Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2015

Thank you! Along Came A Cider has had a fantastic 2015, and I am so grateful. I tasted cider in England, at CiderCon, at GLINTCAP, and in kitchens, tasting rooms, and restaurants everywhere I went. Thanks so much for each glass, each apple, each conversation shared this year.

Cider itself also had a great year in the United States and around the world. Many new cideries and cider bars opened their doors. Others grew in taste and reach. My favorite news though has to be the CIDER Act. This act makes cider more comprehensible to the United States Federal Government, and begins to support this internationally popular agricultural product. Read what the United States Association of Cidermakers says about it here:

To share my joy and gratitude, I want to share which 10 ciders have thrilled me the most this year. At this point it's a tradition for the blog. 

(my 2014 list: and my 2013 list:

To borrow from last year, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have a review on the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I reviewed in 2015. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.  

10. New Day Craft's Johnny Chapman

I love how this cider—made in Indiana—smells malty and tastes fabulously balanced yet sweet. Its character of  maple, caramel, and sorghum charmed but did not overpower.

9. Rev Nat's Hallelujah Hopricot 

This west coast cider not only struck me as super tart, bitter, hoppy and mildy fruity, but it also made a major impression with its creativity and innovation. This, to me, is the most outstanding contribution of American west coast ciders in 2015.

8. Awestruck Premium Hard Cider Hibiscus Ginger 

Staying with my theme of exciting ciders, I was amazed by how developed and balanced this adventurous offering the taster. It looks beautiful in the glass, but is so much more than that. Awestruck, a young New York State cider company, really has something to say with this zesty blend of apple, hibiscus, and ginger.

7. Cornwall Cider Co. Lyonnesse 

My review of Lyonnesse was part of a longer entry on all of the ciders I found and tried during my trip to Devon and Cornwall this May. This cider smells like cooked apricots and is semi-dry. It stood out because it offered great bubbles and a higher level acidity than most UK ciders. I was just endlessly impressed with its bright acidity and medium-high tannins. Its full and oaty mouthfeel kept it uniquely English and decidedly special.

6.Good Life Cider's Barrel Rye

This is my most recent addition to the list, and it's a special one. I tasted this New York state cider a few times before reviewing it, including on the night the CIDER act was passed. What a perfect celebratory drink: bright with acidity yet deep with caramelly oxidation. It's recalls maple and coconut, uniquely combined with clementines. Very yummy indeed.

5. Castle Hill Cider's Celestial 

This high-acid off-dry cider from Virginia was a special treat found in a Florida grocery store. I have the highest praise for its clean fermenation and stone fruit notes.

4. Eden Sparkling Dry Cider

Now we've crossed into the rarefied terrority of the top four. These are the ones that start to reveal my preferences and biases as a cider drinker. Vermont's Eden Sparkling Dry Cider hits all of the notes I enjoy: great mouthfeel, high tannins, enough acidity to keep things firm, and gorgeous sparkle!

3. AeppelTreow Winery's Appley Brut Sparkling Cider

And now for the second appearance of an AeppelTreow Cider in my favorites list. This year I loved the Appley Brut, and previously I adored their Kinglet Bitter (which I just tried on draft for the first time at a top notch beer store in Louisville and loved again). But this Wisconsin cider offers a crisp, very bubbly, and cracklingly sharp experience with great balance.
2. Aspall Imperial English Cider

My choice here cannot surprise anyone who knows me. I love English ciders of the particular type Aspall offers—what can I say, we get along well.  Their sense of balance is difficult to beat and the mouthfeel is nearly always outstanding. This particular cider is smooth, dark, rich, and just cuddly.

And now, drumroll please...

1. Farnum Hill Extra Dry Cider

Farnum Hill, based in New Hampshire, is the only cider company to have made all three of my yearly favorites lists.  (Previously, I'd nodded to both Kingston Black and Farmhouse.) That might tell us all something about their quality, or maybe something about my tastes. I tried this as part of Protocol Wine Studio's month of Twitter discussion amongst wine and cider folks. It was really a great time.

What I love about this cider is its complexity and controlled funk. Yes, the Extra Dry was earthy and mushroomy, but it still offered loads of fruit. A cider that gives me orange, leather, and butter is doing something right.

With that, I wish you all a safe and happy New Year! Let's enjoy cider together in 2016!