Given the recent boom in craft breweries throughout the United States and brewers’ willingness to innovate, it has been an interesting time for craft beer. Unbeknownst to many, this is also an interesting time for cider. Whereas beers like IPA's may be challenging due to their elevated ABV and formidable bitterness, the challenge for cider may lie in its perceived sweetness and traditionally low ABV%.
SWEET SPOT FOR CIDER
Ciders can be categorized under four headings: apple only, pear only, pear with or without an apple base, and apple with flavored fruit added in a secondary fermentation process. Cider at its purest has two ingredients: Apple and yeast. To produce cider, direct fermentation is implemented in a process akin to wine making. This means terroir. With ciders continental history and producer advancement via globalist society, we have Americans doing French style, British doing American, and well, French doing French. These multitude of styles provide options of interest for producers, buyers, and consumers that can extend into a discussions of single origins and blends.
Multi varietal ciders
First up, Organic Apple Cider from Samuel Smith's. This cider was anything but dry. Its crisp bite carried a British sense of pure simplicity. Once the first bottle was set aside, our cider guide excitedly opened our second example of apple purity - a three-ingredient apple blend from Washington. He spoke of admiration for this Rambling Route Red from Washington’s Tieton Cider Works, an elegant liquid that was more French than American and made with champagne yeast and apple. It drinks just as well served in two tall flutes as it does in its ironic tallboy can. In flavor it is reminiscent to dry white wine at the moment that you bite into an apple after a sip of sauvignon blanc and right before you reach for a bite of cheese. This offering from Tieton Ciderworks should come as no surprise, as Craig and Sharon Campbell’s Harmony Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920's. Another offering we sampled was the chic and deeply golden Tieton Frost which contained three apple varieties reminiscent of a sauternes. This mix of Winter Banana apples, Jonagolds, and Pinova’s are as intentional as any blended can hope to be. The affordability vs. quality of Tieton remained my favorite until the not bitter end.
Single Varietal Ciders
As cidermaking’s similarities to winemaking continued to reoccur, we began to wonder if there were parallels between blends utilized in continental wine making versus new world single varietals. Just then, in a sea of blends, bobbed a lone Green Apple from D's Wicked. This cider was a welcomed 6.9% ABV, dry and food friendly, liquid lunch. For tasting notes, someone from the group suggested notes of brie rind or barnyard then another offered up, "cave-aged, bandaged wrapped, cheddar". Understandably, whenever band-aids find their way into a tasting reference, it may be the point of no return. However, for some, there is intrigue to live yeast developing from the proverbial rotten apple which “spoils the barrel” due to the funky flavors. In the wine world, this is similar to produced like that of a Brettanomyces impacted old world wine. For these people, something like Etienne Dupont from Normandie can hang out in the cellar from four to eight years where it would “be at home” being paired with a bandaged musty cheese. Whether or not the buyer is willing cellar this bottle, this cider bouche brut can emerge into wine bars and discerning dining rooms and be right at home with cheese courses and thoughtful appetizers.
Ace Pear, Pineapple, or Blood Orange is a good bet alike for a beerhall or sitting tall on the drink menu of a trusted restaurant. This cider from Sebastopol, California is popular and delicious by the glass or as a cocktail ingredient.
The Tieton Cider Works Dry-Hopped Cider has the potential to catch a drinker off guard at first sip due to its nature of beer meets cider. This cider fits in at a beer-centric venue but could have a hard time finding a home elsewhere as hops are not everyone’s cup of tea. However due to the attention to balance between apple’s sweetness and the aroma from the hops (dry hopping minimizes bitterness), it would be fun to include this one on the lineup of a cider vs. beer dinner.
Bobbing for Pears
Pear in no way is under the shade of the apple tree. The first time we came across Sir Perry, containing 100% pear, was a cider epiphany. This is unlike pear flavored ciders which have an apple base. The reason perry’s are not as popular to produce is because apple juice is cheaper than pear reducing cost. Sam Smiths Perry was sparkling and very fizzy, with a nose of bubble gum and pure pear on the tongue.
All things considered, whether it be storage space or taps available to dedicate to one or more ciders, bringing in units of the well-known best sellers or the more obscure lower allocation. as only a Etienne Dupont from Normandie for example needs to be picked up by the venues that can really charge what this is worth -.
Cider occupies a limbo. Not beer, nor wine it’s a rare breed as a mediator able to maneuver cross categories in so many ways. Buyers often decide to bring in standard or experimental stock based on one's own tastes and instincts so long as they fulfil an active role. Diligent buyers should track sales to know when to hold or fold within any market niche. If you don’t have space on tap there are many reliable styles and costs in the cider options that can fit your niche.
Let’s afford ourselves some cider stock that we personally enjoy, and if we find ourselves with any left over I’d recommend running a kitchen special sauced by a gastrique - a savory reduction made of a vinegar caramel, in this case apple.
HAWAII BEVERAGE GUIDE
It’s always disappointing when you read in a National publications about a product that sounds awesome, but then find out it’s not available in Hawaii. Written by the Hawaii Beverage Guide team, the column “Product Spotlight” has a goal of changing that. The column only features product within a category that’s available for sale within the state of Hawaii.