Tonight I’m reviewing something quite special and unusual. Prima Ciders come from Long Grove, Illinois, near Chicago. Prima has spent over 30 years on their cider-making process, though their labors have only been available to the public for a fraction of that time. Only six liquor stores in the United States sell their locally beloved ciders. While visiting Chicago over the weekend, I purchased a 750 ml bottle for 18.50; this would be a bit steep for ordinary cider, but tasting the Prima Most really is a rare opportunity.
The Most cider, one of their three varieties, contains 7% abv. The special methods Pima uses for the Most cider include cold-cellar fermentation and bottle or cask conditioning. They refrain from filtering their ciders for a farmhouse cider taste, look, and experience.
Color: cloudy light blonde
Immediately after pouring, this cider gives the glass an almost frosted appearance because of its color and cloudiness. The Most cider makes a tremendous fizz in the glass, but the bubbles dissipate quickly rather than forming a head. The choice to share this cider unfiltered supports its claim of being farmhouse style, at least in appearance. Let’s find out how it smells.
Aroma: sour and fruity, red currants, hints of funky fermentation
The smell is sharply unlike most American ciders in its bold earthiness. It harkens to English farmhouse ciders of the rough and rustic sort. The cider’s aroma reminds me of The Black Rat, a Somerset cider, but with less horsiness.
Flavors and drinking experience: lemon zest, grapefruit, lots of carbonation
The Prima Most gives a first impression of a citrus bitternessness that is tremendously refreshing. This smoothly transitions into a crab apple bite that makes me feel just a bit of tannic pucker in my cheeks and jaw. For a farmhouse cider, it is aggressively effervescent. Wonderfully balanced.
Sweet to dry: dry
The combination of a more sparkle with true dryness and fruit notes is a surprising and satisfying combination. I love how dry it is, but I expect that it will surprise some cider drinkers who haven’t had any small batch dry ciders before. The American cidery with the most in common with this quality of dryness has to be Farnum Hill. Good company to be in.
Finish: Extra lemon on the back, minerals
It has some of the mineral qualities of a dry white wine, but the citrus farmy notes definitely give the last impression.
Pairs with: salad, many cheeses, and whole grain breads
At the risk of sounding stereotypical, this farm-style cider goes well with simple foods. A heavily-grained bread like oatmeal bread or a dense wheat would be a delightful counterpoint. To bring out the light fruitiness of the cider, it could also be paired with salads. Like many many many ciders, it enhances a whole spectrum of cheeses delightfully. Since this cider is relatively hard to come by, I'd not suggest pairing it with any activity at all. Let the Most be your entertainment.
This cider makes me sad to leave Chicago, despite the terrible weather. The Prima Most shocks me with how good it is. This cider has some of the best characteristics of English and American cider traditions. The aromas tantalize; the flavor satisfies; the bubbles add zip. What a wonderful beverage. I hope someday to be able to try their other two varieties.