Skip The Syrupy Stuff: All About the Best Ciders

January 16, 2018

By Evan Malachosky, January 16, 2018

Imagine holding an unmarked amber bottle – your only clues as to what’s inside are that this beverage is one of America’s oldest, boasts an alcohol by volume between four and six percent, and is not as manly as a pint of beer or a glass of whiskey.

Which clue is the dead giveaway that inside is an artisanal, farm-to-glass cider?

Its reputation is irrefutable. Cider simply isn’t as respected as a finely crafted beer or an oaky spirit. It can be delicate and reminiscent of the homestead it was produced on, but it’s far from a rival of a complex wine or a carefully crafted brew.

The case against cider is a slim one, though. Its production dates back to the early 19th century. It was the beverage of choice for early American drinkers because it was simpler than harvesting beer’s ingredients and a resourceful way to repurpose unappealing apples.

The seeds sent over from England and Germany quickly replaced these native, unappealing apples. These seeds would eventually turn into the cider apples that had been successfully producing delicious ciders back home for decades. Once the apples were fit for harvest in the United States, production ramped up and popularity grew. But, once the 20th century turned, popularity slowed and the prohibition set in.

Barrel aging and innovation are key components in 2 Towns' production process.”

Cider apple producing orchards had to convert to growing sweeter dessert apples. Prohibitionists sought out cider orchards and set them ablaze. When the prohibition was lifted, breweries went quickly back into production. Orchards would take decades to convert; sweet ciders were subsequently the only variety on the market and its popularity never returned to what it once was.

But now the inquisitive urbanites and the conscious consumers of the millennial generation are sparking resurgence. Varieties of ciders exist and this generation, tired of the mass-produced and lackluster, will seek them out. Skip the sweet, syrupy ciders and pick one of these seven brands, that are truly off the tree, off the shelf.

Sundström Cider | Hudson, NY

Sundström Cider is an heirloom and wild harvested apple-focused cidery that sources directly from the New York’s Hudson Valley. Its founder, Leif Sundström, left the wine industry after a decade to focus on devoting the same delicateness wine demands to cider.

Recommendation: Sundström Cider’s Sponti Cuvée

Virtue Cider | Fennville, MI

Founded in 2011, Virtue Cider has spent the past half-decade perfecting ciders with depth and variance. Its founder, Gregory Hall, stepped down from his 20-year tenure as brew master at Goose Island to replicate the great cider making countries here in America.

Recommendation: Virtue Cider’s Lapinette

2 Towns Ciderhouse | Corvallis, OR

2 Towns Ciderhouse is adamant on restoring cider to its original glory. It’s an energetic take on the traditional beverage, where barrel aging and innovation are key components in the production process.

Recommendation: 2 Towns’ La Mûre

Evan MalachoskyAdult apple juice has become big business again.

Cider Riot! | Portland, OR

Cider Riot produces solely Cascadian grown apple ciders. This urban cidery focuses on ciders with ranges of depth, flavor and dryness. Abraham Goldham-Armstrong, Cider Riot’s founder, is a seasoned beer-industry worker, but he has devoted his brewing career to cider. Why? “There’s something magical about it,” he says.

Recommendation: Cider Riot’s Cidre de Francois Xavier Matthieu

Shacksbury | Vergennes, VT

Shacksbury strives to be far from simple. The syrupy, sweet, dessert apple ciders are their arch-nemesis. Their apples come from the gnarled trees of New England farms and exquisite apples from the lands of Spain and England.

Recommendation: Shacksbury 2017 Lost Apple Release

Argus Cidery | Austin, TX

Argus set out, when it opened the first cidery in Austin, to make readily available the types of the ciders they enjoyed drinking. These were dry, complex, and worthy of second thought. They set out to make drinkers rethink what American hard cider was supposed to taste like. And, seven years later, they continue to do so.

Recommendation: Argus Cidery’s Ciderkin -- Buy at Saucey Now

Threadbare Cider | Pittsburgh, PA

The next venture in the Wigle Whiskey lore is Threadbare Cider. Their whiskey worked its way up the ranks and onto the maps of whiskey-aficionados everywhere and now, their cider house is the next step. Threadbare is fresh off its grand opening and ready to experiment with its next round of ciders. It’s promising to know that they have an eternal supply of high-quality whiskey, wheat and gin barrels on demand.

Recommendation: Threadbare Cider’s Wild Cider

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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