The U.S. is pressing fiercely toward 1,000 cider houses from sea to shining sea. It’s an impressive stat that confirms the industry as much, much more than just a trend. In this, the golden age of drinking, we no longer have to slug down sweet hard ciders made from overly processed ingredients and other additives. Instead, we are treated to the styles and personality one normally associates with the wine or beer realms.
Unlike wine and beer, cider is a little less limited by geography. There are good apples growing just about everywhere, meaning a glut of good cider for the masses, made fresh and with a collective cider-making IQ that continues to rise. If you’re still on the fence about the stuff, there’s hardly been a better time to explore. Here are some of our favorites:
Bauman’s Clyde’s Dry
Bauman’s predates Prohibition by a long shot. The Willamette Valley farm was established in 1895 and began fermenting apples in barrels shortly thereafter. Today, it’s led by fourth-generation farmer and cider maker Christine Walter.
Clyde’s Dry may be the label’s best cider. It’s layered like a good glass of wine, made from more than a dozen apple varieties, and boasts a rich tannic structure. For those still wary of the cider movement, give this one a try. It’s as well-built as any of your favorite IPAs or Chardonnays.
Swift Cider Pineapple Hop
Infused ciders don’t always work but this one is a shining example of how to pull it off. Like a hazy IPA, it’s tropical and balanced, with a slight bitterness afforded by a light hop bill. Swift operates out of Portland, turning out a strong cast of natural ciders. What’s best about this option is the pineapple flavor, which comes through cleanly and genuinely. Outside of the obvious margarita or Corona, it’s hard to imagine a better beverage to accompany fish tacos.
Shacksbury Arlo Cider
Vermont producer Shacksbury makes Old World cider in the New World. The Arlo calls Basque cider country its muse, showing a beautiful balance between dryness and tartness. It’s the result of a partnership that extends across the pond, involving European apple varieties fermented in chestnut barrels in Spain. The resulting juice is shipped stateside where it’s blended with some local New England fruit. In the end, it’s one of the better options out there, in terms of what’s canned and bottled.
Mayador Natural Cider
Cider has a rich tradition in the Basque country of Spain, where it’s affectionately dubbed “sidra.” The Mayador Natural is a great example of the legacy, a rustic offering with plenty of punchy acid, herbaceous notes, and extremely bright apple flavors. It’s a little funky and does well with similarly funky cheeses.
Farnum Hill Farmhouse
This New Hampshire outfit turns out some delicious adult apple juice. The Farmhouse is wonderfully raw, with clean green apple flavors and decent structure. It’s a good intro to the farmhouse style in that it’s not overly funky or yeasty, but you can still detect a bit of each. Enjoy this one on a warm afternoon with some salty snacks.
Finnriver Oak and Apple
Washington is the Apple State, so it damn well oughta make some good cider. Finnriver is among the state’s best producers, located in agriculturally fertile Chimacum in the Olympic Peninsula. The Oak and Apple is a fine cider and more than stands up to its own oak regimen. The brightness of the apples is counteracted by a woodsy, whiskey-like backbone. Made from Yakima Valley apples, this cider shows brightness, a bit of sweet vanilla, and some subtle spice notes. It’s semi-dry but far from sweet.
E.Z. Orchards Willamette Valley Cider
E.Z. Orchards crafts cider out of Salem, Oregon’s capital city. The brand began about a century ago as an orchard operation. Today, they’re known for growing outstanding heirloom apple varieties and turning out excellent ciders. The Willamette Valley is a gorgeous honey hue, with pie fruit flavors and warm, baking spice elements. It’s a bit hard to get your hands on given limited production and distribution, but well worth the effort.