Apples, an American staple in the signature dessert associated with wholesome values and domesticity.
Apple pie is synonymous with family and a cinnamon-saturated kitchen. Apples became the classic American fruit back when English settlers found only inedible crabapples in the new world and brought apple seeds from Europe to start cultivating orchards. Once orchards become up and running apple cider was the drink on the American table because it was harder to grow barley and other grains to make beer.
I haven’t given craft cider the love it so rightfully deserves. That’s because my perception for the longest time on the drink was from Angry Orchard, Redds and Crossbow apple ales that are overly sweet.
I have sampled many craft hard ciders and some of them are actually pretty good. Even if I am more prone to drink a craft beer over a craft cider, it is important to appreciate the craft cider world and welcome the strong apple juice into the craft family.
It’s beer’s tart cousin that is booming just like beer.
Cider was all the rage back then and slowly went out of style when beer making came into play with German immigrants bringing their brewing practice and business to the United States. From then on beer became the preferred alcoholic choice and cider lost all its carbonation and fizzled out.
Craft cider is making its comeback and its making its return well-known.
All over the country craft cider sales are on the rise, increasing 75 percent in 2014 and makes up one percent of the craft beverage sales. Not only are sales up but so are cider bars and cider houses.
Cider-only bars are opening up all over the country from Oregon to New York. We even have one in Portland. Bushwhacker cider opened their cider-only bar in 2010.
Hard cider is more than a gluten-free or sweeter alternative to beer it is creating its own niche in the craft malt alcohol world. If Johnny Appleseed could see how apple cider has grown, he would probably want a pint.
Good hard ciders are naturally fermented and produced with minimal interference.
Most ciders come out with a clean and dry taste like a crisp white wine which makes a good cider easy to drink. During fermentation some cideries will take practices from craft brewing where the cider will spend time in a bourbon or wine barrel or are brewed with hops.
One of my favorite ciders is from the beloved local cidery 2Towns Ciderhouse, the Hop & Stalk Imperial Cider. This cider is made with Citra hops and locally grown rhubarb along with Northwest apples. This cider starts out like any other, with a sweet apple taste but finishes out strong like an IPA with the taste of hops. What I love about this cider is that final and tart finishing taste that doesn’t stick around in the back of my mouth.
I will always try a cider brewed with hops because I love the combination of the tart and sweet taste of the apple with the citrus hop taste in the background. Like any other Corvallis local I gravitate to 2Towns ciders, not only because it is made in town but because it is a genuinely great product.
I really like 2Towns cider because it is not overly sweet, they have seasonal ciders and the ciderhouse uses diverse ingredients in making a unique drink. Many bars in town will have 2Towns on tap but many brewpubs don’t make their own cider in-house. The only place in town I have found that makes their own cider is McMenamins. They switch ciders on tap with the seasons and if you get the chance, try their cherry and marionberry ciders.
With cideries popping up as fast at breweries, you have a lot of options. Recently I went to a taproom and got a taster flight of beers. It is very established by now that I love craft beer but I am also a patron of the craft ciders as well- in moderation.
As I was choosing what samples I wanted in my flight, I was recommended a pineapple cider from Ace Cider. This was an interesting cider to try and I actually ended up liking it. I couldn’t drink an entire pint of it since it is a very sweet drink, but this is a flavor that wouldn’t translate into beer and that is one aspect that is great about cider. It is a great medium for odd and pleasant flavors.
Another attribute to craft cider that you can’t do with craft beer is add ice. If you add ice to your craft beer- just leave. You can’t sit with me. But with cider it doesn’t have a wheat/malt composition that makes ice a no-go like for beer.
Other popular and delicious cideries in Oregon are Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider out of Portland, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks out of Salem and Atlas Cider Co. out of Bend. But Oregon isn’t the only state embracing the craft cider revolution- Washington and Idaho boast some great cideries of their own.
If you haven’t given hard cider any consideration or love, try a pint or a 22 ounce bottle and see if the good ‘ole American staple will spark pride and a good buzz.