Craft cider growing in popularity
by MARGAUX BURGESS
Does it seem like cider is everywhere all of a sudden? You are not alone in thinking so – and with good reason!
While we have not reached the pint per day pre-prohibition consumption of those who lived in apple-growing regions, cider is one of the most dynamic beverages today with growth far outpacing beer and wine. This is a real benefit to those of us that love a refreshing, crisp and complex beverage with pure fruit flavour, as that is precisely what the crop of today’s craft ciders has to offer.
Cider has been made in some form for over 2000 years, with the most developed cultures of consumption found in England, Spain and France. Geographically speaking, these three countries are rather close to one another, but the cider regions developed independently and offer three very different, yet equally traditional, styles. English-style cider is made from specific apple varieties – generally tart with thick skins. Cider apples are also on the small side so there is a higher skin to pulp ratio further guaranteeing a cider with tannic grip.
Spanish cider is made from Spanish apples, specifically those from the Basque and Asturias regions in the north of Spain. These are complex, funky and savoury options akin to sour beer.
French cider comes mostly from the Normandy region, which is the home of bittersweet and sharp cider apples not found anywhere else. These are low alcohol, naturally sweet ciders, with the residual sugars balancing the tartness of the apples.
The vast majority of ciders made here in Alberta and the Pacific Northwest are known as American–style or New World ciders. While their roots are firmly planted in the traditional realm, they do not have so much of the smoky, savoury flavours that are often found in French and English ciders, and they are not restricted to any one style.
Luckily for cider drinkers, experimentation is a hallmark, as there are an unending number of flavour profiles often highlighting quality local ingredients. One thing to look out for is to be sure you are drinking 100 percent fermented juice, and not one of the many mass-produced ciders that can be as little as 50 percent juice, more like coolers than cider.
Well-made craft ciders are not so different from good wine and beer in that they must be well balanced with a noticeable flavour profile working in tandem with fresh acidity, tannic grip and a well-integrated level of sweetness.
Cider is extremely versatile and can be excellent for food pairing. Dry and off-dry styles are particularly successful with a wide range of dishes. Add some cider to the Thanksgiving table and see how well it works with the diverse selection of flavours! It is also completely gluten-free so it is a safe option for those who are gluten intolerant.
With a unique flavour profile, cider complements rather than competing with the enjoyment of beer and wine. More and more options are available to experiment with, and we have an abundance of choice. There has been no better time to discover cider!
Rogue Ales Fruit Salad Cider
Bright magenta from cherries and plums (and other fruit) grown on the Rogue Ales farm, this off dry cider is fruity, tart and fresh. It is an especially delicious fruit salad! CSPC +772462, 650mL $15.
FinnRiver Oak and Apple Cider
With 12 to 16 weeks in rye barrels from High West Distillery, this cider from organic Washington State apples deftly balances the wood notes and crisp apple profile. Semi-dry with lots of apple character, a little spiciness and much complexity. CSPC +780319, 350mL $13.50.
Reverend Nat’s Sacrilege Sour Cherry
Off-dry option made with tart Granny Smith apples, sour cherry and just a touch of ghost pepper. A cider that is exotic, slightly sweet and spicy unlike any other. Delicious. CSPC +787309, 500mL $12.
Left Field Cider ‘Big Dry’
British Columbia, Canada
A blend of tart cider apples and fruity dessert apples, this is a true dry cider with a little tannic grip. Made in the Okanagan by a cider maker who apprenticed in England. Bright and crisp-like biting into an apple fresh off the tree. CSPC +52274, 500mL $10.
Scenic Road Cider
British Columbia, Canada
Traditional in style, this is a dry cider with a clean and pure apple flavour. Light, crisp and refreshing. CSPC +958082, 500 mL $10.
Uncommon Dry Craft Cider
Alberta’s first cidery, Uncommon Cider, is making small-batch cider in Calgary from a mix of Alberta and B.C. apples. Bright and dry with fresh apple character and subtle citrus notes, this is an enjoyable and homegrown option. CSPC +787249, 500mL $10.