Hard Cider: Tap Into Apple Goodness

Try one of these hard ciders made for every taste and palate.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kathryn Ray photography

Photo By: Image courtesy of Kathryn Ray Photography

Photo By: Image courtesy of Noble Cider

Photo By: Image courtesy of Noble Cider

Photo By: Image courtesy of Carrie Turner Photography

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Albemarle Ciderworks

Photo By: Image courtesy of Albemarle Ciderworks

Photo By: Image courtesy of Albemarle Ciderworks

Photo By: Image courtesy of Albemarle Ciderworkds

Photo By: Image courtesy of Albemarle Ciderworks

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jack's Hard Cider

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jack's Hard Cider

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jack's Hard Cider

Photo By: Image courtesy of Jeff Stafford

Straight from the Keg

The farm to market movement is alive and well in the cider industry as smaller operations like Noble Cider in Asheville, N.C. diversify themselves by using only local apples for their hard cider. The featured glass is being filled with Summer Blend, Noble's inaugural small-batch cider that's crisp, tart and lightly effervescent.

Closer to Wine Than Beer

Trevor Baker of Noble Cider says, "There are no hard and fast rules on how to present cider but I think serving it cold is the better choice. You need to think about it as a light wine. You're not going to be drinking 70 or 80 degree white wine. Ours is really like a champagne style and champagne is one of those things you want cold."

Start the Presses

Bins of green Mutsu apples and dark red Arkansas Black apples will soon be crushed, juiced and fermented for hard cider.

Behind the Scenes

No, it's not a mad scientist. It's apple scientist Trevor Baker of Noble Cider monitoring the fermentation phase and testing the levels of sugar and acidity.

A Beverage with a Famous Pedigree

An American tradition since the days of the earliest settlers, cider was reputedly served by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. While beer has often been marketed at men, cider tends to be popular, say cider insiders, with both women and men. 

Stout and Cider Together

This classic combo of stout or lager with cider in equal portions is known as The Poor Man's Black Velvet and is making a comeback in the pub scene. A traditional Black Velvet is made from mixing equal parts stout and sparkling white wine (or champagne).

Artisan Ciders from Virginia

As one of the top apple producing states, Virginia is an ideal location for a cidery. Albermarle Ciderworks, which began operations in 2009, is creating some ciders using apple varieties from Colonial times. "The Washington Post" praised the operation, saying "These modern artisan ciders…saved from obscurity, if not extinction, echo the flavors of our nation's early years."

Cavalcade of Apples

An Albemarle Ciderworks employee sorts a variety of apples into specified bins for cider. The bins hold Goldrush, Stayman, Pippin, Jonathan, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Idared and Winesap apples.

Let the Apple Mash Begin

Doomed apples on their way to meet their fate at the mighty Albemarle Ciderworks press where they will be converted into wonderful artisan ciders.

The Purist Approach

There is a trend emerging among some cidermakers to combine apples with other fruits or ingredients for ciders such as Vander Mill's Apple Blueberry or Angry Orchard's Ginger Apple but Chuck Shelton at Albemarle Ciderworks is a purist. "I try to keep my cider just apples," he said. "There are some people who produce cherry ciders. We're still exploring the apple part of it."

Fancy a Sample?

Just like wineries, hard cider operations offer tasting rooms on their orchards where you can sample their various styles before purchasing. In addition to offering regular non-alcoholic cider, Albemarle Ciderworks also sells such popular hard ciders as Virginia Hewes Crab, Pomme Mary and Old Virginia Winesap.

The Consumer Experiment

Woodchuck, one of the largest distributors of hard cider, offers a variety of non-traditional ciders in their Private Reserves line including Pumpkin hard cider, Barrel Select (with the smoky, dry flavors of Kentucky Bourbon) and Belgian White (crafted with Belgian beer yeast).

The Apple Growler

The growler craze isn't just happening in the craft beer world. It's spread through the cider industry too. Pictured above is a sample from Jack's Hard Cider, which uses only Pennsylvania apples and is produced on the Hauser Estate Winery, 8 miles west of historic Gettysburg.

Never from Concentrate

Jack's Hard Cider, using local apples from orchards in Adams County, Pennsylvania, is fermented in stainless steel tanks in an underground, solar-powered, naturally cool (55 degree) cidery.

Think Green

Jack's Hard Cider Original in the green can is the cidery's flagship brand and it is a dry, crisp cider ideal for pairing with blackened fish and citrus salad. The company also offers Helen's Blend (in a red can) that is good with sharp cheese and cherry pie. Other releases include their Granny Smith Apple cider and an oak aged cider. 

We Won't Be Ignored!

Not too long ago, ciders were lumped together with hard lemonades and sweet fruit wines in the back corner of liquor store coolers. Now they command their own section. Pictured above is a shelf sample from a store that features more than 35 hard ciders including Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie (left) and a whole line of Foggy Ridge ciders from Dugspur, Virginia.