Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
There was a time, not that long ago, when it seemed like hard cider was consigned either to Rip Van Winkle-like New Englanders, long of beard and weird of brain, or the English. Well, that’s changed. In just the past few years, cider has become bizarrely popular: sales were up 62.6% in 2012. Woodchuck, the most popular brand, sold over two and a half million cases last year, and others weren’t far behind.
But cider and America have a long association. In fact, cider was far more popular than beer in Colonial times, largely due to the fact that it was a lot easier to grow apples than barley in New England. In the 1700s, we glugged cider like nobody’s business - about 35 gallons per year per person, on average. As a comparison, per person wine consumption in the US today is about 2.5 gallons per person, and beer is about 28 gallons per person.
Cider consumption may be minimal now compared to what it once was, but as I mentioned, it’s on the upswing. And there are some mighty good ciders out there. Here are a few, some from the U.S. and some from overseas, and all of them ideal for drinking icy-cold at a July 4th picnic - or any time, really.
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider
This subsidiary of the Boston Beer Company makes a number of different ciders. For me, the “Crisp Apple” has the freshest apple character of their three mainline ciders, with classic sweet-tangy notes (for fans of truly dry ciders, though, it may be a bit too sweet—something to consider).
Stella Artois Cidre
Launched this past May in the US, Stella’s entry into the cider market is on the drier side (“European,” the Stella folks like to say), light and crisp, with tart apple flavors and a little orange-citrus character. A nice contrast to the usual mass-market cider style, which tends to be quite sweet.
Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
One of England’s top beer producers also makes a terrific cider, floral and full of bright apple flavor. Only organic apples are used for it (and it’s gluten-free, apparently, as well - though of course apples are, too, so perhaps that’s not so surprising).
One of the best artisanal cider producers in the country, Farnum Hill has been in business since the 1980s, producing terrific cidersfrom its orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Look for the juicy, citrusy, lightly effervescent Summer Cider, which is sold May through September (cider fans not in the northeast should look into mail-ordering from them).
Foggy Ridge Cidery
Located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Foggy Ridge uses heirloom cider variety apples - Tremlett’s Bitter, Graniwinkle, Roxbury Russet and others - from its three orchards to make a range of superb ciders (try the English-style Serious Cider or the more full-bodied First Fruit Cider). With a tasting room that’s open seven days a week, it’s a great place to visit as well.
Trabanco Cosecha Propria
Though most people here may not realize it, Spain’s Asturias region is one of the homelands of great cider (it’s known as “sidra” there). This one’s vividly appley, but with a distinctive earthy note. The finish is citrusy and not sweet at all - really more a kind of bracing zinginess.
More from Food & Wine:
Best Sangria Recipes
Beautiful Summer Fruit Cocktails
Wines for Grilled Foods
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Summer Grilling Recipes
5 Hard ciders to try right now
Perfect picnic wine
How to find a new brew
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I really like your writing style, wonderful info, thank you for posting :D. "The superfluous is very necessary." by Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire.
Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché is the apple of my eye.
Love Angry Orchard... It's like Woodchuck on tap, except cheaper and at my grocery store.
Two Towns Ciderhouse in Oregon has some of the best cider out there!!
How can Crispin- the best out there- not be mentioned.. ?
What about Magners (Bulmers)?
Crispin....and only Crispin for me!
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