Like clockwork, this time of year a new tap appears next to the one your bartender usually pulls for you. Riding on the heels of the craft beer revolution is a resurgence in hard cider, the quintessential American drink. Production thrived in the states until the one-two punch of the rise of domestic beer and the passage of Prohibition. Since the 1990s cider has worked its way back into the mainstream, this time with much greater variety—from sweet to dry, still to bubbly, beer- to Champagne-like. The rise in gluten-free diets also played a role (celiacs rejoice!). To vary the tug on a tap or pull from the fridge this season, a few standouts are widely available…
Woodchuck Hard Cider
This supermarket standard smells sweeter than it tastes and has a safe, middle-of-the-road apple flavor because it’s fermented with champagne yeast. It has more effervescence than the imports, lacks any added sugar and has a nice amber color.
Stella Artois Cidre
Stella is brewed in the French style that keeps the alcohol content low. This light-bodied brew uses sucrose for sweetness and has a light beer-like aroma and smooth finish.
True Believer Sparkling Hard Cider
Considering it’s made by a winemaker at the Peconic Bay Winery using apples grown in Water Mill, it’s no surprise this brew resembles a sparkling wine. The thick, bubbly head dissolves quickly with a pleasing fragrance and bittersweet taste.
Magners Irish Cider
Despite the addition of sugar and a very sweet aroma, this is a dry beverage. The faint apple taste and rosy color are almost wine-like.
Strongbow Hard Cider
Made in the traditional dry style, Strongbow uses glucose and fructose as sweeteners. The result is a slightly bitter, crisp apple flavor that disappears quickly and goes down smoothly with hardly any carbonation.
Woodpecker Premium Cider
Smells like apples but is not overpoweringly sweet, despite the addition of molasses. The carbonation level fades quickly, making this English-style swill easy to drink.
J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider
The two-part ingredient list of unfiltered apple juice and yeast make for a very sweet, cloudy drink with pure apple flavor that starts smooth and ends with a hint of carbonation. Made in old farmhouse style—which doesn’t artificially limit the alcohol level—the end result is boozy and almost syrup-like.
Angry Orchard Hard Cider
(Ohio and Pennsylvania)
Very strong, tart apple smell in a dry style with a barely-there spicy finish. The sourness puts this cider closer to wine than beer, though it mimics the fizziness of the latter thanks to the added carbon dioxide.
Thirsty for more?
Long Island Pour the Core: A Hard Cider Festival featuring more than 30 local and international brands, happens October 5 at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, pourthecore.com