Don’t listen to the haters that claim hard ciders are inferior to microbrew beers, craft cocktails, and other trendier libations. Crisp fall weather requires a crisp fall beverage, and these beloved, fruit-based concoctions are a great fireside companion after a day on the trail.
ACE Pumpkin Hard Cider
California’s ACE Premium Hard Cider is a West Coast favorite. Each of the establishment’s six cider offerings brings something different to the table; ‘Apple Honey’ is a sweet take on the classic standard, while ‘The Joker’ has a dryness that has led some to compare it to Champagne. But the brewery’s ‘Pumpkin Cider’ is arguably the best choice for consumption during the autumn season. First introduced in 2010, this spicy beverage is available every year after Labor Day weekend.
What the experts say: Cinnamon and nutmeg flavors work surprisingly well with the apple cider base, making this a standout fall beverage. (Paste Magazine)
Crispin “The Saint”: Belgian Trappist Yeast and Maple Syrup
It’s a bit on the expensive side (roughly $10 per 22-ounce bottle), but at 6.9 percent, this apple-syrup hybrid from California packs a wallop. The Saint recently ranked first on Huffington Post’s list of the nation’s best cider brands; taste-testers attested to its superior, alcohol-free taste and strong resemblance to fine Belgian beer.
What the experts say: “Experience a sweetly floral to herbal aromatic bouquet and an elegant yeasty flavor with a sustained mouth-feel that develops complexity on the palate. The Saint’s artisanal Cloudy Filtration style uses racked unfiltered apple wine smoothed with pure organic maple syrup, a touch of apple juice, no added sugar, colorants or sorbate or benzoate preservatives, and is filtered cold for bold, crisp refreshment.” (brewerianmelogs)
Doc’s Draft Hard Cider
Light, refreshing, and gluten-free, each of the six cider offerings from New York’s Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery is rendered from 100-percent fruit. In addition to the apple and pear standards, ciders flavored with raspberry, cassis, and pumpkin are available, as well as a ‘dry-hopped’ concoction that incorporates floral notes.
What the experts say: “This semi-dry hard cider… has a crisp, almost beer-like taste. Doc’s, which can be frequently found in boutique beer bars in the Northeast, also sells sweeter pear- and raspberry-flavored ciders that mix the fruit with apples.” (Daily Meal)
Eden Northern Spy Ice Cider
Aged in French oak barrels, this premium selection is arguably the finest among Eden’s trio of ‘dessert ciders’. It’s also the rarest; only 300 cases were produced, and a single bottle will cost upwards of $30. Still, it’s a fitting fall aperitif best paired with sharp cheese ― or a fine cigar, if that’s your game.
What the experts say: “Eden follows the strict Quebecois standards for making ice cider, pressing apples and freezing juice outdoors. Its amber Northern Spy has a crisp tartness and honey notes.” (Food & Wine)
Foggy Ridge Serious Cider
The greatness of this Virginia concoction boils down to the apples. Two classic English cider apples, the Tremlett’s Bitter and Dabinett, are combined with two American varieties, Ashmead’s Kernel and Roxbury Russet, to produce a cider that finds the right balance between sweet and tart. The Foggy Ridge website also offers a food-and-cider pairing menu for those who wish to get the most out of their taste buds (Asian cuisine, barbecue, and cheese nibbles all pair nicely with Serious Cider).
What the experts say: “Full of yellow apple notes with a super acidic finish, this Virginia-made cider is for those who have previously shunned the category. It’s dry, with small bubbles like a low-dosage Champagne, which means it would pair well with oysters, sushi, and a nice, crisp fall salad.” (Esquire)
Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
One of the best cider brands from across the pond, Samuel Smith’s Organic is widely available throughout the United States (your best bet: the local Irish pub). This medium-dry cider is best served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit, and does not include any artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives (making it a great option for vegan drinkers).
What the experts say: Its pale gold color belies a strong orchard scent, a dry apple tartness and a whole lot of carbonation that makes it feel more like a sparkling cider than something that came out of a brown bottle. As mild as an English ale but as sweet as an American malt beverage, Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider is well suited for extended tastings on long winter nights. (The Street)