12 hard ciders to try this fall
Cider is not just a sweet celebratory juice. It is historic and as intentional as it is complex. And it just might give you the perfect pairing for your next adventure, food or otherwise.
“There are so many new options in the adult beverage category. I like to think that cider fits into an elevated, easy-to-drink offering,” said Judson Ball, co-founder of Columbia’s Waves Cider Co. Waves’ cider has similar flavors and nuances to a pinot grigio or chardonnay, according to Ball. “It’s a perfect drink for wine lovers looking for something a little lighter to take with a meal or while enjoying an outdoor activity.”
Here in the United States, it’s a persistent misconception that hard cider lacks complexity and is often sickeningly sweet. A valid prospect, considering that until recently American cider producers showed less fondness for the delicate nature of the fruit, relying instead on the lure of the sweet juice to drive sales.
This, of course, has everything to do with the recent market dominance of large-scale cider producers like Crispin and Angry Orchard. Not bad, just not a complete picture.
American hard cider producers are combating this trend by reintroducing the unsugar-laden Old World cider character into their repertoire. Brands like Waves, as well as others like Seattle Cider Co., stem ciders out of Denver and St. Louis Brick River Cider show that cider is just as tied to the land as wine when it comes to terroir and apple varietal, while showcasing cider as a vehicle for wine-pairing experiences – something sidras long Spanish pourers, French arborists and English dry cider drinkers have known them for centuries.
European cider culture is often as tied to family as it is to the land – much like wine – and as orchards are passed down from generation to generation, recipes and production are similar to the orchard. Regions like Suffolk, England, Normandy, France and Asturias, Spain not only grow superb apples, but also excel at cider production and incorporate their cider ingenuity into local drinking culture. . English ciders are often dry, filtered and found in pubs across the country. French cider tends to be a little sweeter with tasting notes much more like the fruit used, while Spanish cider resembles the countryside of which the orchards are a part.
In fact, Spanish cider is one of the best examples of the impact of location on the flavor profile. Located on the northern coast of Spain, Asturias (like the Basque Country to the east) is a very humid apple-growing region that produces some of the best and most complex adult apple juice in the world. Asturian sidra is made from locally grown apples and is fermented for several months in large oak barrels with the natural yeast and sugar content of the apple. The finished product is served still like wine, is often brackish like sea air, funky and tart from wild yeast, cloudy from apple sediment, and poured long a few ounces at a time to encourage natural effervescence. and a full sensory experience with every swallow.
In the United States, hard cider is less dependent on growers from specific orchards and is more the result of cider houses and breweries sourcing through partnerships with local and regional apple growers. Of course, there are exceptions to this, especially in apple-growing regions like New York, Michigan, and Illinois. from Eckert, which operates farms and orchards in Illinois as well as Kentucky, recently launched Cider Works, its own line of hard cider using apples and other fruits from its farms. While their production space is in development, they are currently fermenting and packaging their product at Brick River Cider in St. Louis while they wait for their cider house to come online.
Cider making is an art, and while any apple can be juiced, high-quality cider apples possess high levels of tannins (the same compounds found in grape skins and oak barrels), an acidic and/or fermentable sugar content. And, while you’d be hard-pressed (pun intended!) to find a Foxwhelp, Wickson Crab or Frequin Rouge on the grocery store shelf next to a Pink Lady or Honey Crisp, the astringency and the bitterness of these apples provide a magnificent template for hard cider flavor profiles to stand on. Whether a cider maker presents one apple or a blend of several, the goal is always to achieve a balance of sour acidity, astringency produced by tannins, and desired sweetness.
Cider may be an old drink, but new trends and innovative products are hitting the market – see, for example, a calorie-reduced apple drink with Pilsner-like characteristics. According to Maura Hardman and Scott Katsma of the Seattle Cider Co., this style of highly carbonated, crushable hard cider is meant to bridge the workday and outdoor playtime as reliably as a dignified American lager. of confidence. Stem Cider is also playing with a calorie-reduced cider aimed at appealing to hard seltzer drinkers, and while local cider makers haven’t jumped on this new trend yet, it’s certainly fun to see how the segment of the cider has grown and how it looks going, both locally and nationally.
Almost no residual sugar remaining and no perceived sweetness.
• ANXO Dry District
Light barnyard, vibrant lemon acid, unfiltered
• Seattle Cider Co. light cider.
Golden Delicious, Champagne effervescence, luminous
• Stem ciders A salted cucumber
Cucumber flesh, balancing acidity, subtle brackish underlay
Despite low levels of sweetness, cider is still perceived as dry.
• Mix Foeder Waves Cider Co.
Distinguished, woody vanilla, underlying acid
• Natural Trabanco Sidra
Brightly tart and funky apple, salt water, calm
• Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. Bushelhead
Heat of alcohol, baked apples, tannic
• Étienne Dupont Cider Bouché Brut from Normandy
Blue cheese funk, wild honey, green apple skin.
About 2-4% residual sugar in the final product.
• Classic Schlafly clean cider
Ripe apple, crunchy texture, balanced sweetness
• Black Widow of Original Sin
Lush blackberry, Granny Smith apple acidity, thirst-quenching
• Aspall Perronelles blush
Juicy apple, earthy raspberry, clean
Perceived softness is the main standout feature.
• Eckert cider works well in red
Delicate, strawberries and cream, sweet effervescence
• Brick River Cider Co. Sweet Lou’s
Succulent apple, astringency of blueberry skin, fragrant lavender
Brick River Cider Co. 2000 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.224.5046, brickrivercider.com
Eckert’s Farm & Cider Shed 951 Green Mountain Road, Belleville, 618.310.2759, eckerts.com
Schlafly various locations, schlafly.com
Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. 4465 Manchester Ave., St. Louis; 3229 Washington Ave, St. Louis, 314.222.0143, urbanchestnut.com
Waves Cider Co. 604 Nebraska Avenue, British Columbia, wavescider.com