Tuesday, January 28, 2014

First Draft: Winter Ciders

By Chris Betz

During the long, cold winter months you may not think to reach for a cold, crisp hard apple cider. Truth is, there are many excellent seasonal ciders that make their appearance this time of year. Much more complex in taste, these gluten-free ciders generally have interesting spices added to more traditional recipes.

Woodchuck Winter Cider (5.0% ABV): Vermont-based Woodchuck uses a combination of Premium French and Traditional American Oak to give this cider its complexity. Like other Woodchuck offerings, this cider is on the sweeter side, but oak and vanilla flavors give it a seasonal balance. Try this one with heartier winter meals like chili or stew.

Angry Orchard Iceman (10.0% ABV): Angry Orchard uses a traditional method of freezing the juices of apples to create this ice cider, part of the Boston Beer Company-owned cidery's Cider House Collection. This results in a much richer flavor and density, as well as a higher alcohol content. Sold in a corked and caged 750 mL bottle, this is meant to be shared with others. Like the Woodchuck cider, there are hints of oak and vanilla along with mild toffee notes. This hearty cider goes well with a steak, pork or other meats.

Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple (5.0% ABV): I was expecting strong flavors in this one, and indeed the initial tartness quickly led to an overwhelmingly cinnamon essence. Due to the spice level, Cinnful Apple pairs best with vanilla ice cream or gluten-free carrot cake.

J.K.’s Cuvée Winterruption Farmhouse Hard Cider (6.9% ABV): Spiced with cinnamon, vanilla, and maple syrup, this is an extremely well-balanced cider that I would drink year round if available. With each sip, I managed to taste something different. While complex, this organic cider from Michigan was still quite crisp and drinkable. I savored the cider cold but it could also be warmed up with some cinnamon sticks. Enjoy this with a slice of gluten-free pie, cheeses, or spiced pecans or walnuts.
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