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Best Hard Cider? [moved from Spirits board]

CharlieKilo Nov 22, 2010 09:51 AM

Who makes the best (widely available) hard cider? I've never had hard cider, but I just bought some Hornsby's to try. Is it any good?

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  1. JMF Nov 22, 2010 12:27 PM

    That's a tough question to answer. Each of the major cider producing countries has one or more styles of cider. Usually one or more traditional styles, and then softer, sweeter stuff for the general public. Some times these products are good, and some are awful and bear little relation to traditional cider.

    Hornsby isn't a traditional cider, has additional flavoring added, and falls into the class of drinkable, but not that good. That said, I have had a few of them over the years, and I know lots of people who like it. They tend to be the type of people who like light beer and budweiser.

    3 Replies
    1. re: JMF
      CharlieKilo Nov 22, 2010 01:08 PM

      Hmm. Not encouraging. Can you recomend a good "traditional" cider?

      ( I HATE Budweiser.)

      1. re: CharlieKilo
        JMF Nov 23, 2010 06:53 AM

        Like dsp says, where are you located?

        1. re: JMF
          CharlieKilo Nov 23, 2010 01:00 PM

          Dallas. Not exactly apple teritory....
          Any ideas?

    2. davis_sq_pro Nov 23, 2010 06:26 AM

      I'm not sure where in the world you're located, but if at all possible try to find something locally and artisanally made. High quality ciders tend to be rather expensive -- I've seen bottles go for upwards of $20 -- but it will taste like it's supposed to. IMHO cider should not be sweet, and should not be heavily carbonated. The commercial stuff is syrupy sweet and tastes more like apple pucker than real apples.

      In my opinion if you want to taste truly great hard cider you're going to have to make your own. It's not at all difficult to make -- the hardest part of the process is having the patience to let it rest -- and the end result is usually far superior to any of the brands I've seen for sale.

      1 Reply
      1. re: davis_sq_pro
        JMF Nov 23, 2010 06:53 AM

        True, making hard cider is easy. It was home cider making that led to my first professional cider making job.

      2. Gio Nov 23, 2010 07:05 AM

        Can I just pop in here to say that we like Woodchuck Hard Cider made in Vermont. We drink it and it's great to cook with. I believe it's widely available... in my little corner of the world, north of Boston, within 5 miles there are 20 sources.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Gio
          Withnail42 Nov 6, 2012 03:30 PM


          Woodchuck is excellent.

        2. e
          eade Nov 23, 2010 07:09 AM

          We've gotten hard cider by leaving unpasteurized cider in the refrigerator for "too long". But it turned out to be not too long because our hard cider tasted as good as other professionally prepared hard cider we've had.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eade
            JMF Nov 24, 2010 07:59 AM

            Yes, good hard cider can be easy to make. Refrigerator style with wild yeasts can be good, or horrible, it depends upon the local wild yeasts. Both in the orchard, where the cider is pressed, and in the home.

          2. JMF Nov 24, 2010 07:56 AM

            Woodchuck starts out well made, but then they add "secret Ingredients" for flavor. Probably natural apple and other fruit concentrates. If that is so, that's ok, but if they use artificial flavoring, then not so good. If I remember it's better tasting than Hornsby. But it's been years since I had any of the mass made ciders.

            I haven't tried the cider made by Harpoon brewing in Boston, but the cider maker took the same advanced hard cider production courses as I did at Cornell University.

            Doc's hard cider from Warwick Winery in NY is very good.

            Farnham Hills hard cider from New Hampshire is probably the most traditional hard cider in the US. They have a huge variety of reeal cider apples, not the dessert apples that most folks have to use. they have russets, bittersharps, bittersweets, etc. They may be a bit too assertive and tat or even bitter for most people. But they are very well crafted and of excellent quality.

            8 Replies
            1. re: JMF
              Gio Nov 24, 2010 08:08 AM

              I'm glad you mentioned the Farnum's cider. I was just reading about it on another thread, and their web site explains what they do very well. I'm going to look for it today...

              1. re: Gio
                JMF Nov 25, 2010 07:06 AM

                Farnham's cider can be a bit much for some people. But it's what real, traditional, colonial cider was like.

                1. re: JMF
                  Gio Nov 26, 2010 08:26 AM

                  Too sweet? Too tart?? Too what? Couldn't break away to go shopping again...BTW.

                  1. re: Gio
                    JMF Nov 26, 2010 09:52 AM

                    Very dry, complex, sometimes funky and earthy. It all depends upon the blend.

                    1. re: JMF
                      Gio Nov 26, 2010 04:49 PM

                      OK thanks, JMF. I'll just have to buy and taste for myself...

                2. re: Gio
                  greygarious Aug 27, 2011 10:15 AM

                  Gio, a few years ago I heard an NPR discussion of the ciders made in Western Massachusetts in towns like Colrain. There is a cider-tasting tour/festival (I can't recall which) in that area every fall.

                  I liked the Woodchuck but not as much as Bulmer's London Dry Cider, which was available during the 1980's but then disappeared. Since alcohol interferes with the heart meds I take now, I have not looked into whether or not it ever returned.

                3. re: JMF
                  sourcandy Nov 25, 2010 06:02 AM

                  Harpoon makes a surprisingly solid cider, surprising since I find the majority of harpoon products to be undrinkable.

                  Woodchuck does seem to add flavors and this works better in some of their bottles than others. The granny smith is too tart and chemically, but the Fall seasonal cider is absolutely amazing. One of the easiest drinking ciders I've ever had.

                  1. re: JMF
                    Jenny Ondioline Nov 26, 2010 03:16 PM

                    Harpoon's cider is world-class. Very dry, but bracingly crisp.

                  2. j
                    J3107 Nov 24, 2010 08:33 AM

                    Hornsby is not bad, I'd say its about the same as Woodchuck maybe a touch drier. Harpoon is also a good American produced cider. There are smaller producers which in my experience tend to be a little better but they are harder to find distributed nationally.

