In this blog article about the best craft cider of America by hard cider experts, we’re going to cover what we believe to be some of the best hard apple ciders you can get your hands on.
Of course, this list is fairly subjective given the many different tastes, palates and preferences among drinkers (hence the many different varieties), however, we are going to provide our expert opinion according to what drinkers on average generally prefer in their craft ciders.
To come up with our list we first need to define what is hard cider. Basically, it’s any fermented fruit based alcoholic drink. Typically, it’s apple based, but may be exclusive to or include pear ciders (perry’s), farmhouse ciders, ice ciders, raspberry cider, orange cider, apple pie cider, and barrel-aged ciders.
We are going to use Paste Magazine as a reference based on the blind taste test study for various ciders rated focusing on the top 7 entries. We’re doing it this way because this eliminates ANY bias we may have for a particular drink based on it’s brand name awareness, fame or notoriety.
Square Mile The Original – Portland, OR
This hard cider says it right in the name: ORIGINAL. In tasting this offering it almost went unnoticed. Not because it taste bad, not even because it’s bland (it’s rather tasty), but because of the expectation of ranking some of the ‘flashier’ offerings on the table while ironically ignoring the very essence of what makes great hard apple cider.
Very nice, from start to finish, “The Original” is drier than most mass-market ciders, but not quite enough to be labeled as ‘dry cider’ — it’s a strange balance somewhere in-between – and it works. No frills. No bell’s and whistles of overly sweet and tart apples going to war with your tastebuds.
This classic, American cider is what you’d imagine our forefathers Honest Abe Lincoln, Quincy Adams and George Washington drank daily in excess. If it were good enough for them, than by God it’s good enough for us.
Ciderboys Grand Mimosa – Stevens Point, WI
Ciderboys Grand Mimosa is your CLASSIC mimosa with 100% of blind testers writing in it’s notes simply “Mimosa”. Ciderboys offering, apparently, is the very definition of the word itself because it does what it set out to do refreshingly well.
In a way it’s an unsophisticated experimental drink. Apple cider + orange juice. On paper this makes no sense. In practice, it’s a fun offering on a night out. On the nose, you get fresh-squeezed orange juice. Point, blank, period. Upon tasting you find hints of apple occasionally to surprise you. It’s no beautiful artistic expression of hard ciders, than again, it doesn’t strive to be and focuses on its own lane. And it works!
Square Mile Cider Co. Spur & Vine – Portland, OR
Unabashedly the hoppiest cider on the list, Spur and Vine is the IPA of hard apple ciders generously and exclusively hopped with Galaxy, an Australian/New Zealand-grown varietal known for it’s bright tropical fruit flavors and aromatics. Mango and passionfruit aroma’s comes through in a big way; standing out from all other tested hopped ciders. It truly stretches it’s boundaries on what you’d think of when you hear “hopped cider” or “apple IPA”.
Anthem Pear – Salem, OR
Though pear ciders don’t get anywhere near the dignified treatment of aartisanapple cider (the country is still rebounding to it’s original cider roots), Anthem Pear still ranks near the top of our list with a magical blend of seven different Barlett, Bosc and D’Anjou pear varieties to find the right match. This pear cider, for lack of better words, hits the ‘sweet spot’. Naturally, it’s marginally sweeter than apple ciders but drier than most pear ciders. Juicy, authentic flavors all-around.
Woodchuck Barrel Select – Middlebury, VT
A cider taste testers fully expected to write off ironically shot up to #3 on the list. Woodchuck’s Barrel Select has big flavors of toffee, butterscotch and maple syrup. Your immediate reaction is to eat with a side of pancakes. You’d think it’d be over sweet, but it tapers off in ‘just the right way’ at ‘just the right time’ to give it the balance it needs to make it palatable, and surprisingly enjoyable. Of the 81 tested this the CLOSEST they’ve come to a true barrel-aged hard cider.
Wandering Aengus Bloom – Salem, OR
Wandering Aengus Bloom is a classic hard cider in what you’d hope to expect if someone said, “Hey, try this cider I made”. It feels as if it were from home. It’s simple enough. Semi-sweet, old-school cider from heirloom cider apples zooming in at a perfect level for each major flavor component.
It’s sweet, not cloy. Tart, but not puckering. Substantial, yet drinkable. We’d liken it to biting directly into a Honeycrisp apple with it’s unique sweet, tart and acidity flavor profiles. It’s perfectly balanced without any particular unique trait or gimmicks to help it stand out. It’s unapologetically hard apple cider. Which, depending on your preference may be just what the doctor ordered.
Angry Orchard The Old Fashioned – Cincinnati, OH
This one took the taste testers at Paste Magazine by surprise. When the blindfolds came off in anticipation to see what small town craft cider maker created this delightful little gem, they saw the words “Angry Orchard”, and their jaws dropped to the floor.
“How is this NOT an artisanal, funky cider from a small, hyped cidery in a local town?” On the contrary. It’s the brainchild of the biggest cider-maker in America. The ol’ saying’s true – never judge a book by its cover.
Out of the 81 tested, this is the best offering all-around well-balanced hard cider. It works in both conception AND execution. Style AND taste. Look AND feel.
Made from a blend of American apples aged on oak with tart cherries, orange peel and bourbon barrel staves, what results is a highly complex, subtle masterpiece that is sure to be a daily stable in cellar. It’s light, neautral oak, zesty citrus, hints of vanilla and supple tannins.
~ ~ CONCLUSION ~ ~
Is this a complete list? Absolutely not.
It IS complete in the sense that of the samples submitted for blind tastings for this study this is how it ranks amongst professional drinkers, if you will. There are hundreds, no, thousands of hard ciders including many obscure ones that are so outright difficult to get hands on that not even established journalist publications can get them without knowing a few ‘friends of a friend of a friend’. Few are willing to give up their bottle of rare ciders even for the extra publicity and increase in sales because for some companies, that’s exactly what they DON’T want.
This was a review of a combination of artisan crafty ciders and mainstream ones that are fairly easily accessible to the general public and are thus more likely to see the most traction with readers, including yourself.
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In Blake’s We Trust,
BHC Team Staff