While it might feel like a recent trend, the story of hard cider in America dates back as far as the beginning of the country itself. In fact, it was the English settlers who brought their love of hard cider to America. “It took some time to grow a sufficient amount of apple trees for production,” says Patrick A. Combs, Director of Liquids and Advanced Cicerone® at Stem Ciders in Denver, “and there were plenty of things to solve for—like increasing bee population in order to ensure sufficient pollination of orchards.” Several hard cider phases later, many are returning to the segment to see what the beverage has to offer: clean and crisp flavor profiles, diverse food pairing abilities, and an ever-expanding world of ingredients.
Bolstered by the craft beer movement, many cideries are venturing into new and experimental flavor territory. “This has courted a lot of the same adventurous drinkers who are looking to expand their horizons beyond what they often know to be a sticky sweet beverage with relatively little complexity,” says Combs. “It also seems to have struck a chord with those looking for a naturally gluten-free drink option, often with significantly less calories than other bar offerings.”
Why is hard cider a great fall drink? Cider is made from apples, and autumn is apple season. Most apples ripen between late August and early November. “Pressing fresh apples and fermenting them makes the freshest cider,” says Michael J. Neff, bar director at Bar Loretta in San Antonio, TX. “Because apples are so seasonal, we’re societally conditioned to associate them with this season—autumn means cider. These associations are more important in appreciating what we drink than most people credit.”
You might not believe it, but hard cider is also great for beer fans. This is especially true in the fall. The fruity, crisp, slightly tart flavors appeal to lager, pilsner, and even pale ale fans. The following ten top hard ciders are targeted for the hardest-to-please beer drinker.
1. Austin Eastciders Original Dry Cider
Austin Eastciders is a big name in the hard cider marketplace for good reason. Every cider from this brand is unique and exciting, especially its classic Original Dry Cider—a 5% ABV, crushable, slightly tart, sparkling wine-like, dry cider made with bittersweet apples sourced from Europe and dessert apples from the U.S.
[$10.99 for a six-pack; austineastciders.com]