                    For imports I would say that one of the best is from Samuel Smith. Wholefoods tends to carry it. Strongbow another English import is also quite good.

                    Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché from France and other French farmhouse ciders are a bit different and tend to be light and refreshing akin to a sparkling wine. But if tasting french ciders take note that pommeaux is cider blended with Calvados and comes in with an ABV in the high teens as opposed to the beer like 5 or 6% of most other ciders.

                    The larger producers, particularly here in the States, due to tend to be a bit on the sugary side but dry ones exist and both can be delicious. I find hard cider very enjoyable especially in Fall season. Cheers!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: J3107
                      TheDewster Nov 25, 2010 12:03 PM

                      Here are some available in Canada you can ask at a store in the U.S. to see if they can get them
                      We are horribly overtaxed aren't we? I like Bulmer's and Magders and Strongbow on tap.
                      1. BLACKTHORN CIDER
                      United Kingdom | Matthew Clark Brands Ltd
                      LCBO 619551 | 500 mL | $ 2.85

                      2. BULMERS ORIGINAL CIDER
                      United Kingdom | Scottish & Newcastle Breweries Ltd.
                      LCBO 99002 | 568 mL | $ 3.95

                      Canada | Ciderie St Nicholas
                      VINTAGES 179473 | 750 mL | $ 12.95

                      4. CLOS SAINT-DENIS BOURG SAINT-DENIS CIDER 2007
                      Canada | Mondia Alliance
                      VINTAGES 89490 | 750 mL | $ 12.80

                      5. COUNTY CIDER PET
                      Canada | County Cider Company
                      LCBO 459370 | 1000 mL | $ 7.85

                      6. CRACKED APPLE
                      United Kingdom | Beverage Brands (Uk) Ltd.
                      LCBO 94243 | 500 mL | $ 3.35 |

                      7. CREMANT CIDRERIE ST-NICOLAS
                      Canada | Ciderie St Nicholas
                      LCBO 61671 | 750 mL | $ 11.80

                      8. DOMAINE PINNACLE ICE CIDER
                      Canada | Domaine Pinnacle
                      LCBO 94094 | 375 mL | $ 30.30

                      9. DOMAINE PINNACLE ICE CIDER
                      Canada | Domaine Pinnacle
                      LCBO 6924 | 375 mL | $ 34.95

                      Canada | Domaine Pinnacle
                      LCBO 52365 | 375 mL | $ 44.95
                      11. GAYMERS ORIGINAL CIDER
                      United Kingdom | Vincor International Inc.
                      LCBO 105783 | 500 mL | $ 2.95

                      12. GROWERS BLUEBERRY CIDER
                      Canada | Vincor International Inc.
                      LCBO 174599 | 6x341 mL | $ 10.95

                      13. GROWERS GRANNY SMITH CIDER
                      Canada | Vincor International Inc.
                      LCBO 384800 | 6x341 mL | $ 10.95

                      14. GROWERS PEACH CIDER
                      Canada | Vincor International Inc.
                      LCBO 174607 | 6x341 mL | $ 10.95

                      15. GROWERS POMEGRANATE CIDER
                      Canada | Vincor International Inc.
                      LCBO 36343 | 6x341 mL | $ 10.95 |

                      16. MAGNERS ORIGINAL IRISH CIDER
                      Ireland | William Magner & Co
                      LCBO 699389 | 500 mL | $ 2.90

                      17. PEELER PREMIUM LIGHT CIDER
                      Canada | Thornbury Village Cidery Inc.
                      LCBO 146043 | 4x341 mL
                      WAS: $ 11.95 | NOW: $ 10.95 | SAVE: $ 1.00

                      18. REKORDERLIG ELDERFLOWER
                      Sweden | Ab Abro Bryggeri
                      LCBO 174615 | 500 mL | $ 2.90

                      19. REKORDERLIG WILD BERRY
                      Sweden | Ab Abro Bryggeri
                      LCBO 91850 | 500 mL | $ 2.55

                      20. SAMUEL SMITH'S ORGANIC CIDER
                      United Kingdom | Samuel Smith Old Brewery
                      LCBO 173047 | 550 mL | $ 4.95

                      21. SIR PERRY BERRY
                      United Kingdom | William'S Orchards
                      LCBO 174573 | 500 mL
                      WAS: $ 2.85 | NOW: $ 2.65 | SAVE: $ 0.20

                      22. SIR PERRY PEAR CIDER
                      United Kingdom | Matthew Clark Brands Ltd
                      LCBO 8144 | 500 mL | $ 2.85

                      United Kingdom | Westons Of Much Marcle
                      LCBO 130815 | 500 mL | $ 3.70

                      31. WAUPOOS PREMIUM CIDER
                      Canada | County Cider Company
                      LCBO 612804 | 4x341 mL | $ 13.35

                      United Kingdom | Westons Of Much Marcle
                      LCBO 131938 | 2x500 mL | $ 10.60

                      33. WILLIAM PREMIUM CIDER
                      Canada | Cidrerie Solar
                      LCBO 173039 | 473 mL | $ 2.75

                      1. re: TheDewster
                        CharlieKilo Nov 25, 2010 08:52 PM

                        Horribly overtaxed?
                        I'd say horribly understimulated.
                        But thanks for the verbose reply.

                        1. re: TheDewster
                          TheDewster Nov 26, 2010 06:23 AM

                          sorry I bothered

                          1. re: TheDewster
                            SourberryLily Oct 25, 2012 03:02 PM

                            That's a copy paste from the LCBO search engine isn't it?
                            Many in this list are not at all hard ciders but ice ciders which has nothing in common aside from the fact that they both have apples in it.
                            Ice cider is like ice wine... or Porto in comparison to a red.

                          2. re: J3107
                            PoppiYYZ Aug 2, 2012 07:45 AM

                            Tried the Etienne DuPont Cidre Bouché brut de Normany over the weekend at Balthazar in NYC. Wickedly good !! Earthy caramel / mushroom apple flavor. Absolutely outstanding.

