No Need for Embarrassment: 6 Hard Ciders That Don’t Suck

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

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

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

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

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

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)