As this year’s apple crop hits store shelves around, let’s take this seasonal event as a reminder to drink some hard cider.
Hard cider, of course, is available all year long, but it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the thousands of beers and tasty spirits. Hopefully, by now, the sweet reputation of hard cider has been shed and its delicious versatility and complexity are better known. If not, here’s your chance! Don’t think of cider as an alternative to beer, but rather as another fantastic beverage to keep in your rotation.
Let’s take a look at some of the best hard cider available on the market.
Thanks to a national advertising campaign, head cider maker Ryan Burk might look familiar. As the largest cider maker in the U.S., Angry Orchard might take some lumps with its mass-market, beer-alternative, sweet hard cider, but the Boston Beer-owned company kicks out some seriously awesome product.
Farnum Hill is one of the pillars of the American cider movement, making delicious hard cider since the 1980s. Cider-maker Steve Wood is a legend in his own right and a modern Johnny Appleseed. Many aspiring cider makers and cider apple growers head to his New Hampshire orchard for his cuttings to revive inedible cider apples.
The Northeast is a great place to sample cider and Shacksbury is one of the best examples of Vermont cider. Shacksbury is one of several cider makers across the country hoping to revive many of the nearly extinct apple varieties that made hard cider a drink of choice in the 1800s and before. Vermont is full of awesome small beverage producers, so check out Eden Specialty Cider as well, which makes incredible and well-recognized ciders.
One of the many great cider-makers in Washington state — the nation’s largest apple producing state — Seattle Cider’s product is widely distributed, making it a fairly easy to find. Along with a standard Dry and Semi Sweet, the core lineup has Tangerine Turmeric and Basil Mint. Keep an eye out for seasonal, limited, and harvest flavors too. For more Washington cider, check out Tieton Cider Works.
A longtime family orchard in Oregon, E.Z. Orchards started making cider apples in 2000 and hasn’t looked back. Today, the orchard grows a huge array of heirloom apples. Cider- maker Kevin Zielinski ensures each cider is full of the best apple aromas and flavors.
Michigan, like Washington, is a major apple-growing state. Therefore, it is home to a plethora of cider producers. Virtue Cider, started by former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall, is likely the most available and makes an excellent assortment. If you’re in Michigan, be sure to also check out Blake’s Hard Cider, Vander Mill, Farmhaus, and Tandem Ciders.
This U.K. cider-maker is the cream of the crop when thanks to Tom Oliver, one of the most renowned people in the craft. Cider consumption didn’t historically dip in the U.K. like it did in the U.S. and Oliver’s Cider shines among the large market. Don’t count out the perry, which is cider made with pears.
Many American hard cider makers look to France for cider inspiration and apple varieties. It’s for good reason, too, as French cider is delicious. With more than 25 heirloom varieties on a 1,000-year-old farm and a crisp Champagne-like effervescence, Romilly Cidre is worth a try.
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