                            Sadly not available in Canada, but the hunt is on...

                          3. PoppiYYZ Nov 26, 2010 08:07 AM

                            VERY easy to make your own and NOW is the time. All you need is unpasteurized apple juice (somewhat hard to find), one pack of EC118 wine yeast, a carboy, and some time.

                            Personally I prefer Apfelwein from the Hessen region of Germany (around Frankfurt). It isn't available here unfortunately, but I buy it in Florida each winter. It is very very dry, high acidity, ~5-6 % alcohol, with a sharp crisp apple flavour. Excellent stuff for summer patio sipping. My recipe is very close (some say better). Glad to share easy recipe details if you are interested.

                            If you aren't going to Florida, and won't make your own, buy Strongbow. Hornby's is also drinkable (it makes a great break from US beer when in the states).

                            PS Thanks for the detailed list Dewster. There are some there I haven't tried. I appreciate your effort.

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: PoppiYYZ
                              davis_sq_pro Nov 26, 2010 08:37 AM

                              I much prefer the D47 strain to the EC118. D47 produces a less-dry, heavier-bodied product, and promotes malolactic fermentation, ensuring that the end result won't be excruciatingly tart. I also like to play with ale yeasts, e.g. S-04 or T-58. Esters help make the end product a bit more interesting. I've also played with the White Labs "cider" strains and was not happy with the end results, which seemed to have a very yeasty bite. And in my opinion cider makers should avoid Champagne yeasts at all costs, as they tend to produce something completely fermented out and with nearly zero remaining personality. Unfortunately, most homebrew stores recommend Champagne yeast to beginning cider makers, which I think ends up turning a lot of people off.

                              I usually use an adjunct (raw brown sugar, golden syrup, maple syrup, malt extract, or honey) at a rate of ~12oz/gallon to bump up the alcohol content, mouthfeel, and color, and leave the cider in primary for ~6 months, then secondary for at least a year, before going into a keg. The raw brown sugar batches have been my most successful, followed by golden syrup. Honey ferments out way too dry for my taste, and malt extract just didn't turn out well. I actually can't remember how the maple worked the first time I tried it but I have another batch in primary right now so we'll see next year. Another fun twist is to add raspberry or cherry juice in secondary (~0.2 gallons per gallon of cider). Or you could use whole berries but this is more of a hassle than it's worth in my opinion.

                              I've tried simply fermenting the cider as-is, and this certainly produces something drinkable much more quickly, but I personally prefer a more flavorful, robust beverage. Whereas you drink yours in the summer, I tend to consume mine from late fall through early spring :-)

                              1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                TheDewster Nov 26, 2010 11:55 AM

                                Now that's a cool hobby!

                                1. re: TheDewster
                                  davis_sq_pro Nov 26, 2010 12:05 PM

                                  Actually it's profoundly uncool for the entire time it's fermenting and aging. And then, quite suddenly, the very moment that the keg is tapped it becomes really, really, really cool. At least, that's how my friends seem to treat it.

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                    TheDewster Nov 26, 2010 12:16 PM

                                    You must have bought a beer keg how much are they and do you need a valve for the fermenting period?

                                    1. re: TheDewster
                                      davis_sq_pro Nov 26, 2010 12:34 PM

                                      I ferment in glass carboys (5 or 6 gallon bottles of the type that used to be used on the top of water coolers before they switched to plastic). The carboys are topped with airlocks, held in place with rubber stoppers. They cost around $25 each but will last a lifetime if you take care of them and don't drop them on the ground. Mine are 10+ years old at this point and are good as new. There are some plastic models available, but plastic scares me for a number of reasons.

                                      The kegs I use are 5 gallon soda kegs, known as "Cornelius" kegs. The initial investment was around $200, including a couple of kegs, a 5 pound CO2 tank, and a gas regulator. Additional kegs cost around $40 IIRC. Unfortunately unlike carboys, the kegs do need occasional maintenance -- replacement of rubber grommets, etc.

                                      It's also nice to have a fridge, unless you have a cool cellar or like to drink room temperature beer. I used to live in a house with a stone basement that stayed relatively cool all year long, but these days I store my kegs in a repurposed wine fridge, which keeps things cool but not ice cold. Some people also set up a nice tap system, etc, but I don't bother with anything fancier than a picnic tap.

                                      1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                        PoppiYYZ Nov 26, 2010 02:05 PM

                                        Thanks for the info DSP - very interesting indeed. Clearly you have developed the art form.

                                        I may start another carboy this year and will try the D47. It is the crisp tart flavor I personally like, likely due to the immediate appeal Apfelwein had on me (I lived near Frankfurt for a number of years). The EC118 was a recommendation from a wise basement Apfelwein maker. However, you are right, some find it too tart - although my "Customers" seem to come back more eagerly year over year.

                                        I have experimented with additional sugars to boost the product, but found my results didn't warrant the cost / effort. Starting SG with late season apples here is 1.055 and I let it fully ferment in a cool basement room (10C/50F) until April racking 4 times, Some German friends use a small amount of Apple Liquor to boost their alcohol and flavor (but I personally like "au naturel").

                                        This method also makes an excellent fresh young cider. In many basements in Germany, the Poppa racks his Apfelwein near Christmas time and comes up with rosy cheeks. A tradition I heartily endorse.

                                        Thanks again for your info.

                                        1. re: PoppiYYZ
                                          davis_sq_pro Nov 28, 2010 04:30 PM

                                          I've never even heard of Apfelwein before reading your post, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to taste like. I just Googled around a bit and it seems like most recipes call for the addition of corn sugar. I can see why this didn't do much for you; it is 100% fermentable so it doesn't add anything except for more alcohol and maybe a slightly more "cidery" flavor (at least, it does that to beer).

