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The Best Hard Ciders For Summer Day Drinking


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With a full-blown boom going on, people are finally appreciating the joys of cider. This apple wine (no, it’s not a beer style) is the perfect summer day drink — light and super refreshing with just the right balance of sweet and dry. Pour some over a ice and it’s “kissing fingertips”-good. It’s often fermented with specialty yeasts, which give the apple juice either an almost champagne dryness or a subtly sweet and full-bodied fruit juice vibe (sometimes it’s a wonderful balance of the two). It also typically falls into the one to eight ABV range, which makes it very drinkable for an afternoon session, especially if you’re barbecuing in your backyard.

Whereas options used to be limited, these days there are cider choices for every palate. We’re going to just highlight the apple ciders here, even leaving pear aside since — technically — that’s “Perry,” not cider. They’re in no particular order, but they’re all ready for your summer day drinking endeavors.

STRONGBOW

Strongbow is the mainstay of many a bar in England. Their standard version is an apple cider that leads into a sugar-syrupy sweetness with an echo of dryness on the finish. It’s sweet and, therefore, it’s very popular.

ACE JOKER HARD CIDER

Ace Joker’s Hard Cider is the exact opposite of Strongbow. The highlight here is the champagne-like dryness with mild fizz and a little apple-juice sweetness in the background. If you dig sparkling wine, this is a great bet. It’s the perfect refresher for a hot summer day.

THE GOOD CIDER

Coming from Spain, The Good Cider is a crisp drink that has a nice, almost tart apple candy sweetness to it. It strikes that perfect balance between dry and sweet with a nice depth that transports you to a shady apple orchard in sunny Spain.

MAGNERS

Magners is another big brand standard bearer. The over-sized bottles from Ireland strike a wonderful balance of sharp dry apple crispness and fruity sweetness.

The real highlight here is what’s almost an apple pop tart sweetness with a bready/pastry element from the yeast. It’s addictively dry and sweet at the same time and especially good poured over ice.

GOLDEN STATE CIDER MIGHTY DRY

Out California way, Golden State’s Mighty Dry balances dry with a slight apple essence that’s more tart than sweet (though there’s still a very slight sweetness to be found). This one is also a little higher on the ol’ ABVs and clocks in at close to seven percent.

Point being: Don’t chug this one. It’s more a sipping cider.

CIDERBOYS BRITISH DRY

Ciderboys’ British Dry will give you a big whiff of a British apple orchard when you pop open the bottle. From there, it’s definitely dry, with a very tart essence that’s bordering on sweetly bitter. It’s interesting: The bitterness feels out-of-place on the first sip and then becomes as addictive as a Spritz by the very next sip. This is a unique pick that’s sure to win fans at your cookout.

WOODCHUCK AMBER CIDER

Ol’ Woodchuck. This one’s been around in America for a while. And with good reason, it’s a really solid cider that leans into a red apple’s sweetness and woodiness. It’s got a nice sharp dry edge that feels like it stems more from the thick skin of a red apple than the yeasts used in the fermenting process. Truth be told, it’s a bit of both.

This one is complicated enough to be interesting while also being very drinkable.

ANGRY ORCHARD APPLE CIDER

Angry Orchard’s cider will likely be sitting on the shelf right next to Woodchuck. This one leans into the apple sweetness with a very slight dry edge. This is definitely a cider if you have sweet tooth as the apple juice feels syrup thick and sweet before that dryness cuts in to save the day.

CRISPIN ORIGINAL

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Crispin is a bit of an outlier. There’s a great sunny apple orchard nose here that’s cut hard by an almost creamy crisp dry body. That creaminess is very reminiscent of Berliner Weisse or Gose — both of which also use a lacto fermentation. If you love those sour beers, you’ll really dig this cider.

CIDER RIOT! EVERYDAY CIDER

Cider Riot!’s Everyday from Portland, OR, is a great cider if you’re into the sweeter side of things with a nice creamy edge. It’s kinda like a crisp apple pie that’s been cooled down to almost ice cold levels. There’s a pastry yeast in there creating a dryness, but it’s not the main attraction. It’s the pumped up apples that really shine here.

