It’s been a year, folks. I’ve been tremendously lucky, and this year has still been a slog and a struggle much of the time. And it’s not been lucky for much of the cider, hospitality and arts industries that each mean so much to me. I look forward to supporting them all as best and safely I can in 2021, and I hope you’ll do the same.
My tradition in the final days of the year is to round up my favorite 10 ciders from the previous twelve months and share them as a top ten list: countdown style.Here’s a list of all of my previous year’s top 10s! Please go back and find your favorites!
First ever cider countdown from 2013: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2013/12/my-10-favorite-ciders-of-2013.html
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 20. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”
There are always so many more delightful ciders that deserve high honors than can fit into a Tope 10 list, but this year perhaps even more than I expected because I’ve stopped saving special bottles of cider for special occasions. Enjoying a good cider makes any occasion special, and I’ll stand by that.
10. Raging Cider & Mead Co.’s Them Pet-Nat Southern Apples
This California cider snuck up on me. I’d never heard of the company, and I only got the chance to sample the cider through the kindness of my cider community. I love this type of cider; Pet Nats can be the best kinds of exciting, bubbly, dry, and just a bit funky. This is was all of that and a delightful surprise!
9. Once Upon a Tree’s Wild Flight
I love so many UK ciders, but I admit that I’ve grown very accustomed to high acidity ciders too. I don’t always run across ciders that suit my love of leathery barnyard warmth along with my craving for taut zingy acidity. Luckily the Wild Flight gives me that great combo.
8. Bauman’s Cider Mountain Rosé
This is my third in a row for ciders appearing in the blog for the first time and making it into my top 10! This is great news for the cider company at large. We can all be discovering really great cider companies all the time, like Baughman’s Cider out of Oregon. This Rosé completely hit the spot for me. I loved everything about it, and I love to be able to buy it more easily and often!
7. Kite and String’s King of the North Reserve
From the aromas of honey and overripe apples to the lovely tannic structure and lingering finish, this was a completely impressive cider. I may have bought this local cider from Kite and String for the bubbles, but I got so much more from it. The King of the North Reserve is completely beguiling.
6. Stormalong Esopus Spitzenburg
Stormalong ciders appeared in the blog more often this past year than some earlier times. The whole rare apple series was a delight from Massachusetts. I love that instead of strictly single varietals, these were unusual apple forward blends. Many cider makers love to chase a single apple cider, but blends give the cider maker so much more control to craft the final beverage. I’m always going to cheer for great blends that still highlight special apples like how this cider makes the Esopus Spitzenburg sing.
5. Eden’s Deep Cut
Eden Specialty Ciders has me figured out. I’m not embarrassed to say that each new cider shipment could contain a new favorite. I’m already excited to share a review of something new and delightful in the new year. But I want to highlight this dry yet full bodied and fruity canned cider. So many cideries are chasing exactly this, and Eden has perfected it. This is the quaffable and well balanced cider for serious cider drinkers. We don’t have to lug glasses and a 750ml bottle to a secluded picnic spot and hope we’ve not broken anything. The Deep Cut offers up fantastic aroma and wonderful mouthfeel in a canned cider!
4. Black Diamond’s 2018 Rosé
It isn’t kind of me to include a cider in my top 10 list that is this difficult to acquire, but I didn’t start blogging because I’m kind. I do this because I have so many opinions. One of those opinions is that Black Diamond makes fantastic ciders. Usually Black Diamond ciders are strictly apples, but this cider uses black currants, blueberries and plums as well as Porter’s Perfection and Kingston Black apples. The 2018 Rosé was part of one of my personal highlights of 2020. It’s a scintillating cider that was an excellent kick off to my apple CSA from Black Diamond.
3. Foggy Ridge Cider's Final Call
When I first reviewed this cider at the very beginning of March, I said that I was “utterly entranced.” That hasn’t changed in the months since those lovely creamy bubbly glasses. Final Call has to be one of the best ciders not just of this year but of the decade. This cider was both elegant and fruit forward. Should be lucky enough to come across a bottle, nab it!
2. Tilted Shed Ciderworks Love's Labor
Tilted Shed makes fantastic ciders in California, but I rarely see them in New York. I joined the cider club for better access. This has been my favorite of that selection thus far, but my cellar still has many more waiting for their day in the glass. The Loves Labor includes Gravenstein apples and wild blackberries. It’s sparkle, acidity, and tannins are perfectly balanced and delightfully pleasing!
1. Big Fish Cider Virginia Hewes Crab
Every cider from Big Fish Cider Co is different from it’s previous releases, and I’ve never tried one that wasn't exceedingly above average. They make wonderful cider. And I tend to love crab apples in cider. Yes, this is a single varietal, but it does so much that most single varietals don’t. The Virginia Hewes Crab brings luscious aromas of spices, overripe apples, and citrus. The cider tastes even better than it smells! The cider has body, acidity, tannins, fruit, and intense bubbles. I love it! I knew it would be in my favorites list from the moment I first sipped it. Congratulations and thanks for making this cider!
And now that I’m thanking folks. Thanks so much to my cider friends and community near and far. We weren’t able to gather for most of this year, but we’ve toasted each other across the miles. Hopefully we can raise glasses together safely next year! Cheers!