                                          A raw brown sugar, on the other hand, has a bunch of unfermentable molasses and contributes color, body, and even a bit of sweetness to the end product. It will probably not taste like the Apfelwein you're after but maybe a change will be nice :-) ... if you give it and the D47 a try, please write back and let us know how it turns out. And please give it plenty of time to mature.

                                          By the way, love the Christmas tradition. Unfortunately, since I make my ciders in mid-late October (apple harvest time here in MA), and I don't rack until late winter or early spring, it's not going to be one I can take part in :-)

                                          1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                            PoppiYYZ Mar 11, 2011 01:11 PM

                                            Second racking and tasting of the Apfelwein today. Man is this stuff good. Since it's still young (started November 22nd) it has a little fizz, a slight touch of sweetness, and a clean crisp apple flavor. Perfectly drinkable as it us now, in fact I may prefer this younger version. Strongbow is my favorite commercial cider, but this is quite different and IMHO much better.

                                            Didn't get that batch started with D47 DSP, but next year it's a guarantee....

                                            1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                              chevrelove Aug 25, 2011 01:11 PM

                                              Davis_sq_pro, realizing this thread is almost a year old, I'm doubtful you'll see this. However if you do, curious to know - do you ever press your own cider or rely on the unpasteurized from local orchards?

                                              1. re: chevrelove
                                                davis_sq_pro Aug 25, 2011 01:57 PM

                                                Nope, I've never pressed my own or had it custom pressed. Looks like you're also in the Boston area? I've been getting my cider for the past several years from this guy:


                                                His cider is excellent. And he always gets annoyed when I say that I want 6 gallons ("I won't have enough for other customers"), and even more annoyed when I tell him I'm going to ferment it ("don't know why you'd want to do that"). Which makes things all the more fun!

                                                p.s. if you look in your profile you'll see threads in which you've participated, and those with recent replies are right at the top--so it's never too late.

                                                1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                                  PoppiYYZ Aug 26, 2011 04:14 AM

                                                  Ha ha ha. The farmer (aka curmudgeon) I buy my unpasteurized apple juice from also gets puckery when I show up with two 5 gallon pails. Instead of giving me a bulk discount, he seems to want me to pay a premium !

                                                  I gave him two bottles of my cider last year as a peace offering and he wasn't impressed with that either.

                                                  Looking forward to trying a batch with D47 yeast this fall !

                                                  1. re: PoppiYYZ
                                                    davis_sq_pro Aug 26, 2011 08:12 AM

                                                    Hope it works out for you! Just last week I tapped the keg full of my October 2009 batch, and after the first few glasses -- which were somewhat yeasty tasting and went down the drain -- the rest has been very nice and clean, with a strong apple flavor and a bit of residual sweetness.

                                                    My maple batch, by the way, was racked into secondary in April. It tasted okay, but was very sweet and still quite cloudy at that point. Another six months or so should fix that problem.

                                                    Now to figure out which adjunct to use this year...

                                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                                      PoppiYYZ Feb 6, 2012 02:18 PM

                                                      Hello DSP !

                                                      Made the first racking and - more importantly - tasting of the two 23L batches of Cider started last Nov 22nd ! Both batches have stopped all fermentation, and although both batches are much cloudier than I usually get, there is a distinct difference between the D47 and EC118 versions.

                                                      In comparison to the EC1118, the D47 tastes a little nuttier (or caramellier) and has more of an apple sauce flavor. Acid checked out at 5.0 g/L with my little test kit.

                                                      The EC1118 is sharper (although acid is also 4.5-5.0), has hint of a fine fizz, and is definitely more wine-like. At this early stage it makes one think of Beajulais Nouveau (I know a wine snob would snot himself with me saying that, but hey, we are in the beer section so maybe none will notice !).

                                                      In any case, both styles have turned out EXCELLENT and I look forward to comparing them after they've had a little more time.

                                                      How's your batch(es) coming ?

                                                      1. re: PoppiYYZ
                                                        davis_sq_pro Feb 6, 2012 03:46 PM

                                                        Grad to hear that your batches turned out so well. You started them on November 22 of 2011? I can imagine they'd still be a bit cloudy -- they'll drop crystal clear if you give 'em time -- RDWHAHB :-)

                                                        Unfortunately I failed to make a batch this last year, a result of too much stress at work making me exceptionally lazy on the weekends. Which is too bad, because my 2009 batch, which I mention that I tapped in August 2011, was by far my best ever.

                                                        I kegged my 2010 maple adjunct batch sometime late last year, but I won't tap it until August or September. It tasted good but still just a bit on the sweet side. Really hoping that a bit of residual fermentation takes care of that.

                                                        Did you end up using any adjuncts in either of your batches? After last year I think I'm only going to use brown sugar and/or treacle going forward. It was just so good that I don't think anything else is worth the time.

                                                        1. re: davis_sq_pro
                                                          PoppiYYZ Feb 7, 2012 08:11 PM

                                                          Sad to hear no new batches are brewing but your keg cider should be fantastic.

                                                          I didn't use any additions, just pure juice and only one pouch of yeast in each 23L (approx 6 gal) Carboy. Ended up with a large amount of sediment, but I still got a very full fill when I racked them down to my two smaller 20L Carboys, plus about a 1/3 gallon extra each for sampling !

                                                  2. re: davis_sq_pro
                                                    chevrelove Sep 7, 2011 01:04 PM

                                                    Excellent, thanks! I am indeed in the Boston area (not too far from Davis Sq actually) and am looking to acquaint myself with hard cider making this fall. I can order gallons of the unpasteurized stuff through my CSA and likely will, but from what I've read, cider is improved with the addition of small percentages of "cider" apples (you know, the kind you wouldn't eat because they're too bitter/tart/sharp, etc.) And, fingers crossed, I think I've found a good local source of these.

                                                    Phil's UPick sounds great, but I'll be sure to only purchase a few gallons so as not to arouse any suspicions of hard-cider making on Phil's part ;-)

                                2. r
                                  ribeye621 Nov 26, 2010 12:37 PM

                                  I would second (third?) Strongbow. It's not too hard to find here in well-stocked liquor stores.

