Monday, December 26, 2022

My Favorite 10 Ciders of 2022

Finally! We’ve been holidaying for weeks; its time to wind down the year. Only a few more days remain in 2022. That means it’s also time for me to round up my favorite 10 ciders of the year. And though this isn't a year I expect to look back on fondly, I have some very happy cider memories. Mostly, I'm glad to that I got to see more cider friends than I have in a while and that I became a Pommelier in 2022. 

This favorites list is one of my favorite year-end traditions: the tenth time I’ve gathered such a list. I’m so happy to share again. But first, here are all of the earlier cider countdowns I’ve made. 

2021 Top 5:

2021: My 10-5 countdown:








First ever cider countdown from 2013:

And here’s a little bit about how it works. I choose only cider per company.  That’s not because no cider produces more than one absolute champion per year but I want to highlight ten different ciderys each year. Any cider I’ve reviewed in 2022 is eligible. I want to reiterate that these are my favorites; I have no illusions that my tastes are objective or universal. These are just ten ciders that wowed me the most this past year.  

10. Stormalong Cider - Pearman Quince (Massachusetts)

I remember tasting the Pearman Quince on a sweltering summer evening while exploring a space perhaps not strictly intended for cider exploration. The cider was barely bubbly but featured medium levels of tannins, aquatic flavor notes, a healthy dose of funk and fruity acidity. Stormalong created a fun and unusual cider in the Pearman Quince with lots of excitement brought by the addition of quince.

9. Wild Arc Farm - Apples (New York)

This Hudson Valley cider uses a blend of apples and pears, a natural fermentation, and very limited interventions like filtering or fining. Many of those choices increase the risk level when making a cider, and this cider still managed to end up incredible. The fruit, the time spent in oak plus all of the factors I mentioned above created a beautiful alchemy for deliciously balanced and integrated cider with a gorgeous strong sparkle. What a win!

8. West County Cider - Quince / Redfield Cortland (Massachusetts)

Lemon curd, pineapple, and homemade applesauce, what’s not to love here? The Quince Redfield Cortland is a semi-sweet cider with lots of aromatic quince in the mix,  bringing sparkling vivacity, high acidity, all supported by a solid base of medium tannins. 

7. Montana Ciderworks - Hopped Up Heritage (Montana)

This hoppy cider benefitted from taking hops seriously. The hops included add multiple dimensions of aroma and flavor. So much citrus aroma! The cider maker also chose to make this hopped cider semi-sweet, with notes that remind me of super-ripe apple, honey, and peach. I feel like many cider folks have tasted some unbalanced hopped ciders or don’t see the point of hopped cider, but a good one can really be a beautiful and complex beast. That’s exactly what I smelled and tasted in Montana Ciderworks Hopped Up Heritage.

6. Redbyrd Orchard Cider - Tompkins King / Stoke Red (New York)

I love a small blend. To me it seems the most logical stopping place for a cider maker who wants to show off the natural qualities of a few specific apples while also presenting a balanced beverage that’s complete and enjoyable on its own. This 5050 blend of Tompkins King and Stoke Red apples illustrates this wisdom amazingly. It’s got all the tannins, acidity, and aroma that one could want. I loved that this cider brings both gorgeous fruit notes and solid minerality. 

5. Absolem Cider Company - Ferryman (Maine)

The Ferryman by Absolem uses time spent in port barrels and pressed red wine grapes to create a shockingly soft cider. Both the flavors and the mouth feel were beguiling with complex tannins that sent along with some gentle fruit notes as well. This off dry cider is one shows off that use of port barrel and grape must in the aromas and flavors both, but without losing a distinct sense of apple stems and cores.

4. Big Hill Ciderworks - Barrel Aged Reserve (Pennsylvania)

Barrel aging can change everything about a cider. I’ve had ciders that lose a lot of apple characteristics because they are so dominated by barrel qualities, but Big Hill Barrel Aged Reserve doesn’t lose sight of the cider at all.  The cider’s aromas are all about ripe apples and the blunt clean woody side of barrel aging. This off-dry cider is zingy with medium tannins and tons of flavor. 

3. Black Diamond Cider - Perry (New York)

This pear cider is from one of my favorite local cideries: Black Diamond. I enjoyed this as part of the Black Diamond and Moosewood pairing dinner during New York Cider week. This pear cider does everything I love in a perry or pear blend: lively bubbles, grapefruit citrus notes, softness and high acid.

2. Big Fish Cider Co. - Punk and Henry (Virginia)

It’s no surprise that Big Fish makes some fantastic ciders. (I already have two sets of notes that will go live in 2023 that I’m very excited about.) Punk and Henry is all about softened autumn fruit in semi-dry cider that delivers high levels of fruity acids, along with high tannins, and notes of golden raisins, ripe apples and caramel. It is a glorious cider.

1. Snowdrift Cider Company - Red (Colorado)

Everything about the Red works for me. Actually, that’s underselling it, I love everything about this cider from Snowdrift. Its aromas of under-ripe strawberries, booze, and sweet orange were intriguing. It sparkles with verve and acid while still presenting fruity sweetness and some low but present tannin. The Red is a gorgeous cider that plays tremendously well with food. 

This was a hard list to create because I tasted far more than 10 delicious ciders this year. Thanks so much to all of the cider makers, apple growers, and other folks in the industry who work hard to help get utterly fantastic ciders from the tree into our glasses. May next year be even more sparkling with good times and good tastes.