According to my calendar, it’s time for us to consider the apple. For much of the last decade, it’s been my annual fall tradition to write about hard cider, a fermented fruit that’s had a hard time breaking into mainstream imbibing.
On the surface, hard cider is a marketer’s dream beverage. The ferment is free of gluten and filled with history as America’s original inebriant, predating rum and beer. Hard cider can be as multifaceted and terroir-driven as fine wine, apples plucked from pastoral orchards bathed in slanted fall sun.
Five years ago, hard cider seemed poised to again become America’s sweetheart, a love affair rekindled after too much time apart. Hard seltzer ruined the renewed romance. Low-sugar, gluten-free Truly and White Claw bubbled across America, leaving cider in their naturally flavored wakes.
Trust me, I understand the appeal. All those 100-calorie hard seltzers are truly easy to consume. They’re the refreshing inverse to heavy and caloric hazy IPAs, salads instead of cheeseburgers with bacon. Hard seltzers make it easy to watch your waist when you’re getting wasted.
Amid all the seltzer madness, my eyes have never strayed too far from hard cider. And I’m here to tell you it’s a golden moment to consume fermented apples. My favorite widely available hard cideries, including Shacksbury and Graft, nimbly thread the line uniting natural wines and wild ales. The result is juice that’s feral and refined, agriculture reduced to its boozy core.
This fall, I’ve been getting after the ferments from Anxo Cider, in Washington, D.C. The company, which began as a Basque-inspired restaurant and cider bar, focuses on tart and fizzy dry ciders that are primarily made from regionally sourced fruit, letting native yeasts cast their funkily unpredictable spell. In a beverage world brimming with candy stouts and hard seltzers infused with lab-born flavors, Anxo’s ciders celebrate simplicity. The fruits sing in their own voice, no Auto-Tune required.
One notable everyday go-to is the Cidre Blanc that’s made with a seasonally shifting blend of Virginia- and Pennsylvania-grown GoldRush apples, a relatively newer cultivar introduced commercially in 1993. It’s related to the Golden Delicious apple, though much tarter and featuring a spry and zippy acidity. You can eat and bake with GoldRush apples, but I want to drink them.
Anxo ferments the apples in stainless steel tanks with Sauvignon Blanc wine yeast, the cider drier than August in a desert. Sometimes bone-dry ciders can be overly tannic and squeegee moisture from your tongue. Not here. The lightly hazy and sparkling Blanc drinks with the 100-watt fluorescence and bold fruitiness of its namesake wine. Green apples and lemons mingle with snappy white grapes, before concluding with a cleansing acidity.
Cidre Blanc would be a superb pairing with a fall harvest meal—roasted vegetables and turkey are right around the corner—as well as a swell lunchtime liquid. It’s more thrilling than filling, the apple of your eyes and stomach, too.