I’ve written about Shacksbury Cider few times in the past, ogling over their process of finding lost apples, the forgotten fruit of a bygone era when cider was king in the U.S. I also sat down with their flagship Dry and Semi-Dry ciders and swooned a little bit (spoiler alert, both of the flagships are awesome). And their large-format bottle Farmhouse Cider earned the number 11 spot in our massive blind tasting of ciders in 2016. Needless to say, I like the cut of Shacksbury’s jib, so when they sent me a few cans of their new ciders, I was psyched to give them a whirl. The quick takeaway for those of you who can’t stand the suspense: things are getting weird at Shacksbury in Vermont. And I like weird.
Okay, Arlo isn’t new. It’s actually one of Shacksbury’s year-round releases, but I’ve never had it before so I’m throwing it into the mix here. It’s a blend of “eating” apples from Vermont and Basque bittersweet apples from Spain that was fermented with wild yeast and aged in stainless steel for up to six months. It’s unfiltered and complex as hell, smelling a little funky on the nose and coming off as borderline sour on the first sip. There’s little to no sweetness at all, and is actually a little puckering. But as I dig into it, that sourness fades and I’m left with a light, effervescent body with a dry mouthfeel that’s akin to Champagne. Drinking this cider feels like a celebration.
As the name implies, this cider pours the cutest shade of pink I’ve ever seen. It only vaguely smells like apples and has more traditional cider characteristics than Arlo, which is to say it’s sweeter, with a softer, more round mouthfeel. There are enticing notes of honey and pears in addition to the sweet apples, but that’s not to say this cider is saccharine. It’s still light and balanced. After trying several different ciders from Shacksbury, I think I’m most impressed by the cider house’s restraint. They never seem to go overboard in any one direction. This cider is a testament to that restraint, it’s just not as complex as Arlo. I have no idea what kind of apples or adjuncts (if any) are thrown into the kettle here. All I got was a silver can with the word Rosé scribbled on it. That alone is enticing. I’m excited to see what’s up when Shacksbury releases this cider in full force.
My wife’s favorite drink right now is a hard cider cut with soda, kind of like a radler, but apples. The soda water cuts the sweetness of the cider and gives it a lighter body. It’s perfect for summer day drinking. Spritz Ginger is basically that drink in a can. It smells like a handful of ginger and pours a light gold, like a glass of chardonnay. It’s light, vaguely sweet apples up front and all ginger on the back end. It’s full of spice—ginger (of course) and pepper and maybe even a bit of cumin mixed in there. It’s a little spicier than I was expecting, but I’m glad Shacksbury didn’t just pay lip service to the ginger aspect. There’s a kick in this cider. And I dig it. Oh, and it’s super-sessionable, coming in at under 4% ABV.
First, check out that label. It’s mesmerizing, like an MC Escher drawing, but more hopeful and bright. The cider inside is just as promising. Like Arlo, it’s also unfiltered and fermented with wild yeast, but the results are pretty different. This cider pours cloudy, and is a little sweeter than Arlo. It’s less effervescent, but still plenty light on its toes. The dominant characteristic here is “funk.” It’s rustic and grassy, with a light hint of lemon. Ultimately, it drinks a hell of a lot like a saison. I could even trick myself into thinking I’m drinking a beer with this one. If I’m picking a favorite out of this whole batch of ciders, this is it. Also, great name. Deer Snacks.