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Nov 22, 2010 09:51 AM

Best Hard Cider? [moved from Spirits board]

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. 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

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

      ( I HATE Budweiser.)

      1. re: CharlieKilo

        Like dsp says, where are you located?

        1. re: JMF

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

    2. 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

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

      2. 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. 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

            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. 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

              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

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

                1. re: JMF

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

                  1. re: Gio

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

                    1. re: JMF

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

                2. re: Gio

                  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

                  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

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