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Susquehanna Life

A Cider Tradition

Jun 04, 2015 04:32PM ● By Kevin

Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider is a new business with an old story. Although beer made a quick recovery after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, apple cider brewing was effectively destroyed and remained only on a few family farms for many years to come.

Bob Antanitis has been fermenting his own cider for 39 years. Deb and Bob Antanitis always had a barrel of the beverage in the basement that family and friends loved to drink. Local cider presses supplied the fresh apple juice to fill the barrel so Bob had a very limited hand in the taste of the finished hard cider.

In 2006, a local apple press was for sale and became the catalyst to bringing to fruition Bob’s dream of selling his hard cider. Thus was born Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider. Bob could now choose the types of apples in the mix to create his unique cider flavors.

A Cider Business

The name Colonel Ricketts was chosen to honor the Civil War Colonel whose estate was located on nearby Red Rock Mountain adjacent to Ricketts Glenn State Park. Bob spoke with the descendants of Colonel Robert Bruce Ricketts and with their approval used the name. During Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider’s first week in business, Robert Bruce’s granddaughter and extended family members enjoyed the hard cider with Bob and his family.

A Cider location

Both Colonel Ricketts Hard Cider locations have a rich history. The apple press and barrel room are contained in a drying kiln for lumber, previously used by Deb’s dad for his lumber business. Little Lumber Co. provided Benton with lumber and building supplies until the late 1990s. This highly insulated building was able to be heated through the winter and was big enough to house the cider pressing machine and many barrels. Visitors enjoy tours of the barrel room and apple press. The walls are covered with the names of many happy tasters—some from as far away as Sweden and England.

Green Acres Barn – CRHC’s summer location – is a picturesque post and beam barn built in the 1940s by the Sutliff family. New life was given to this nostalgic spot after it was no longer needed for storage. Taste testers enjoy a relaxing seat on vintage milk urns while puzzling over the use of timeworn farm equipment lining the walls. Local artisans display their wares throughout the barn.

A Cider product

Bob directs every step of the cider making process from selecting the apples through bottling. Apples are purchased from local orchards in Columbia and neighboring counties.

Using only Jack Daniels barrels gives the ciders a distinct ‘barrel finish.’ The smooth hard cider contains no preservatives, flavors or sulfites. Various flavors and finishes are produced by variables, including blends of apples and seasons. Swing by Benton, PA and sip the selection!  And visit us online at

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