We’ve almost made it through 2019. That means I get to look back at my ciders before beginning another fresh and new year. 2019 was a heart breaker, but also I experienced many moments of joy. I hope you did too. I took part in some fantastic cider experiences, and I hope you did too. I reviewed more than 100 ciders this year, so I had the largest field yet of contenders for my favorite. It was tremendously difficult for me to narrow down to just ten favorites, but each of the ciders below is a gem.
Here are all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!
And my first ever cider countdown from 2013:
And I'll quote my own rules again. “As in earlier years, 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 coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 201. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”
With no further blathering, let me show you what ciders I loved most this year! Please share your favorites with me in the comments!
10. Woodchuck/Farnum Hill’s Odd Crush
As soon as I heard about this collaboration between New Hampshire legend Farnum Hill with Vermont’s Woodchuck, I was eager to try it. Both of these companies have been making ciders since the 1990s, and their experience gets to shine in this cider. If you prefer things drier than most Woodchuck and sweeter than most Farnum Hill, this might be the perfect treat you’ve been waiting for. Even if you normally shun canned ciders, I urge you to give this aromatic, well-balanced, delicious canned cider a try.
9. Potter’s Craft Cider Pippin Cuvee
I feel so luck to have been included for the promotion of Cider Week Virginia this year. I got to try some excellent ciders that I otherwise would have had access to. The cider smells like a bouquet of fresh garden greener and ripe apples. I loved it’s bubbly enthusiasm, spiky acidity, and gentle wildness. Congratulations to Potter’s on their new tasting room as well!
8. Aeppeltreow Scarlett Rosey Cider
Whether or not you want to call this cider a rosé, this pink semi-sweet cider is delicious. What I love about it comes primarily from crab apples. The acidity is lively and a perfect match for it’s fruity sweetness, plus there’s enough tannin there to enhance the cider’s structure substantially. This cider was completely emblematic of summer sipping while watching the sun cast long evening shadows across my yard. It is lovely.
7. Eden Specialty Cider’s Ezekiel
I knew from the moment I tasted the Ezekiel last January, that it would be a front runner for my year end favorites list. This dry Kingston Black Cider has everything. I chose to drink in January for it’s dryness plus body. Sometimes, I give cider makers a hard time for trying so often to create a truly delicious and balanced single-varietal cider. It often holds them back because so few apple varieties are ready to appear unblended, but the Kingston Black can do it. And the Ezekiel does it’s beautiful fruit full justice. I love the intensity of flavor in this cider!
6. Treasury Cider Homestead Semi-Dry Orchard Cider
I enjoyed Homestead Cider Semi-Dry at a birthday party. I taste it as a mellow, firm drink; it doesn’t taste austere or pointed, yet it’s still very driven by acid. I appreciate the cider’s balance and plethora of bubbles. But my favorite part has to be the pear notes on the finish. I do recommend this one for fans of dry ciders, as I think most folks would find it plenty dry.
5. Uncle John’s Cider’s Baldwin
The enticing aromas of this cider let me know I was going to enjoy it: ripe apples, rock candy, salt, leather and mild phenolics. The Baldwin was fruity with notes that remind me of pineapple, melon, tropical notes, and lush green leaves. It still managed to be dry. I really enjoy this complex, super tart cider.
4. Eve’s Cidery Kingston Black 2017
Another single-varietal made the list. I can’t be surprised because the Kingston Black is a great apple, and Eve’s Cidery cares about bringing the best qualities out of each batch of juice fermented. I love the body, structure, and acidity in this dry cider. The Finger Lakes is home to many talented cider makers, and we are lucky to count the crew at Eve's Cidery among them.
3. Big Fish Cider Co’s Allegheny Gold
I don’t often get the chance to try anything from Big Fish Cider Co, but everything I’ve tried has been delightful. The aromas on this cider are simply inviting; I can smell ripe apples, oats, carrots, golden raisins and caramel. It also really brought lively bubbles, making this cider a party. It was a mature and tasteful party, but a party nonetheless. I loved it!
2. Blue Bee Harrison
The Harrison cider by Blue Bee tastes tannic, acidic and fruity. It’s astringent in a way that reminded me of all manner of old and beautiful things like maps, paper, antiques, sunlight, and dust. The fruit notes included lychee, lime, and ripe apple. The acidity was overwhelming brightness. It was magical. The Harrison created an overall image both golden and overripe.
1. Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented
This off-dry cider expanded my expectations for wild ferments as an entire category. Often I find them interesting but not the most hedonistically enjoyable. Dragons Head changed my mind by creating a wild-ferment cider that had appealing aromas like sugar dusted lemon slices and ripe apples. It tasted amazing with notes of citrus and fantastic balance. I was completely bowled over.
I paired this cider with a fun vacation trip to Seattle, and someday I’d like to pair more Dragons Head with a trip to their orchard on Vashon Island!
And with that, I wish everyone a relaxing and happy end of 2019!
Thank you so much to all of my cider friends new and old. Thanks very much to folks who invited me to great cider events, kind people who judged cider with me, tireless volunteers I worked with on state and national cider committees, and members of the friendly and generous online communities that make the cider community fun. I appreciate all of you! And I am so grateful for everyone growing apples, making cider, and promoting this fine beverage. May 2020 be filled with good fruit for all of us!