauser Es­tate Win­ery’s hill­top tast­ing room. Along the way, the signs of a bumper ap­ple har­vest were every­where: acre upon acre of ap­ple trees laden with fruit, stretch­ing down into val­leys and up the sides of the low moun­tains. Hauser’s pro­duces many wines from its vine­yards, but like sev­eral Adams es­tab­lish­ments, it pro­duces sev­eral ciders as well.

Not know­ing where to start, we sam­pled sev­eral com­pli­men­tary ciders at the bar un­der the guid­ance of Lara Kish, a tast­ing/brew­ing as­so­ciate at the win­ery, who poured sam­ples rang­ing from dry to sweet. I or­dered a pint of Conewago, a dry, smooth and re­fresh­ing cider with a strong ap­ple taste. Carol chose a Dry Hop, hoppy and cit­rusy, like In­dia Pale Ale. We took our ciders to the pa­tio and en­joyed the spec­tac­u­lar view of the val­ley be­low.

Back at the Cash­town Inn we were ready to face what­ever the night brought.

My first mis­take was read­ing the room’s guest­book. One en­try, in a child­ish scrawl, read: Weve (sic) head [heard] noies [noises] last night and in the morn­ing you do not want this room.” Did a child­ish hand — or a fright­ened one — write it?

As it turned out, we didn’t do a run­ner. I slept soundly, al­though Carol said that she heard what sounded like fur­ni­ture mov­ing in the wee hours.

At break­fast, I asked fel­low guest Michelle Con­well of Mill­brook, Ala., whether she had seen or heard any­thing.

“It’s been a bit eerie . . . I heard some walk­ing,” she said. “I just kept my eyes closed.”

Later, we drove to tiny Gard­ners to visit the Big Hill Cider­works, a small cidery that has been in op­er­a­tion since 2013, to con­tinue our cider ed­u­ca­tion. Co-owner Ben Kish­baugh said it has been a good year for ap­ples, and the mar­ket for hard cider has been steadily in­creas­ing, partly fu­eled by the pop­u­lar­ity of the mi­cro­brew­ing industry.

“We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a hard-cider re­nais­sance,” he said.

Kish­baugh ex­plained that the al­co­hol con­tent in hard cider is de­ter­mined dur­ing the fer­men­ta­tion process. Cider can be bit­ter­sweet, sweet, bit­ter-sharp or sharp, he said. It’s a ques­tion of tan­nins and acid­ity in the ap­ples. Big Hill leans to­ward un­usual va­ri­eties of ap­ples more com­mon in Europe, aim­ing for a dry, bit­ter-sharp and bit­ter­sweet pro­file.

We saw the ap­ple press in the cider barn where liq­uid oozes from press­ing mashed ap­ples. Later, we walked through the or­chards, where Green­ing and Winch­ester ap­ples were ready to be picked, bunches of the fruit bend­ing the trees down­ward, some al­ready in crates.

It is hard to es­cape the in­flu­ence of the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg in Adams, and one of the Big Hill la­bels is Lit­tle Round Hop, a ref­er­ence to the site of the bat­tle’s turn­ing point. Be­cause Big Hill doesn’t have a tast­ing room yet, we drove to nearby Boil­ing Springs to sam­ple some at the Boil­ing Springs Tav­ern. This dry cider fla­vored with Cas­cade, Columbia and Cen­ten­nial hops, and a hint of lemon­grass, was per­fect over lunch.

Our last cidery visit was to Reid’s Or­chard and Win­ery in Or­rtanna. Andi Amin, spe­cial events and sales co­or­di­na­tor, said that a lot of Get­tys­burg tourists come to the or­chard af­ter tour­ing the bat­tle­field, look­ing for some­thing else to do. “They get the lay of the land with the bat­tle­field and then branch out for other things.”

Reid’s has a tast­ing room at the or­chard in a small me­tal barn filled with large tanks. One of the more in­ter­est­ing sam­ples was Pip­pin Ice, a very sweet high-al­co­hol brew ideal as a dessert cider. We also tasted Black Bear, with a dry smoky fla­vor, and a sweet peach cider.

Reid’s of­fers en­ter­tain­ment on week­ends on its pa­tio over­look­ing the lovely Buchanan Val­ley. Jess Peters, 52, from nearby Me­chan­ics­burg, came in for the show that day; Reid’s was host­ing a lo­cal singer/song­writer. He also came for cider. “Sit­ting at a con­cert, it’s nice to have a pitcher of cider.”

And who can ar­gue with that?

Lee is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Vir­ginia Beach.


Built in 1797, the Cash­town Inn served as the head­quar­ters of A.P. Hill, a Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral, dur­ing the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg. Many be­lieve it is haunted. For other diver­sions in Adams County, in south­ern Penn­syl­va­nia, cideries let you sam­ple an al­co­holic drink that’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a re­nais­sance.

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