Food & Drink | December 4, 2015 9:00 am

A Beginner’s Guide to Cider (the Fun Kind)

It’s the tipple for fall. And we've got one for every drinker.

By The Editors

Cider is one of the world’s great drinks.

Non-fans complain that it’s too sweet. Our opinion? They just haven’t tried a great cider yet, many of which are either bone dry or just this side of it.

Your correspondent should know: she’s traveled to all the world’s historic cider-producing regions (Northern Spain, France, Germany, the U.K.) and als makes her own out of a house she built on an apple orchard north of San Francisco.

So, here’s a sampling of the different possibilities at your disposal, as organized by your current beverage of choice.

For the Craft Beer Fiend

How about a cider that’s been enhanced with some extra flavor? Taking a cue from the craft beer world, ciders are increasingly being augmented with botanicals like hops (ME’s Urban Farm Fermentory), chilis (WA’s Finnriver), ginger (OR’s 2 Towns) or other fruits, like sour cherries (OR’s Reverend Nat’s).

For the Sour Beer Drinker

Are you a fan of gose or other sour-style beers? Then some of the wild fermented ciders would probably be right up your alley. They’re tart and a little funky, and always unfiltered. Good examples are Troy or 101 Ciderhouse out of California, Millstone in Maryland, and Black Duck from the Finger Lakes in New York.

For the Bourbon Hound

Then there are the repurposed barrel-aged ciders, many of which take advantage of the remnants of fine spirits oozing their way into the mix. Two of my personal favorites are New England Cider Company’s Barrel Aged (CT) and Schilling’s Barrel Aged #2 (WA). For less boozy, more oaky/vanilla examples, look to Tilted Shed’s Barred Rock (CA) and Potter’s Craft Oak Barrel Reserve (VA).

For the Fine Diner

Looking to pair a cider with a hearty, three-course meal? There are some amazing still ciders that can compete with any white wine and a few reds as well. The best are crafted from true cider apples: apples you probably wouldn’t want to eat because of their bitter tannins. It’s those same tannins that give these ciders their fullness and structure. Great examples are Serious Cider (VA’s Foggy Ridge), Albee Hill (NY’s Eve’s Cidery) and Extra Dry or Dooryard (NH’s Farnum Hill).

For Times That Call for Popped Bottles

There are any number of stunning dry sparkling ciders that can easily stand in for a brut Champagne. Try Eden’s Sparkling Dry (VT), Traditions Ciderworks’ Riverwood (OR) or Aaron Burr’s Appinette (NY), which is featured on Eleven Madison Park’s tasting menu in New York.

For Dessert

To finish things off, you can go with tart/sweet rich/spicy ice ciders (think ice wine, but with apples). Some of the best in the country, if not the world, are made in Vermont by Eden Speciality Ciders. Neige, made by La Face Cachée du Pomme in Quebec, is another fine example.

Then there are distilled products like apple brandy (Neversink Spirits’ unaged is a personal favorite) or pommeau (apple brandy cut with fresh juice such as EZ Orchards’ Pomme), which are a whole different barrel of fun.

We hope you’ll give this iconic American drink another try. Head to your nearest cider pub (NY’s Wassail; SF’s Upcider; Chicago’s The Fountainhead; Seattle’s Capitol Cider) and see just what you’ve been missing.

We’ll convert you yet.

Words by Darlene Hayes. Want to know more? Check out Darlene’s cider blog or her recently released book, Cider Cocktails: Another Bite of the Apple.