Grab a can and give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

TRUE BELIEVER HARD APPLE CIDER

New York’s True Believer embraces the dry without sacrificing the apple charm. There’s a sweetness here but it’s really the crisp and refreshing sparkling wine dryness that makes this an ultimate thirst quencher. There’s a real sense that time was taken to make this one just right and that translates to a cider that goes down very easily.

HALLETS REAL CIDER

Hallets from over in England is a complex cider that’s worth hunting down in the United States. In this case, a vintage cider (that’s a cider made with the best of the best apples and slightly aged in oak) is mixed with fresh juice to give a layered texture that’s deeply dry but also pops with apple sweetness.

Some purists may not like this one as it’s neither vintage or new cider, but we call it a brilliant mix of both.

LEFT FOOT CHARLEY HENRY’S PIPPIN

Up in Michigan, Left Foot Charley Henry’s Pippin Hard Cider 100 percent wins the prize for most whimsically Wes Anderson name for a cider. It also wins hearts worldwide for being a great cider all around.

It’s a dry and very bright drink that has the feel of an old apple orchard on a hot day with the aromas to go along with it. The smell is almost like a big pile of freshly emptied apple picking crates that have been stacked up around sunset and are awaiting yet another day of apple harvesting. It’s complex, refreshing, and delicious.

JK’S SCRUMPY

A “scrumpy” is a thicker, cloudier version of cider. It’s sometimes called a “farmhouse cider” — don’t be surprised if you find bits of apples floating in the bottle.

JK’s Scrumpy is an outstanding riff on the style — with a tangy apple taste that really feels like a buttery white wine. It’s apple forward without being overly sweet and will have you reaching for another in no time.

SHACKSBURY SEMI-DRY

Vermont’s Shackbury is another one that’ll be a little harder to find. If you do, buy them all. It’s a great cider that’s slightly aged, giving it a little more depth and character. It’s got a big presence with a nice dryness that feels like you’re eating a really, really good apple, fresh off the tree.

ETIENNE DUPONT CIDRE BOUCHE BRUT DE NORMANDIE

Etienne DuPont Cidre from Normandy over in France is a winner. Image a wonderfully dry champagne through the lens of an idyllic French apple orchard and you’ll start to get a sense of the beauty of this one. It’s dry without being tasteless and it has plenty of apple-feel without getting overly sweet. It drinks like a fine wine because, well, it is one.

OLIVER’S FINE CIDER

Oliver’s is a classic English cider that’s 100 percent worth tracking down. The taste is an apple bomb of flavor that’s cut by a great yeast-driven dryness that leaves the palate wanting more … a lot more. This one is perfect for a backyard all-day bbq or spending the whole day in a beer garden under the shade of a tree.

FARNUM HILL FARMHOUSE EXTRA DRY CIDER

Farnum Hill’s Farmhouse Extra Dry is a quality cider that is super easy to drink. Seriously, this one feels very quaffable but at a 6.5 percent ABV, it’ll knock you out fast.

The cider has a clean apple tartness that’s underpinned by a nice “minerality.” It’s fruity, refreshing, and a lotta fun to drink.

TROY CIDER MMXIV

Troy’s 2014 vintage is “apple wine for wine lovers.” The cider is the only still or non-fizzy entry on our list. And while that sounds like an odd prospect for a classically fizzy drink, bear with us. It’s really outstanding in the flavor department.

There’s a real sense of the apple orchard here that’s robust and gives way to a creamy butter texture before a slight dryness on the end. This is a unique cider that’s worth hunting down to try at least once.

FINNRIVER FARMSTEAD CIDER

Finnriver up on the Olympic Penninsula in Washington State is a great choice for any cider lover. Their classic Farmhouse variety hits the unfussy cider nail right on the head.

There’s an almost too-good-to-be-true balance of apple juice sweetness and tart sparkling wine fizz at play here. It’s a great bottle of cider to measure all others by.

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