For cider aficionados and a host of newbies among the 2,000 participants at the 2nd annual Pour the Core cider festival on Oct. 9 at Peconic Bay Winery on Long Island’s North Fork, there were hard ciders aplenty from near and far and places in between.
From near, imbibers could sample True Companion and True Believer, both produced at Peconic Bay, as well as ciders from Woodside Orchards down the highway in Aquebogue and Cider 139 from Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. There were ciders from Upstate New York, New England, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, California and the Pacific Northwest. And there were ciders from abroad, from England, Scotland, France and Spain. There were ciders from small artisanal producers as well as large industrial manufacturers.
And not just apple cider. Pear cider, also known as perry, also could be found, albeit in smaller numbers. And, yes, beer, too.
Apple ciders, however, became my focus as most of the perries sampled were too sweet, too watery or worse. And beer, that’s just a different story.
Most of my cider picks among the offerings tended to on they dry side. Many of the cider offerings, particularly those made in the USA, were more reminiscent of wine coolers or worse, sodas. Swedish ciders, which listed their prime ingredient as local water, also were no-shows as far as I was concerned.
High on my list of favorites were the two cider offerings from Virtue Cider Co., a relatively new producer established by former Goose Island brew master Greg Hall. His Redstreak was dry, crisp and refreshing with just a hint of apple, very much in the traditional English style. Virtue’s Sidra de Nava, done in the Spanish style, was tart like a beer in the lambic style.
Also very dry and much to my liking were a trio from England’s Aspall Cider, the very pale original and the equally light hued Organic, both were quite dry. Aspall’s Perronelle’s Blush Cider, made with added blackberry juice, also proved to be tart with an unmistakable berry character.
Another English winner, Thatcher’s Green Goblin was deep gold, full-bodies, crisp, some what tannic and with notes of oak.
A Scottish import, Thistly Cross, had a golden Champagne color and was eminently drinkable with its medium dry character.
I also enjoyed Woodside’s Traditional, made from a blend of eight culinary apple varieties, a crisp cider with the aroma and taste of just-picked apples.
Another local product, Wolffer’s 139, also was tart, dry and refreshingly enjoyable.
Anthem Cider, a cider label of Wandering Aengus Cider works of Salem, Ore., made from culinary apples, was deep gold, refreshing and off dry. The Wandering Aengus Blossom Cider, made with traditional English and French cider apple varieties, also was very English in style with an apple-pie nose and a mix of sweet and tart notes.
Another American offering, also on the dry side, was the brilliantly gold-hued Angry Orchard Traditional Dry, dry from start to finish with an occasional sweet note in between.
Four Screw from Harvest Moon Cidery in Cazenovia, NY, was surprisingly dry, tart and winey, and is sweetened, apparently, just a tad, by maple syrup.
Two canned ciders from Pennsylvania’s Jack’s Hard Cider surprised. Jack’s Original was quite dry, crisp with soft notes of apple. Jack’s Helen’s Blend was more piquant and quite tasty, too.
One of the more unusual ciders I’d tasted was the 10% abv (really an apple wine) from Silver Mountain Ciders in Lempster, N.J. Cloudy from bottle conditioning with oak flavors from oak aging and tart apples notes intertwined. A bit extreme, actually.
Among my biggest disappointments were two offerings from Anheuser Busch-InBev: Michelob Ultra Light Apple Cider, which had a passing resemblance to water kissed by apples, and Stella Artois Cidre, a sugary offering with notes reminiscent of a chemistry lab.
Also, perplexing was the variety of flavored pear ciders from Sweden’s Rekorderlig, which were served on ice with a strawberry and bit of mint. Not for me!