When we American’s refer to “cider” we usually mean the kind that’s pressed at orchards in the fall and consumed right away. But in many parts of Europe, “cider” means a fermented beverage, drunk much like beer. And like beer, cider can have many different styles and appearances, from pale and mild to dark and full bodied. Unlike beer, it also ranges from bone dry to intensely sweet. Most are fizzy, to some degree, and alcohol content is generally low – between 5 and 8 percent. The dry ciders, in particular, make nice accompaniments to meals because their bright, refreshing character cuts through heavy, salty food quite nicely. We tasted a selection of hard ciders, all but one available at retail stores in Ohio.
Orleans Aperitif Cider (Vermont); $29/750ml
This strong (15.5 percent alcohol) cider is infused with Vermont herbs and is meant to be enjoyed much in the way vermouth is consumed, either over ice or mixed into cocktails. The aroma is delicate apple with bright herbal notes. It’s dry, with a hint of apple fruitiness and a curiously minty flavor.
(Available at www.edenicecider.com)
Bereziartua Basque Apple Cider (Spain); $9.99/750ml
From the Basque region of Spain, this traditional cider is as dry as they come. It has a subtle apple aroma with a note of spice. The flavor is pleasantly sour and tart with plenty of mouth-puckering acidity. Hard cheeses would be a nice foil.
Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie, 2010; $8.49/375ml
This unfiltered, unpasteurized cider is champagne-pretty in a glass, with mousse to match. It’s got a distinctive earthy apple aroma and a light, refreshing taste with a hint of apple sweetness.
Thistly Cross Scottish Cider; $5.99/500ml
Pale and slightly fizzy, this has an almost beer-like aroma. The taste is dry, clean and quite interesting, slightly reminiscent of a malt beverage.
Clos Norman Brut French Fermented Cider; $5.99/750ml
This fizzy cider from Normandy is very dry and refreshing. It has a bit of sweet apple aroma and mild dried apple flavor that would pair well with salty, assertive foods like cured meats.
Griffin Cider Works Burley Man Cider Cider (Ohio); $6.99
Made in Westlake, Ohio, this is an unfiltered, medium-dry, English-style cider. Slightly fizzy and a hazy golden color, it has a mild apple aroma and refreshing apple flavor with undercurrents of hay and herbs.
Griffin Cider Works Original Cider (Ohio); $6.99
This full-bodied, English-style cider pours yellow-gold with an inviting spiced-apple aroma. A touch sweeter than the Burley Man, it has a gentle fizz and fresh apple flavor.
J.K.’s Scrumpy Farmhouse Organic Hard Cider, Orchard Gate Gold (Michigan); $6.99/22oz
Of all the ciders that we tasted, this smells the most like fresh autumn apple cider. It’s sweet and a bit fizzy with bright, ripe apple flavor.
Eden Vermont Ice Cider, Heirloom Blend (Vermont); $25/375ml
The apple version of ice wine, this cider wows with a lush caramel honey aroma. It’s very sweet – as in dessert – but it’s got such nice balancing acidity that the sweetness does not overpower.
Prices may vary.