If You Don’t Attempt the 2018 Nine Pin 26er Challenge, You Might Be a Bad Apple

With Bomb Cyclones swirling around and the winter blues off to a pretty solid start, here’s a challenge worth accepting.
Winter hiking not your thing? A little birdie told me the temp at the trailhead for Cascade Mountain, a popular and “easy” 46er (#38), was -22 degrees on New Year’s Day, and, get this, -40 degrees on the summit. Even for an enthusiastic winter hiker like me, that was just the friendly reminder I needed to pack and extra pair of, “no thanks!” and indulge in a day of Netflix instead.

While we can’t be snowshoe hares and merrily frolic in the bitter cold, or ADK Winter 46ers who brave the elements and scale New York’s highest peaks with snowshoes strapped to their feet, what we can be are Nine Pin 26ers, and that’s pretty close.

What’s a Nine Pin 26er? You’re looking at one (me). So this isn’t my first rodeo.
The Nine Pin 26er Challenge is a little year-long challenge for your palate, liver, and time management: once you commit, you’re in it for the long haul. Oh, I should also mention it tests your ability to not lose a punch card; it’s a vital skill to have if you want credit for this endeavor. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
Nine Pin Cider Works, makers of Albany’s signature apple bubbly, is New York’s first licensed farm cidery and the team of wizards responsible for giving us Cidre Rosé and Peach Tea, in addition to their all-star lineup of core ciders. In 2017, they whipped up a handful of awesome new ciders; however, over the last year they’ve been diligently working with Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, NY, where they get most of their apples and fruit, on developing 26 brand new, exciting, and unique ciders for the 2018 26er Challenge!
Get ready to start making some pour decisions starting Tuesday, January 9th, because that’s when the 2018 26er Challenge launches, and it will be our first taste of the first batch in the series of new, limited draft ciders. You needn’t make a huge commitment to the first sip, as all it takes is the purchase of a 6oz. pour to wet your whistle and earn your punch.
If you’re really crazy about it, go back for a full pour before you leave; if it didn’t strike your fancy, give your tastebuds a reprieve with your favorite Nine Pin Cider (there are always 9 on tap, go figure), or with whatever’s flowing from one of the other nine guest beer/cider taps from various farm cideries and breweries throughout New York State, ranging from nearby Chatham all the way to Buffalo.
26er ciders will only be available at Nine Pin’s tasting room in downtown Albany, so grab your cider sisters, maybe an Uber, and your day planner because you’re going to need to incorporate a trip to North Albany at least twice a month. You think I’m joking by mentioning the Uber, but coming in at and hovering around a respectable 6.7% ABV, Nine Pin’s hard cider is no joke and can catch up to/destroy you very quickly! Respect the apple, don’t underestimate it.
Before you run down to the tasting room, take two minutes and complete the free registration form so the Nine Pin crew can keep tabs on you.
During the inaugural 26er Challenge in 2016, the 26er ciders were available at Slidin’ Dirty in Troy, and at Capital City Gastropub on New Scotland Ave. in Albany, but they won’t be flowing there this time around. Now, while I loved having an excuse to head down to the Nine Pin tasting room for my 26er pour, I’ll admit that it was a relief being able to hit up Slidin’ when I was boppin’ around Troy if I couldn’t make it to Albany that week. This time around there is no safety net, so we’ve gotta make it down to Albany’s Warehouse District twice a month. Or else…
This fun rollercoaster ride of anticipation, anxiety, relief, and victory will continue with a Tuesday release every two weeks, making a grand total of 26 ciders for the year.

This year, Nine Pin’s partnering with an organization that’s near and dear to my heart, the Adirondack Mountain Club, and a portion of all 26er proceeds will go to benefit the Summit Steward Program program, a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation that aims to protect the rare alpine vegetation found on some of the highest of the High Peaks, and educate hikers on responsible behavior and conservation culture.

The Summit Stewards hike to the tops of Mt. Marcy and Algonquin Peak, the tallest peaks in the land, seven days a week from the beginning of June through Labor Day, and speak with every visitor about protecting alpine plants. In 2016, summit stewards spoke with over 35,000 hikers. That’s a lot of miles, and a lot of conversations, but it’s seems to be working because while the numbers of hikers in the ADKS continues to climb every year, the conversation efforts are successfully protecting the fragile landscape. Kudos!

So, back to the 26er Challenge, why should you do it? A better question is, why not?

In addition to getting a taste of some small batch innovation, creativity, and local terroir treats courtesy of the highest quality NYS-sourced ingredients and best apples known to man, think of yourself as a cider guinea pig, a lab rat, the Eleven to Nine Pin’s Hawkins Lab because someone’s gotta be the taste tester(s), am I right?

Some of the ciders in the 2016 run graduated from small batch trial and error barrels to bonafide Nine Pin Cider releases, proof that Nine Pin is all ears when it comes to feedback from their diehard fans, so don’t be afraid to speak up!

These guys work really hard all year round ensuring we have fun cans for Instagramable sipping, and because what’s on the inside counts even more, they make sure that’s on point, too.

Getting your bi-monthly 26er pour and punch is also a great opportunity to make a regular “date” with friends; romantic or platonic, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is making time for meaningful connections, even if that’s a 6oz. pour and a few laughs. I’m pretty sure I saw my “cider sister” more in 2016 because of the Nine Pin 26er Challenge than I did in all of 2017, so there is something to be said for the Nine Pin pit stops. Nine Pin: encouraging friendship and semi-regular drinking buddies since 2016.

Whatever your motive for trying, of course there will be a slew of really cool prizes upon completion of the Challenge. I’m not exactly sure what’s on tap this year, but in 2016 we scored the following:

  • Personalized Nine Pin 26er ID Badge
  • Happy Hour pricing in the tasting room for life
  • Custom Nine Pin glass
  • Custom Nine Pin glass
  • Limited 26er T-shirt
  • Exclusive 26er final party
  • Early access to limited bottle releases

So if I’m already a 26er, why am I doing it again? Because I want Silver status, obviously!

Everyone has their reasons, but ultimately you do it for the bragging rights, and because you’re not a quitter. And for the personalized Nine Pin 26er ID Badge because I won’t lie, it’s dope AF. Carrying one of those around with you in your wallet will help you forget all about the fact that you’ll probably never qualify for a real “black card;” these babies are nice and heavy. I actually feel like an Italian grandmother, like Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond, because I still keep mine in the plastic sleeve in which it arrived.


2BD - NP26er_2016 cardAnd while I have a bronze rose gold card from the 2016 run, I’m looking forward to adding a silver one to the mix. Does this mean I will be making a run for the Gold in 2020? It’s too soon to say, too soon. One Challenge at a time here, guys.

I can’t wait to get started on this one, and cheers to one New Year’s Resolution I can keep! This time around I will be tasting with some veterans and newbies, too, like 2BD squad leaders Jack and Taylor are on board, so we’ll be documenting this experience the whole year through. How do ya like them apples?

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