                                  1. h
                                    hungry_fox Nov 27, 2010 01:21 PM

                                    While woodchuck is extremely easy to find, I'd hardly say it's the best (we drink A LOT of hard cider, in fact in our crowd it's the drink of choice if we're not having hard liquor). If you can find it, Strongbow is the best, it's an English import that is so extremely tasty and crisp, if not, Hardcore is a definite 2nd followed down the road by woodchuck.

                                    1. PartyGirl43 Dec 2, 2010 12:46 PM

                                      Just tried Crispin Hard Cider and I liked it, I just wished it came in a smaller bottle instead of 22 ounces.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: PartyGirl43
                                        Jim Dorsch Dec 6, 2010 08:10 AM

                                        Crispin makes quite a few varieties, some in 4pks of 12oz. take a look at their website.

                                      2. c
                                        cheesehead in recovery Dec 3, 2010 03:06 AM

                                        We found some Magners and really like it. Not as sweet as Woodchuck

                                        1. Ernie Diamond Dec 8, 2010 01:09 PM

                                          Woodchuck, Hornsby's, Strongbow, Magners, Bulmers, Sam Smith are all more or less pasturized sticky gunk. I enjoy one from time to time, yes but the availability of good ciders regardless of style is frustratingly slim in even the best markets.

                                          I will say that you should be satisfied that whatever cider you find easily is going to be about as good as the next. don't fret too much about whether Woodchuck is better than Original Sin, in other words. It's sort of like trying to decide who makes the best lite beer.

                                          If you do find yourself in a position to try other, harder to find varieties, I suggest you try French bottles such as DuPont. The products that come over from there, for whatever reason are made with tradition in mind and taste very close to the best available in France. The same, sadly can't be said for British offerings.

                                          1. b
                                            bulavinaka Apr 22, 2011 05:22 PM

                                            I don't know what characteristics make a good cider, but I've been really happy with Wandering Aengus:


                                            Crispin has recently showed up at one of the shops I go to - looks promising:


                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: bulavinaka
                                              J3107 Apr 25, 2011 09:03 AM

                                              Crispin came into my market a few months ago. they make several varieties and what i've tried so far has been very interesting and very good quality.
                                              the classic import variety (green cans) is nice and dry definitely not the cloyingly sweet type of cider.
                                              the landsdowne has an interesting flavor being fermented with a craft beer yeast.
                                              and on the sweeter side the Desert Noir is a blend of apple wine from whiskey barrels and apple wine from red wine barrels that is then back sweetened. sweeter but a bit more complex than the average apple beverage.

                                              can't wait to try the rest of the line up.

                                              local beer bar has even been able to get some on draft and cask which has been outstanding.

                                              1. re: J3107
                                                bulavinaka Apr 25, 2011 06:19 PM

                                                Thanks for your insight on this line of ciders. One of our local shops has almost the whole line-up and I will be grabbing as many as possible. Sounds like one can line up a meal from beginning to end with their brews.

                                            2. lavaca Apr 22, 2011 05:49 PM

                                              I have tried the majority of ciders available in Washington, and my favorites come from Snowdrift and Red Barn. If you can find it, I especially recommend Red Barn's Fire Barrel.

                                              Other West Coast ciders I really like are Ace (for some reason, the regular Apple is the hardest to find outside of California, but Joker is nice as well) and Wandering Aengus (best if you prefer off-dry or off-sweet ciders). Most of the nationally-available ciders taste about the same - not bad, but not particularly exciting, either. Of the nationally-available ciders, my favorite is probably Woodchuck Granny Smith.

                                              My first Strongbow experience was on draft, which was great. Every time I've had it from a bottle, I've been disappointed. For a break from the standard British styles, ciders from Normandy and Basque Country are lots of fun.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: lavaca
                                                TroyTempest Oct 25, 2012 04:59 PM

                                                Recently had the Wandering Aengus Cherry
                                                See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8610...
                                                It was the best cherry flavored alocoholic beverage i've had.

                                                1. re: lavaca
                                                  antennastoheaven Nov 6, 2012 03:28 PM

                                                  Big + 1 on Snowdrift ciders (Cliffbreaks is amazing!!), but also wanted to update for anyone who wants to check out Red Barn - they aren't doing cider anymore, but their cidermaker went over to Finnriver and showed them how to make the Fire Barrel. Finnriver's version came out earlier this fall and they did a beautiful job with it.

                                                2. s
                                                  SP1 Apr 25, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                  This is a new one: http://revolutioncider.com/

                                                  Extremely dry and unfiltered. Though, probably impossible to find.

                                                  1. ret3 Apr 26, 2011 03:30 PM

                                                    You may want to be on the look out for Argus, a cider made in Dripping Springs. The Austin American-Statesman had an article about it recently: http://www.austin360.com/blogs/conten...

                                                    1. j
                                                      j mather Aug 27, 2011 10:06 AM

                                                      Here's a good article in the NY Times:

                                                      I've tried some of the French ones -- Christian Drouin and Eric Bordelet -- and like them a lot. They are available by mail order. I'm in Northern California, and Ace is my local favorite, but I don't know how widely distributed it is.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: j mather
                                                        bulavinaka Aug 27, 2011 11:35 AM

                                                        Here's a related post on one from Normandy on the LA Board. Poster bad nono is a very reliable poster with a very keen nose:


                                                        1. re: j mather
                                                          MOREKASHA Nov 17, 2011 05:53 PM

                                                          Dupont Cider is my fave.

                                                          1. re: MOREKASHA
                                                            Jim Dorsch Nov 17, 2011 08:52 PM

                                                            yes, that is a great one

                                                        2. b
                                                          bimmertimmer Nov 17, 2011 09:57 AM

                                                          Give Foggy Ridge from VA a try. Available via their web site. Several varieties available. Covered in F+W recently. Also a nice spot to visit in the Fall.

