Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cider Review: Angry Orchard Stone Dry

The most common complaint I hear from casual cider drinkers is that there is not a good option for picking up a six pack of dry cider in most grocery stores. I cannot count the number of times I've heard a variation of this comment. I've been suggesting cidermakers fill in this market gap for almost as long as I've had this blog. Several brands have released ciders that approach this idea, but none have yet met the mark. Angry Orchard is the latest attempt, and I'm curious to see what they are offering as a dry six-pack cider.

We're all familiar with the Angry Orchard brand; they sell more cider in the United States than any other. Angry Orchard appears everywhere, so if they could make a dry six pack cider, it would be big news. And with a name like Stone Dry, it sounds like they are trying.

I'll share a link to Angry Orchard's website, so readers can find out about Angry Orchard ciders and their process as well as swag and recipes.

Here's a chronological list of my previous Angry Orchard reviews:

My first Angry Orchard review tasted the Elderflower Cider:

Roundup review of multiple Angry Orchard styles, including Strawman, Traditional Dry, and The Muse:  

Then I tried the Hop'N'Mad Apple:

Most recently, I reviewed their Summer Honey:

That makes this review the seventh Angry Orchard cider I'm sharing here. Today's variety won't surprise anyone who has been watching the newest cider releases; Angry Orchard's Stone Dry debuted most recently as an addition to Angry Orchard's cider lineup. 

I got my two bottles of Angry Orchard Stone Dry as a review sample from Angry Orchard. So, thanks guys! They also sent a helpful fact sheet and a note from the new head of Research and Development, Ryan Burk. I'll include as much information as I can to best frame my review.

Here's the official promotional copy describing this cider: "Angry Orchard Stone Dry – the driest cider in Angry Orchard’s core collection – is our twist on traditional English dry ciders. This cider balances the acidity of culinary apples with the tannins of traditional cider making apples, for a cider that is clean, refreshing, and slightly puckering on the finish."

That reads similarly to the fuller description included in my fact sheet, but they aren't identical. 
Angry Orchard Stone Dry-- the driest cider in Angry Orchard's core collection -- is an American interpretation of the traditional English dry cider style. It offers bright apple aroma, juicy flavor, and a clean dry finish, showcasing an intricate balance between the sweetness and acidity of culinary apples and the tannins of traditional cider making apples. The traditional apples chosen by the cider makers are European bittersweet varieties like Dabinett, Binet Rouge and Harry Masters Jersey, which contribute to the cider's high tannic character and dry finish. The result is a refreshing, slightly puckering cider with drying finish, most often felt on the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth.

While most of the juice from apples in the cider is fermented, Angry Orchard's cider maker add a bit of non-fermented bittersweet apple juice into the cider during the post fermentation stage to help achieve this cider's balanced, dry taste. This results in Stone Dry's fuller tannic mouthfeel as well as percieved dryness and robust bittersweet aromatic notes -- much like a very ripe apple.
the last few facts I need to include are that the cider has 5.5% ABV, and this will be offered year round, both in six packs and on draft.

Appearance: maple syrup color, ring of bubbles around the top of the glass, clear and uncloudy

Though this color would not strike one as particularly dark for maple syrup, it looks impressively dark for a cider, especially an American cider. I also noticed a persistant bubble ring around the top of my glass. Again, not a usual cider characteristic.

Aromas: yeast, beer-like, fruity with notes of grapes and apples

The first thing I noticed about how this cider smells, is how very beer-like the aromas are. I smell more yeast than fruit. It smells pleasantly cleanly bready. This isn't to say that there aren't fruit notes too. I smell plum, apple and grape in this cider too.

Sweetness/dryness: Off dry

While this isn't strictly dry, it is certainly off dry. That's my second to driest category as I perceive levels of dryness and sweetness. This also has characteristics that will most likely influence folks to think that this cider is completely dry. I'll get into those later.

Flavors and drinking experience: medium tannins, nice acidity, bold first note and mild finish

This cider at first tastes bitter yet then gets distinctly fruity. It tastes dusty, stony, crisp and acidic. This has to be the best Angry Orchard cider I've ever had, hands down. I'm that impressed! I liked some elements of their Elderflower and the Strawman previously, but this is more balanced and enjoyable. Stone Dry offers up a pleasantly fiesty level of fizz. As promised there is some presence of tannins, but they aren't dominant in the experience. And some acidity. And these are the reasons, I think many drinkers will find this cider dry. It offers tannins, bubbles, and acidity without scads of sugar. This will be familiar to most fans of American craft cider, but not necessary to those who haven't found much in the way of tannins or dryness before.

For a distinctly not-beer person, I love the ways in which this cider reminds me of the best parts of beer. I like the yeasty aromas and first bitter edge. But I know a beer aficionado would differ from my opinion, but perhaps like this cider more than other grocery store ciders.

Suggested pairings from the fact sheet include root vegetables, seafood, and charcuterie, but my recommendations will be a bit more everyday. This is a sandwich cider because it is so well balanced. Have it with your hummus and red pepper and sprout wrap if you like, egg and tomato on a croissant, or a veggie burger or even a pile of marinated mushroom with melted provolone on a baguette. 

I mean to show flexibility when I say have this with a sandwich. Beautiful sandwiches come in many forms and flavors, and this cider could accompany many of them! I would also pair this cider with game nights, all the better to share with your friend who haven't had a cider like this before.