Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Cider Review: Virtue Cider's Pear and Woodchuck Cider's 802 Collection Lil' Dry

The first heat wave of the season has hit the Finger Lakes, and I’ve gotten am ambitious sunburn. While the calendar still says Spring, it now feel like Summer to me. With Summer, comes a whole new set of foods for cider pairing. My drink preferences change as well. I’m more prone to reach for a hopped cider, lower ABV canned ciders have extra appeal, and I’m still looking for perries when I can. Luckily, I have one for this week and one for next week too! 

This week the folks at Virtue Cider were kind enough to send me some review samples of the new Pear cider. For those who don’t know. Virtue Cider was founded in Michigan in 2011. The company is now owned by AB In-Bev. Reading on Virtue’s website, but the focus remains on Michigan apples. 

Here’s a fun section of the website that I recommend checking out. It’s Virtue’s guide to cider making and cider history:

Several Virtue ciders have made it onto the blog before. Here’s the list. 



The Mitten Reserve:



The Mitten:

Red Streak:

You can find out more about any of these ciders on Virtue’s website: 

Here’s how Virtue introduces and contextualizes the Pear cider.
Virtue Cider Pear is a blend of hand-pressed heirloom apples and pears. Drinks like a Sauvignon Blanc, appeals to all. 
STYLE: Semi-Sweet Cider with Pears 
INGREDIENTS: Apples, pears, and yeast 
ABV: 5%  
TASTING NOTES: Our pear cider is made with hand picked heirloom Michigan apples that are pressed and fermented on our solar powered farm. That cider is blended with the finest pear juice for a soft, semi-sweet flavor. Notes of mellow apple up front with a soft pear finish. Zero sugar added. 
FOOD PAIRING: Enjoy Virtue Cider Pear alongside a chopped salad, pretzels, or vanilla ice cream.

Appearance: brilliant, pale straw, few bubbles

The Pear looks a cooler tone of straw than most ciders. Its a bit silvery rather than very golden, but I’ll call it pale straw. It’s completely brilliant, and I can see a few bubbles but not many.

Aromas: sweet, tropical fruit, cooked fruit

The Pear smells sweetly tropical like pineapple, mango and starfruit. At the same time, there’s something about the sweetness and concentration of the fruit aromas that comes across as either overripe or cooked fruits. Everything in the aromas comes across as intense and soft.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-sweet

I’m so glad that this pear cider is exactly as sweet as I expected it to be from both the description and it’s aroma. I knew this would be sweet and fruity, and it is!

Flavors and drinking experience: very apple and pear, full bodied, mildly bubbly

Virtue’s pear cider tastes very much like apple and pear, but it’s also gently nutty. Perhaps because of the sweetness, this feels full bodied and lush. The pear cider is only mildly bubbly.

There’s no funk here; it's a clean fermentation. That’s interesting because Virtue’s lineup runs the gamut in terms of the squeaky clean to fun and funky. I get medium acidity and no tannins.

I had mine with soft tacos and chips. The sweetness goes very well with a kick of spice!

Now, for Woodchuck Cider’s 802 Collection Lil’ Dry!

I received this cider from Woodchuck for review. Woodchuck has been part of my blog coverage since the very beginning. The company was founded in the late 1990s in Vermont. Now, Woodchuck Cider is owned by Vermont Hard Cider LLC which is in turn owned by C&C Group. 

You can visit to learn about all of Woodchuck's ciders.

Here are some of my previous reviews include the following (there are many more):

Odd Crush (Collab with Farnum Hill):

802 Kinda Cloudy:


Bubbly Rose:

June and Juice:

The Local Nectar:

Pear Ginger:

And I loved visiting them on my Vermont Cider Tour:

Here’s the official description for Woodchuck Cider’s 802 Collection Lil’ Dry.
SEMI-DRY CIDERA traditional cider made with only fresh pressed Vermont juice from our orchard partners. Enjoy this semi-dry cider with good friends and good company. 5.1% ABV.

Appearance: Brilliant, no visible bubbles, palest white gold

This cider looks even paler and more cool toned than the Virtue pear cider; it reminds me of white gold. It’s brilliant and reveals no bubbles.

Aromas: Baked apples, brown sugar, apple juice and Play Doh

This cider blooms with oodles of aroma. Immediately after cracking the can I could smell baked apples. I poured my cider and got juicy apple notes along with brown sugar and Play Doh.

Sweetness/dryness: Semi-dry

The Lil’ Dry is described as semi-dry in Woodchuck’s introduction to this cider. I think that’s  accurate. It has some sweetness, but that doesn’t dominate the experience of drinking this cider.

Flavors and drinking experience: Medium acidity, overripe apples, golden raisins

Woodchuck’s Lil’ Dry tastes more rounded and friendly than dry to me. This cider has medium acidity and lots of natural apple and fruit notes, but it doesn’t come across as dry. Instead, if there’s a profile difference between this cider and some others in the Woodchuck portfolio, it’s that the Lil’ Dry feels more natural and lush than many Woodchuck ciders.  It’s not dry but it does taste like pear nectar and golden raisins.

The Lil’ Dry has a full body and medium bubble. The flavor notes include soft fruit and some minerals. The whole experience is Less Jolly Rancher and more apple juice. This is a great cider for marinated tofu and broccoli slaw. Those savory and salty flavors really highlight what’s best about this juicy and approachable offering from Woodchuck.