                                                          1. n
                                                            nnylhawk May 19, 2012 09:36 PM

                                                            I prefer Magners, aka Bulmers of Ireland. Had it there many years ago; now available in the states under the name Magners.

                                                            Second choice, would be cider from a little Winery/Cidery I stumbled across in the Lake Pepin area of Wisconsin. Maiden Rock is the name. Their scrumpy is very good, but their Honeycrisp cider is excellent. It is a semi-dry cider. Might be hard to get, they only ship to some states.

                                                            Then, Strongbow--prefer draft or dry -- and Blackthorn. Hard Core when I can't find any of my favorites. There seems to be a push in the Twin Cities on Crispin, but I found that to be bland. When you push serving it over ice, meh! Watering cider down is just wrong.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: nnylhawk
                                                              Jim Dorsch May 20, 2012 03:28 AM

                                                              I believe HardCore is no more, replaced by Angry Orchard.

                                                              1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                                JessKidden May 20, 2012 03:50 AM

                                                                Most of the promotional material I've read (like this one http://dialog.newsedge.com/portal.asp...& ) imply that Angry Orchard is just a new cider line from BBC, and isn't necessarily replacing HardCore.

                                                                1. re: JessKidden
                                                                  Jim Dorsch May 20, 2012 07:39 AM

                                                                  While not definitive, Craft Business Daily, writing about Angry Orchard, refers to HardCore as their previous brand. I will ask someone at BBCo when I get a chance, to confirm.

                                                                  1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                                    JessKidden May 20, 2012 08:11 AM

                                                                    Yeah, most of the stuff I've seen is rather vague about the future of HardCore (maybe because BBC has yet to decide itself?). The 2012 BBC Annual Report says:

                                                                    "In 2011 we saw a resurgence of interest in hard cider. For the first time in a decade we saw sales of our HardCore® brand start to grow. We saw an opportunity to refocus on the cider drinker, and we made the decision to go back to the brewery
                                                                    drawing board to create a new brand and new styles of cider.

                                                                    Enter Angry Orchard! It debuted at the end of the year in select markets and immediately captured the attention of the drinker, quickly outpacing its cousin HardCore.

                                                                    The Company’s Angry Orchard and HardCore product lines compete within the hard cider category."

                                                                    I don't know for all Koch's talk about "upscale" cider (or, maybe "Better Cider"?) it seems to me that both the brand names they picked don't strike me as appealing to a "sophisticated" market segment.

                                                                    1. re: JessKidden
                                                                      Jim Dorsch May 20, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                                      It just seemed strange that they would discontinue a successful brand.

                                                                      1. re: JessKidden
                                                                        LStaff Aug 2, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                                        This from their latest 10-Q filing that just came out yesterday:

                                                                        Boston Beer’s “core brands” or “core products” include all products sold under the Samuel Adams®, Sam Adams®, Twisted Tea®, HardCore®, Angry Orchard®, House of Shandy™, Angel City Brewing® trademarks.

                                                                        I found this quite interesting:

                                                                        Depletions, or sales by wholesalers to retailers, of the Company’s core products for the thirteen weeks ended June 30, 2012 increased by approximately 7% compared to the comparable thirteen week period ended June 25, 2011, primarily due to increases in Angry Orchard, Twisted Tea, Samuel Adams Seasonals and partially offset by declines in some other Samuel Adams styles and the timing of the July 4th holiday.

                                                                        So they are basically saying that their non-seasonal beer sales are in decline? Wondering if that's due to recent price increases, or if its foreshawdowing a trend of drinkers moving from craft beer in favor of other products?

                                                                        Also reported that they were going to update the packaging to try to boost non-seasonal beer sales. What happens if that doesn't work - price decreases? As the leader in the craft segment, that's going to have a big impact on the craft beer industry I would think.

                                                              2. PoppiYYZ May 20, 2012 06:43 AM

                                                                Availability may be limited, but I tried a very good cider on tap that is worth a mention. It's called Thornbury and it's made in Ontario. Crisp, fruity, and dry. A little sweeter and fruitier than Strongbow, but the best Canadian cider IMHO.

                                                                Still better to make your own though. 2011 batch is coming along nicely...

                                                                1. s
                                                                  steveprez Jun 2, 2012 07:01 AM

                                                                  There's a very good hard cider being made in Julian in San Diego County called Julian Hard Cider. Not sure how widely available it is but I have seen it in Austin, TX. This cider pours almost clear and is very dry. Overall feels more like drinking champagne than cider. Very refreshing and definitely worth a try, IMHO.

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: steveprez
                                                                    bulavinaka Jun 2, 2012 07:37 AM

                                                                    Thanks for the info and descriptors. I've seen this at my local places but haven't tried it yet. I know Julian has a rep for apples and apple pies. Cider definitely broadens their market appeal. Appeal - there's a couple of puns in there for the Julian folks...

                                                                    1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                      steveprez Jun 3, 2012 06:19 PM

                                                                      Took me awhile to get the pun! Good one!

                                                                      Iv'e also heard that the Julian Cherry Bomb is vary good. I've not tried it myself, though.


                                                                      1. re: steveprez
                                                                        gator28 Jun 7, 2012 11:59 AM

                                                                        I love Julian Hard. Agree with you - very refreshing and champagne-like (but without the nasty hangover).

                                                                        1. re: gator28
                                                                          LFChow Aug 27, 2012 10:30 AM

                                                                          Julian is almost clear. It is surprisingly dry, more than most brut champagnes. I wouldn't call it tart. It's well carbonated with fine bubbles. The closest other cider I've tasted recently which is also quite dry is Original Sin, which is available in Chicago and DC.

                                                                        2. re: steveprez
                                                                          j mather Nov 1, 2012 05:41 PM

                                                                          Julian Cherry Bomb is excellent. The tart Montmorency flavor comes through very well.

                                                                          1. re: j mather
                                                                            RB Hound Nov 1, 2012 07:39 PM

                                                                            I'd love to drink a Cherry Bomb with Cherie Currie.

