Cider has become a steady seller in our stores. That should surprise no one. The recent rash of traditional and not so traditional ciders that have appeared lately offer easy enjoyment. At the very least, they make a refreshing alternative to wine and beer. We find them absolutely compelling and delicious.
Ciders can be either still or sparkling. Either way, they make a convivial aperitif. The scent of apples cannot fail to please, nor the lively flavors.
As we have explained before, the term cider used to mean hard cider. In the days before refrigeration, you would be hard pressed—so to speak—to maintain a supply of sweet cider. Yeast associates readily with apples, as it does with grapes. The sweetness of the juice inspires yeast to produce alcohol, like it or not. Our ancestors liked it, just as we do today. In addition, sweet cider lays prey to acetic bacteria. The work of these bacteria produces vinegar, not the most refreshing of beverages.
Ciders range from light and sweet to strong and dry. For the sweeter ones, producers rack off the cider from the lees while sugar still remains. This removes the yeast and ends fermentation. Producers can produce sparkling cider by leaving some yeast in the cider and letting it ferment further in a closed environment, like Champagne.
Ciders range in alcohol content from about 4% to 9% or more. Be forewarned, because ciders tend to go down awfully easily. And now, a few of the ciders we carry.
From Ireland, this is traditional cider at its best. Magner’s stands on the dry side, with a pronounced zip. Resistance to its appeal may prove futile. Magners also makes a pear cider, which offers the rounder fragrance of pears. Magners recommends serving their ciders over ice. We say well-chilled, at the least.
Woodchuck originates in Waterbury, Vermont. Woodchuck offers a full range of core products and limited releases, just like craft brewers. Amber is dark and somewhat sweet. Granny Smith is dry and green apple tart. 802 (which is the area code in Waterbury) is dry, with darker tones supplied by caramelized sugar. Pear is fresh and fragrant. Raspberry is off dry with a berry tang.
Woodchuck calls its current seasonal release Winter. Knock on wood, we haven’t seen much winter locally this year but this cider makes a good defense against the season’s aspersions. A strong cider, it has been aged in French and American oak to give it unusual depth and complexity.
Harpoon began making cider several years ago, using local apples. The cider balances a touch of sweetness with a snappy acidity. Harpoon suggest mixing their cider with their beer. Sounds good to us: the bracing zip of the cider combined with the depth of the beer. Yum! They also recommend marinating pork in cider, which is definitely a can’t miss idea.
No telling why this producers calls itself Angry Orchard, with a different angry looking tree on each different label, but its ciders have taken off. Currently this producer offers three ciders: Crisp Apple, which is slightly sweet; Traditional Dry, zesty and full-bodied (5.5% alcohol); and Apple Ginger, with ginger tempering its modest sweetness.