Jim Beauregard's Tasting Notes: Today's lesson: Hard ciders
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." You've heard this one, right? The thing is, it doesn't refer to apples. It refers to Calvados, the French alcohol beverage made from apples. Not a bad way to keep the doctor away.
Today we're going to be looking at apples - the kind that go into the making of "hard cider," in this case, two new selection from Angry Orchard Cider Company of Hammondsport, N.Y.
So first, a word about cider in general, and then on to the tasting.
Cider is, quite simply, fermented apple juice, just as mead is fermented honey. Fermented pear juices are called perry. And when you ferment pear and apple juice together you get "pider."
Ciders fall into two broad classifications, standard and specialty. Standard cider is made from apple juice only, or close to 100 percent. Specialty cider has something else added to it, like honey, and different types of sugar (brown or molasses, for example). There are national categories of ciders: English cider, made with bittersweet and bitter-sharp apples, French cider, which use the same types of apples, but also add some salt and calcium to aid the process. There's a New England style cider too, made from, you guessed it, New England apples like McIntosh and Cortland. The goal here is very high acidity.
The flavor profile of a cider need not be predominantly apple; other fruit flavors are often present. English ciders, for instance, can have smoky bacon aromas and flavors. So, just as wine does not taste only like grapes, ciders can vary too.
This having been said, here are our two samples for today, from Angry Orchard.
Franco-Americans, take note: Angry Orchard Iceman Hard Cider, 10% alcohol by volume, looks to cider-making traditions in Quebec, where culinary and bittersweet apples yield their juice, which is frozen to develop the flavor profile.
The juice is then aged in oak. It's golden colored, with just the lightest hints of the red-orange spectrum, petillant (tiny bubbles - don't start singing), a sharp nose of apple aromas, some slight malt hints.
The palate bursts with mouthwatering acidity, medium sweetness, red apple flavors, some hints of caramel flavoring, some bitterness at the back of the mouth, well-integrated alcohol, medium body (about that of a medium-bodied white wine), with intense flavors all the way through the finish.
Zesty, sharp, refreshing, a wake-up kind of profile. This one falls into the general category of a French cider.
Next, Angry Orchard Strawman Farmhouse Hard Cider, 10% abv. The label refers to both English and French cider styles, with culinary and bittersweet apples (they don't mention specific varieties), also aged in oak. Dark gold color, headed toward amber, more carbonation, the nose is more earth than apple.
Where the Iceman was sweet in the French style, this cider speaks to the English style, much drier, with more noticeable tannin, flavors of earth, hints of the oakiness and smokiness form the barrels, the apples are there, but clearly do not predominate, as is typical of the English style.
So there you have it - they couldn't be more different, and both are very good. Pick your style, and enjoy.
Contact local beer and wine writer Jim Beauregard at email@example.com.