                                                                      2. re: steveprez
                                                                        eastsacgirl Sep 29, 2012 04:45 PM

                                                                        I've been I cider drinker for 30+ years. Prefer very dry, light carbonated & crisp. I'm glad ciders are making a comeback so we have more to choose from than Magners and Strongbow. I don't even bother with Wyders, Ace or Woodchuck. Friend who is a liquor distributor gave me bottle of the Julian Cherry Bomb and I thought it would be too sweet. I was pleasantly surprised and you wouldn't have to hold a gun to my head to drink it again. Will look for their more traditional apple also. When visiting in Idaho, was going to try Angry Orchard but they were out. Used to drink "K" but can't find that anymore.

                                                                        1. re: eastsacgirl
                                                                          cwdonald Oct 15, 2012 07:09 AM

                                                                          Just had the pleasure of having the Woodchuck Reserve Belgian White Cider. Made with belgian yeast. Added a crispness and bit of spice to it. Worth seeking out.

                                                                          1. re: cwdonald
                                                                            eastsacgirl Nov 1, 2012 07:46 PM

                                                                            I'm not a fan of the regular Woodchuck but I'll the Reserve a try if I come across it.

                                                                          2. re: eastsacgirl
                                                                            antennastoheaven Nov 6, 2012 03:20 PM

                                                                            If you like dry, crisp cider, you probably won't enjoy Angry Orchard. It is really offputtingly sweet. I've been seeing Julian often up here in Seattle, and it is nice stuff though I am totally spoiled on our local treasures (Alpenfire, Snowdrift, Finnriver, etc)

                                                                            1. re: antennastoheaven
                                                                              eastsacgirl Nov 7, 2012 04:21 PM

                                                                              You were so right. Had it last weekend and it was extremely sweet. Will look to see if I can find some of your faves.

                                                                        2. MOREKASHA Nov 7, 2012 05:48 PM

                                                                          Just had a Cidre Comte de Lauriston. OK, but not dupont at all. Then again, I haven't liked their Calva.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: MOREKASHA
                                                                            TheDewster Sep 1, 2013 01:48 PM

                                                                            Yup Dupont is still best, Somersby is a new one from Carlsberg very sweet green apple thing going on.

                                                                            1. re: TheDewster
                                                                              MOREKASHA Sep 1, 2013 02:35 PM

                                                                              Recently have had some cider by Eric Bordelet of Normandy, Highly rated, good but not better than Dupont and usually a buck or 2 more.

                                                                          2. b
                                                                            bruceangus Nov 21, 2012 03:02 PM

                                                                            I can tell you only from what I have tasted from worst to best

                                                                            Jack's<Ace<Woodchuck<Crispin<Angry Orchard<J.K's

                                                                            That being said. Jack's is sort of like a light beer, woodchuck and ace to me are overly spiced. Crispin is very dry and good. Angry orchard makes three kinds currently, I like the crisp the best, it is pretty sweet though. J.K's is harder to find. They have seasonal verities. The solstice is incredible but it is for desert. The neighbors from the north may be the best traditional cider available.

                                                                            If you buy Crispin or above you should enjoy it. Angry orchard is great because it is more available but the same price as woodchuck.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: bruceangus
                                                                              bruceangus Feb 5, 2014 12:22 PM

                                                                              Some updates:

                                                                              I went to the indigeny cider orchard in California. It was right up there with J.Ks and possibly cheaper.

                                                                              McKenzie cider is pretty good. I enjoy the cherry variety

                                                                              Strongbow is dry but easy to drink. I would put it above Angry Orchard

                                                                              Stella Cidre is another easy dry drinker

                                                                              I bought a few bottles of Angry Orchard Cider Wines, Would highly recommend the iceman.

                                                                              Arsenal Cider house in Pittsburgh is very high percent, very good cider.

                                                                              Ace pear is pretty good

                                                                              Magners is not.

                                                                              Overall I find it best to explore the local places as they kick ass

                                                                              Jack's<Woodchuck<Crispin<Stella Cidre<Ace Pear<Angry Orchard<McKenzie Cherry<Angry Orchard Cider Wines<indigeny<J.K's<Arsenal

                                                                            2. j
                                                                              jpc8015 Nov 26, 2012 12:50 AM

                                                                              My wife loves Crispin cider. There is one made with a bit of molasses and Irish ale yeast, and another made with honey and Belgian ale yeast. Both are very good.

                                                                              1. s
                                                                                Strongbow Dec 15, 2012 08:07 PM

                                                                                I would not recommend Magner's or Crispin'! Those are horrible to me. Crispin' is a little better but it's not a good apple cider. It is just like a cider, but not apple cider.

                                                                                Magner's aroma is bad and it tastes bad. It tastes like it came out of a toilet bowl.

                                                                                Woodchuck is not very good either. Woodchuck is very vinegary.

                                                                                The best I've had have been Strongbow, Harpoon, and Angry Orchard (Crisp Apple). The Angry Orchard Ginger is decent but not something I'd buy again. I did not like the Traditional Dry of Angry Orchard.

                                                                                Crisp Apple from Angry Orchard is probably my favorite. Harpoon is very good and is more like Strongbow to me. All 3 are very good ciders.

                                                                                The only place around me that sells JK Scrumpy's that I know of sells 22oz bottles for $6 of the Winter Solstice so it doesn't make any sense for me to buy that.

                                                                                Angry Orchard (Crisp Apple), Harpoon, Strongbow.

                                                                                Those are the top 3 for me. I wouldn't recommend Woodchuck (the only one I haven't tried is the Granny Smith and I wouldn't expect to like it). I wouldn't recommend Magner's or Crispin'.

                                                                                I didn't think the Traditional Dry of Angry Orchard was very good either but it's better than all the others. Crisp Apple is very good though.

                                                                                That covers most of them.

