Hard cider, you either love it or you hate it.
I, for one, love hard cider. Traditionally, cider is just fermented apple juice. But, what’s the fun in that? Now you can experiment with other juices, like pear or raspberry. Craft cider is definitely expanding and making a name for itself. So, here at Spoon VT, we’ve chosen a variety of craft hard ciders from Blacksburg’s very own Vintage Cellar to taste.
Here’s the line up of the ciders we tried with the volume, packaging, alcohol content, and price:
- Magners Irish Cider Original: 12-oz bottle, 4.5%, $2.05
- William’s Dragon’s Breath Cider: 16.9-oz can, 6%, $2.70
- Schilling Oak-Aged Cider: 12-oz can, 6.5%, $2.75
- Crispin Pear Cider: 12-oz bottle, 4.5%, $2.15
- Kelly’s Irish Raspberry Hard Cider: 12-oz bottle, 4.6%, $2.15
- Ciderboys Mad Bark Cinnamon Hard Cider: 12-oz bottle, 5%, $1.65
- Bold Rock Virginia Apple: 12-oz bottle, 4.7%, $1.95
- Strongbow Honey & Apple: 12-oz bottle, 5%, $1.75
- Bold Rock Virginia Draft: 12-oz bottle, 4.7%, $1.95
Four of us gathered together to try these nine ciders on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon (which really made the day so much better). Over the next couple hours we tried each of the ciders and gave our opinions. Before you is the result.
Pro tip: don’t combine apple slices with cider, they don’t pair well. The apple slices make the cider taste bitter, almost like beer.
Magners Irish Cider Original
Magners is your average hard cider, with a simple sweet taste and light texture. It’s very crisp and clean, and comes off as slightly drier than your typical cider. It’s almost like how an Irish stout tastes different than an American stout.
The apple isn’t incredibly prominent, and it seems less sweet as you keep sipping. You’ll also find that this cider is less carbonated than most. The aftertaste will leave you wondering what fantastic flavor is still in your mouth.
William’s Dragon’s Breath Cider
It’s not commonly thought to combine apple and ginger – especially in a cider. However, William’s accomplishes this quite nicely with their Dragon’s Breath cider. It is quite aptly named, as the cider smells spicy at first, but not unpleasantly so. It has a candy-like ginger taste that lingers in your mouth, yet manages not to overpower the apple.
In fact, the apple shines through with hints of ginger and spice. It reminds us of non-alcoholic cider. This incredibly balanced drink is definitely outside the norm. And it’s slightly more alcoholic than your average cider, so if you want to feel warm this Autumn, grab a can.
Schilling Oak-Aged Cider
Those who are fans of the oak in whiskey and certain wines will like this cider. For someone who doesn’t like either, it tastes like they put a tree branch in a cup. Within our group there were two whiskey drinkers, so we were split in half for those who did and didn’t like it.
You can’t taste any apple, but it is well carbonated and has a layered aftertaste. The brand does make other ciders which are pretty good, too. However, this is definitely for people who are accustomed to strong woody flavors; I wouldn’t recommend it to a novice.
Crispin Pear Cider
If you like sweet smells, Crispin is the way to go. They have four flavors readily available in Blacksburg. We decided to try their pear cider, which turned out to be quite delicate and well-balanced. The cider is barely carbonated at all; it’s just enough to play on your tongue. It tastes very natural and is rather sweet, but not sickeningly so.
Kelly’s Irish Raspberry Hard Cider
Raspberry is something you’d expect in a shandy, beer, or mead. It’s not something you’d immediately think of for cider, but Kelly’s produces one that is almost transparent, with the slightest rosey tint. It’s rather fizzy, so I’d recommend drinking this straight out of the bottle if you’re not sharing with someone (and why would you share?).
This cider tastes distinctly of berries – maybe not entirely raspberry (there’s a sour candy flavor in there too), but enough so that it is the dominant taste. The strength isn’t overpowering. So if you like berries and want to stay safe in the cider section, this is your best bet.
Ciderboys Mad Bark Cinnamon Hard Cider
Mott’s applesauce: the ubiquitous childhood snack. That’s what this tastes like. The cinnamon and spices can definitely be tasted, but the apple is quite obviously the star of the show. It’s sweeter than some of the other ciders, and is nicely carbonated to create a good head when poured out.
Ciderboys is an American company based in Wisconsin, so you’ll be supporting domestic businesses if you try it. I’d definitely recommend drinking this not only when you’re just feeling a cider but also at a Christmas party or Thanksgiving. It just fits the mood. Not to mention, it will stand up to the strong tastes that are associated with the holidays.
Bold Rock Virginia Apple
If you like heavily carbonated drinks, Bold Rock’s Virginia Apple is the way to go. With a small golden tint, the bubbles rise like champagne to the top of your beer. The Virginia Apple tastes like apple juice, but slightly watered down so the taste isn’t incredibly prominent.
It’s crisp, clean, not too sweet, and well balanced. Definitely the way to go if you want to get drunk off cider (the carbonation will make you inebriated faster).
Strongbow Honey & Apple
The color of this cider is golden (most likely due to the honey). It smells sweet and neither the honey nor the apple overpower the other. Instead of battling for dominance, they coexist peacefully.
It’s not just the sweetness of the honey that comes out; the flavor shows as well. This is what you’d expect from a cider: nice and not too sweet. Our overall consensus right off the bat was that it was a good choice. We will definitely be buying more in the future.
Bold Rock Virginia Draft
The Bold Rock Virginia Draft tastes more of apple than the Virginia Apple. However, it’s a cleansing cider with almost no aftertaste. You can go straight to drinking something with a completely different taste. Very clean and not too heavily carbonated, the Virginia Draft is what you’d expect from a traditional hard cider. Definitely a crowd pleaser.
Now, go forth and drink. For real – it’s Fall, and cold outside. If you ever have an excuse for hard cider, it’s now.
This article was not sponsored by Vintage Cellar, all opinions are our own.