Once as common as water in any part of the country with apple trees, hard cider is now on the rebound. For awhile, I’ve been a fan of Warwick Valley’s Doc’s Draft Hard Ciders—especially the pear, which is slightly dry, earthy and loves to be sipped on a sunny day—and I’m happy to report that they are no longer alone on store shelves. A casual walk through a good shop will reveal a growing collection of interesting bottlings. Here are some of my favorites.
From the ÆppelTreow Winery in Burlington, Wis., this straw-yellow cider is fermented in the bottle and is a respectable eight percent alcohol. It’s very tart, with a strong aroma of fresh apples on the nose, and it finishes with a hint of sulfury yeast.
Farnum Hill Semi-Dry is a sophisticated beverage from Poverty Lane Orchards in New Hampshire. The cork releases with a satisfying pop and the cider pours with a head like cava. It shows fine bubbles that persist in the glass and a lovely golden hue, similar to chardonnay. It’s well-balanced, starting with fruity white-grape flavors and ending with a clean sharpness. It’s worth seeking out.
The latest creation from Original Sin is part of the new trend of single-varietal brews. Traditionally, cider is blended to achieve the right combination of sweetness, body and acidity. The Newtown Pippin apple, which was grown in Thomas Jefferson’s and George Washington’s orchards and introduced to England by Benjamin Franklin, needs no help. This product is bright and crisp, with notes of juicy apple and a subtly sweet finish.
I tried two offerings from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks of Salem, Ore. Wanderlust is tart and semi-dry, with a chewy apple-skin bite (think Granny Smith). But I preferred its Wickson Single Varietal, which has tiny bubbles and a touch of sugar that came through on the finish to soften the tartness.
Max Watman is the author of Chasing the White Dog: An Amateur Outlaw’s Adventures in Moonshine.