                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Strongbow
                                                                                  JMF Sep 2, 2013 10:07 AM

                                                                                  I know this was almost a year ago, but what does the Harpoon hard cider taste like? I haven't tried it, but I took the same advanced cider making classes at the Cornell Ag Center with the folks from Harpoon back in Fall '07.

                                                                                  1. re: JMF
                                                                                    greygarious Sep 2, 2013 10:13 AM

                                                                                    While we are updating - I'd be interested to hear what people think of the Stella Artois cider currently being advertised on CH, and Redd's Apple Ale, which has been running TV ads. I haven't had either, and assume they are new-ish products.

                                                                                    1. re: greygarious
                                                                                      JMF Sep 2, 2013 10:22 AM

                                                                                      I haven't even heard of those two. If Stella cider is like their beer then it's going to be watered down and flavorless. ;-)>

                                                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                                                        TroyTempest Sep 5, 2013 03:33 PM

                                                                                        I had the Redd's. It's a miller product, IIRC. It was ok, sort of tasted like alcoholic apple cider. When i had one i initially liked it because i had just got off the beach in 90 degree heat, so i'm not a fair judge.

                                                                                        1. re: TroyTempest
                                                                                          Jim Dorsch Sep 5, 2013 03:54 PM

                                                                                          Isn't that one an apple ale?

                                                                                          1. re: Jim Dorsch
                                                                                            TroyTempest Sep 6, 2013 10:04 AM

                                                                                            Yeah, I think so. When i said "sort of tasted like alcoholic apple cider.", i guess i should have said, tasted like apple juice with alcohol in it.

                                                                                            1. re: TroyTempest
                                                                                              PoppiYYZ Sep 7, 2013 06:22 AM

                                                                                              Love that Avatar ! Very F.A.B. !!

                                                                                        2. re: greygarious
                                                                                          Josh Sep 11, 2013 10:38 PM

                                                                                          Haven't had either of those, but a pretty damn good one is from Finnriver in Oregon. The dry-hopped one is particularly good for beer fans, IMO.

                                                                                          1. re: greygarious
                                                                                            deet13 Sep 11, 2013 11:37 PM

                                                                                            I'm not a fan of the Redd's Apple Ale. I picked up a six pack of it, and wasn't very impressed with it.

                                                                                            It was too sweet, and had that flavored malt drink aftertaste. It reminded me of Zima or those Seagrams drinks...

                                                                                            1. re: deet13
                                                                                              Tripeler Sep 12, 2013 04:45 AM

                                                                                              "Zima or those Seagrams drinks..."

                                                                                          2. re: JMF
                                                                                            Strongbow Feb 18, 2014 02:40 PM

                                                                                            Just noticed your response. The Harpoon Cider is delicious. It is not as sweet as the other ciders. It's almost like a watered-down, tangy cider. It's not like the other ones that have an overwhelming amount of sweetness and flavor. The flavor is light and it's just a good cider. Good carbonation, light flavor, it's different than a lot of other ciders an in a good way.

                                                                                        3. z
                                                                                          zippypinhead Dec 15, 2012 08:25 PM

                                                                                          Here in Northeast Ohio, we have a small producer:

                                                                                          Best I've had in the US but a bit pricey
                                                                                          A bit hard to find also......

                                                                                          1. r
                                                                                            Raffles Feb 1, 2014 10:14 AM

                                                                                            Eve's Cidery,VanEtten NY , Warthog Cidery,Penn Yan,NY

                                                                                            We like Eve's , more natural,

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Raffles
                                                                                              Raffles Feb 5, 2014 12:43 PM

                                                                                              According to a local newspaper story here in the Finger Lakes of NYS,hard cider production is growing in NYS from 5 ciderys a few years ago, to close to 20 today.
                                                                                              NYS is one of the largest apple producers in the country and the state govt. is making it easier for smaller "farm" producers to get up and running.
                                                                                              Now if the orchards could plant some "cider variety" apples instead of just desert types the industry might boom!( as would my home cyser efforts!)

                                                                                              Oh and for what it is worth, hard cider is actually an apple wine not a beer so maybe this thread should be in wines?

                                                                                              1. re: Raffles
                                                                                                Raffles Feb 18, 2014 03:16 PM

                                                                                                Just had a 12 oz. bottle of our Batch # 1...bottle carbed nicely, better than any super market brand...8.9ABV..became cloudy after bottle carbing with frozen apple concentrate....we have 6 more batches in the works... Finger Lakes fresh cider used...
                                                                                                Still stand that Eve's is very good..but at $12.00 a 22 oz. bottle...ours is about dollar...conservatively very.......

                                                                                            2. l
                                                                                              littlecmad Feb 5, 2014 09:28 AM

                                                                                              When I first got into hard cider, about seventeen years ago, I loved Ciderjack but then they were bought out by Woodchuck, so then I went with Hardcore or Woodpecker but both are hard to find. I've think tried EVERYTHING else too! I always found most too dry.

                                                                                              The best cider I found by accident waiting for family at the Gramercy Tavern in NYC in the early 2000s. It was Eric Bordelet sparkling Cider imported from France. I tracked it down at a store in Manhattan too and bought a few bottles then. Ever since though I drank less cider and more beer so when I do get it, I just buy something I have not tried. There are a ton more to choose from now. ie. when I went to a friend's wedding in Traverse City, Michigan in 2008, I got a few bottles from each vineyard and even had a friend get one for me again a few years later.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: littlecmad
                                                                                                MOREKASHA Feb 5, 2014 10:23 AM

                                                                                                Bordelet is indeed tasty, so is Dupont from Normandy as well. To me comparing them to Woodchuck is a stretch, as the French have such a different taste profile and body

                                                                                                1. re: MOREKASHA
                                                                                                  littlecmad Feb 5, 2014 01:16 PM

                                                                                                  I agree. After Woodchuck sold I couldn't find anything I liked but Bordelet blew me away! Bordelet is why I tried the cherry ciders in Traverse City, MI. They weren't as good. Bordelet will always be the best but hard to find.

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