As fall starts getting into full swing, and apple picking season wraps up, nobody would blame you for tapping into the flavors of the season by reaching for a bottle of hard cider. Whether it’s sweet or dry, apple or pumpkin, hard cider is the fastest-growing alcoholic beverage segment in the United States. To wit, here are 10 ciders to warm your soul on a chilly autumn evening.
Cidery: Julian Hard Cider
City: Julian, Calif.?
If you live in or visit Southern California, you’ve probably heard of Julian, the old mining town in the mountains outside of San Diego. With the gold rush long gone, the major rush to Julian is the throng of tourists who flock to the small city every fall to experience everything related to the apple. Pie companies do battle for tourist dollars, as lines stretch around the corner, full of people who want to get their piece of Julian Apple Pie with its cinnamon streusel topping. This cider perfectly emulates the famous California confection with sweet apple and cinnamon flavors.
Cidery: Angry Orchard?
City: Cincinnati, Ohio?
The Boston Beer Company (brewers of Samuel Adams) entered the cider game in 2011 with Angry Orchard. The core offerings of Angry Orchard are your traditional 5% ABV apple ciders with flavors like Cinnful (sour apple and cinnamon), Crisp Apple and Green Apple. The real attention getters of the Angry Orchard portfolio are their heftier offerings that come in larger 750-ml bottles. Strawman lands more on the dry side, while Iceman is a sweeter homage to Canadian ice ciders, which start with frozen juice to dial up the sweetness.
Cidery: 2 Towns Ciderhouse?
City: Corvallis, Ore. ?
Another high-alcohol offering, this one comes courtesy of Oregon’s 2 Towns Ciderhouse. With strong aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a sweet yet spicy flavor, this cider will surely put you in a holiday mood. Plus, as a bonus, the high alcohol content will help you get through those stressful holiday gatherings.
Cidery: Cider Creek?
City: Canisteo, NY?
There are certainly more choices when it comes to hard apple cider than sweet and dry. Cider Creek inoculates apple juice with a strain of Belgian Saison yeast, which gives unique funky fruit flavors to this unfiltered semisweet cider. Don’t run away from the sediment, Cider Creek actually recommends that you roll the bottle to mix the sediment throughout the cider, and enjoy extra cold.
Cidery: Seattle Cider?
City: Seattle, Wash.?
When you think of pumpkin spice beverages coming from Seattle, the first thing to pop into your head is probably the ridiculously long line at your local Starbucks, as the pumpkinheads are the only thing standing between you and your morning migraine cure. Don’t let this experience turn you off of all things pumpkin spice, as you’ll be shutting off a whole world of flavor. The Seattle Cider Company starts with juice from sweet apples, and then adds pumpkin puree and traditional pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and clove. This cider is autumn in a glass.
Cidery: Nine Pin Cider Works
City: Albany, NY?
Apples get all of the press when it comes to cider…you can hit me for that pun. For something different, look to the apple’s underappreciated cousin, the humble pear. Nine Pin takes pears from New York orchards, and ferments them with honey and cinnamon. The main dominant flavor in this cider is pear, with just enough honey and cinnamon for added sweetness and spice. If you’re a pear fan, this cider will truly make you happy.
Cidery: Sonoma Cider ?
City: Healdsburg, Calif. ?
Some may consider hard cider a less-than-manly drink, since it doesn’t melt your face off with hops. Sonoma Cider Company dispels that myth with brawny names for their ciders like The Hatchet, The Pitchfork and The Anvil. Sonoma Cider believes that the key to good apple flavor in cider is the concentrated flavor that comes from smaller organic apples. Sonoma uses those small apples for The Hatchet, a celebration of pure apple that walks the line perfectly between sweet and dry.
?Cidery: Woodchuck (The Vermont Hard Cider Company)?
City: Middlebury, Vt.?
For many of us, Woodchuck was our first introduction to hard cider. Maybe you didn’t like the flavor of the crappy beer that you could afford, or maybe you liked mixing it with a little bit of Goldschlager for an apple pie cocktail, we all have a history with Woodchuck. Woodchuck has always just been there, lurking in the background, which is why it’s worth noting when they do something different. Hopsation is a crisp apple cider that has been dry-hopped with Cascade hops. The result is an apple cider that balances out the sweetness of the apples with the pine and citrus hoppy bitterness.
Cidery: Citizen Cider?
City: Burlington, Vt.?
?The phrase “Dirty Mayor” probably makes you think of whatever politician is currently holding court in Chicago, New Orleans or New York. Citizen Cider makes a much more pleasant dirty mayor by combining apple cider with ginger and a touch of lemon. If you’re a ginger fan, this cider will probably be right up your alley. There’s some apple flavor there, but this ginger-forward cider could almost qualify as a ginger beer.
Cidery: Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider?
City: Portland, Ore.?
?The Pacific Northwest is hops country, and Hallelujah Hopricot from Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider celebrates the annual hop harvest. Reverend Nat starts with his heirloom apple base, and then adds traditional Belgian Witbeir spices like orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise. After fermenting this base cider with farmhouse yeast strains, he then adds apricot juice before dry-hopping it with whole leaf Cascade and Amarillo hops. This cider has a complex, but very refreshing flavor and semi-dry finish.