This is the third installment of craft cider roundups from Meredith of Along Came a Cider. For more, check out her first article for Cider Culture about ciders pushing the envelope, and her second article about still ciders.
Fall is second only to spring in terms of its unpredictable weather. Now, it might feel damp and chilly in the morning, only to grow blazingly hot by the afternoon. That can make for challenges not only when getting dressed in the morning, but also for what to eat and, most importantly, what cider to serve.
To reckon with this uncertainty, I’ve thought about all the delicious conditions of fall—from golden breezes to first frost—and chosen a roundup of ciders to suit the season. I have reviewed all of these on my blog and selected them for here based on seasonality. There are many ways to appreciate fall, and hopefully these four ciders will help you make the most of the season.
Boston-based Harpoon Brewery has been making cider since 2007 (and beer since opening in 1986). This autumnal offering, part of a new wave of on-trend pumpkin spice ciders, offers yeasty, spicy, clean and apple-y aromas with a straightforward, semi-dry flavor of nutmeg. There is enough cinnamon, ginger and clove to really bring out that mulled cider and pumpkin pie flavor. It is light-bodied with medium acid and no tannins.
Pairs with: fresh tomatillo salsa, black bean and corn salad, tortilla chips or a cream cheese pound cake with an apple drizzle
Blue Bee Cidery is the first urban cidery in Richmond, Virginia. Its Charred Ordinary is described as a semi-sparkling cider that uses heirloom Virginia apples. The name comes from a particular type of bee that often pollinates apples in the area: the Blue Orchard Bee.
The Charred Ordinary gives wafts of barn wood, barrel and overripe cider apple aromas. A cider doesn’t have to have added flavors to be appropriate for autumn. This cider is a great example of rich apple character that needs nothing more. This dry cider makes me crave the quiet evenings at home in those first chill nights of autumn. Something about the tannic richness is simply riveting.
Pairs with: roasted Brussels sprouts and cheese with bechamel, Vermont white cheddar and Emmentaler topped with red pepper flakes and breadcrumbs or a hearty potato kugel
When I think of Millstone Cellars, I think not only of cider, but also of mead and cyser. This Maryland company strives to recreate the beverages of our past and the local landscape. The cider-making style strives to be low intervention and oriented around wild yeasts. The end results are often exciting and rustic.
The Gingerroot smells strongly and beautifully of ginger even when served cold. I picked up ginger, pear, wood and spice immediately. This fall-friendly cider is high in tannins, similarly high in acid and off dry. What sweetness there is comes from local honey; the honey really is pleasing as a separate-but-balancing note. Texturally, this cider reminds me so much of champagne. I’ve enjoyed this cider on its own, but I can also imagine it in an autumnal cocktail, perhaps with sage or pear flavors.
Pairs with: chilled zucchini noodle salad with tofu and peanut teriyaki sauce or rich butternut squash soup
Distillery Lane Ciderworks has been selling hard cider in Maryland since 2010, and growing apple trees since 2001. Its focus is on the dry side of the cider spectrum, but it still maintains an experimental and adventurous attitude. I appreciate that Distillery Lane Ciderworks talks about texture and mouthfeel when making and describing the ciders. I know they care about richness and structure whether they are making a still scrumpy or a bubbly cider.
Witches Brew gets its color and lots of aromas and flavors from aronia berries. These fruits are also called chokeberries and are related (albeit not closely) more to apples than actual berries. This cider smells garden-y and fruity. Some of the aromas do remind me of berries and stone fruit, but also stems and leaves. The Witches Brew offers up high acid and tannic astringence. I can taste dark fruit and stemmy notes in this dry cider.
Pairs with: turkey roast (or vegetarian alternative), along with mushroom gravy, Amish yeast rolls, oven-roasted beets and baby red skinned potatoes or vanilla bean cheesecake
Which autumnal ciders are you drinking as we settle into the season? Let us know in the comments!
- Charred Ordinary photo: Blue Bee Cidery
- Witches Brew photo: Distillery Lane Ciderworks
- All other photos: Meredith Collins