If you've been paying any attention to the current status of the adult beverage market, you'll have noticed that, along with craft beer, craft ciders have crept in. Most notably, though they claim it's not a cider, "Redd's Apple Ale" has hit the mainstream market. You may have also seen ciders like Woodchuck, Magners, Crispin, Fox Barrel (Pear Cider!), Strongbow, and Boston Beer Company's Angry Orchard on the shelves lately, each with their own variety of flavors to choose from. They can be served on tap or in a bottle, and are slowly growing more and more popular as a sweet carbonated alternative at the local bar.
Just for fun, here's a link to AmericanHardCider.com, which keeps track of American-made cider distributors.
Ciders are naturally gluten-free, and their fruitiness offers an appealing sweetness to your typical non-beer drinkers. So much so, that beer brands like Stella Artois and Michelob are hopping on the bandwagon and releasing their own ciders to appeal to this crowd. I personally feel like these beverages appeal to a more female crowd, especially those who avoid anything heavy, malty, hoppy, etc. in their beers.
In my opinion, I think ciders are just as versatile (if not more) than beers, though they do offer a different flavor profile and therefore a different kind of versatility. A perfect example of this range would be in the comparison between Angry Orchard's Cider House Collection limited releases, "Iceman" and "Strawman". I was lucky to get my hands on these thanks to my bud Jimmy at Marketplace Wines In East Brunswick, NJ to tryout and review. Oh, where to start? (Note: please excuse the lack of original photos, both times I tried these I didn't have proper lighting nor a decent camera)
|image courtesy of sogoodblog.com|
Strawman made its appearance first, and I'll have to admit, this offered almost a champagne-y dryness, catching me off guard. You can see it has a nice deep golden color, though for me, that was it's only redeeming quality. I expected more sweetness from it, though as I said before, Ciders are just as versatile as wine and beer in some cases. This was highly carbonated (not surprising), though the bubbliness also averted from any fruit flavor or subtle sweet notes it might have had. This was just so darn sour for me and my friends.
From the Angry Orchard Website: "Strawman combines a distinct blend of juices from traditional culinary and bittersweet apples, which is then aged on oak. The result is a full-flavored, complex, and balanced cider with wine-like characteristics, rounded out by apple and citrus notes. Its lingering, earthy finish is an homage to the origins of this unique cider." Well, I guess there's the explanation. I've also heard of it referred to as similar to a dry Reisling.
I tried the Iceman a few days later, and I must say that this was a bit more like what I'm used to.
|image courtesy of sogoodblog.com|
From the website: "This cider is sweet but not cloying. The addition of oak-aging yields a smooth and pleasing vanilla character. The result is a perfectly balanced, full-flavored cider that delights the palate with clean apple notes and a lingering toffee finish."
Given that these both weigh in at 10% ABV, I'd say enjoy responsibly no matter what your flavor preference. Both of these ciders were obviously meant to be for a higher-end setting, with their attempts at complex flavors, aromas, and are probably even meant to sit and age in your cellar for a bit. That being said, these two are complete and utter opposites of each other on the spectrum that ciders offer us, working as a great argument for my descriptive love for their versatility.
Soon enough, and especially since kits are becoming available, we'll see more and more homebrewers perhaps venturing out in to the world of hard cider creation. I won't lie, the thought has been in my mind, especially with apple season quickly approaching!