My Favorite Ciders of 2018

Happy New Year!  Now that it is nearly 2019, it is time for a list of some of my favorite ciders of 2018.  This is a tradition here at Cider Says; see here for my list from 2017, here for my list from 2016, and here for my list from 2015.  To make it a bit different and easier, I put them into categories instead of trying to do a top ten list or similar.

Note that I wouldn’t try to make a list of the best ciders, just those I enjoy, as it would be an impossible task to try every cider out there and be impartial.  The cider world is very regional, so likely only readers in the NW would have a similar selection.  My only criteria for this list is that I drank the cider in 2018.  Some of the categories overlap.  However, I cheated a bit, as I made the list first, then determined categories to put them in!

barrel aged:  Tieton Bourbon Peach – This has more juicy peach flavor than bourbon, but the two go well together, and there is some nice complexity for being made from dessert apples.

botanical-infused:  Finnriver Lavender Black Currant – This mouth-puckering tart cider is primarily black currant flavored, but also has hints of lavender.

brewery-made:  Central City Limited Edition Imperial Cider – Most ciders I’ve tried that were made by breweries were disappointing, but this one was awesome, complex, imperial-style, and bourbon barrel aged.

canned commercial:  Woodchuck 802 Collection ‘Lil Dry – Many commercial ciders are overly sweet and uninspired, but this was semi-dry, flavorful, and craft tasting.

cyser:  Merridale Cyser – This cyser was imperial style and had some nice flavor and complexity, beyond just tasting like apple and honey.

draft commercial:  Somersby Apple Cider – As much as I enjoy craft cider, sometimes a commercial cider really hits the spot, plus often that is all you can find.  This cider is from Denmark but I tried it in Canada on vacation.  Apple forward and not too sweet.

everyday English cider:  Newton Court Gasping Goose – I’m a huge fan of English cider, and this was a go-to of mine, although unfortunately it is no longer available.  Tannic, rich, flavorful, clean, and sessionable.

fancy English cider:  Oliver’s Gold Rush batch #2 – This cider is crazy rich and complex, and a lovely deep hue too.  A steal at $15/bottle.  Wish I could find more.  I picked some up on vacation, and got lucky when I returned the next year and they still had 1 bottle left, but haven’t seen it locally.

French cidre:  Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut Tender and Ferme de Beau Soleil Cidre Fermier Bio Brut – I’m also a big French cider fan, and tried a number of great selections this year, but these stood out.

French perry:  Pierre Huet Poire Demi-Sec – This French perry is unique, with its fluffy texture, tartness, great real pear flavor, and a bit less sweet.  I haven’t found any American perries like the French ones I’ve had.

French Pommeau:  Hérout à Auvers Pommeau de Normandie AOC – I tried this awesome Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) at Cider Summit.  I’m looking forward to opening the bottle of it that I bought.

fruity:  Portland Sangria – Very fruity, with unexpected complexity, a fruit salad sort of cider.

ginger-infused:  Kystin Kalysie – I’m not a ginger fan, but I actually enjoyed the hint of ginger in this French perry.

ice cider:  Woodbox Double Barrel – This is a less sweet ice cider, with rich concentrated flavor, and a twist, having been whiskey barrel aged.

large craft cider made with cider apples:  Schilling Excelsior – This was made using bittersweet cider apples in addition to regular varieties, but remains beginner-friendly, staying a bit sweeter and clean and such.  I’m seeing more mainstream ciders being made using cider apples, although often it seems like it must have been a small amount.  The cider apple influence was definitely noticeable in Excelsior though.

New England style:  Alpenfire Tempest – The style is characterized by the use of brown sugar and raisins, and this is a great example.  It even reminded me of English cider.

pineapple cider:  2 Towns Pacific Pineapple – This cider is bursting with real fresh pineapple flavor, yet its less sweet.

Pommeau:  Phillippi Fruit Snow Dance – This U.S.-made Pommeau is super flavorful and complex, and reminiscent of cyser.

rosé:  Manoir du Parc Authentic Rosé and La Chouette Cidre Rosé – Both of these sweet French rosés are made from red-fleshed apples plus pears, and have a lovely fluffy texture.  I’m not sure if I could even tell them apart in a taste comparison, they are so similar.

single varietal:  Liberty Kingston Black – Made from only Kingston Black cider apples.  Tart, rich, and complex, with a hint of sweetness, which I appreciated, as often these sorts of ciders go completely dry.

tannic cider:  Finnriver Fire Barrel version 1 – Super tannic, flavorful, and complex, reminiscent of English cider.  I wasn’t as much of a fan of their more recent version 2 of it though.

tropical:  One Tree Staycation – I loved the complexity of this, which was unexpected for a cider from dessert apples.  I drank way too much of this over the summer!

unexpected:  Fresh Cut Watermelon Cider – Based on the can design and flavor, I was expecting this Canadian cider to be fake and syrupy, but this was superbly done, real tasting and semi-dry.

unique:  Kystin Cuvée XVII – 16 varieties of apples plus chestnuts are used in this unique, complex, tannic, and nutty French cider.

Well, there you have it, a list of 26 of my favorite ciders from 2018.  They have a lot in common – most are mid-level sweetness, rich, complex, and full-flavored.  What are some of your favorite ciders?

Central City Limited Edition Imperial Cider

Review of Central City Brewers and Distillers’ Brewer’s Reserve Small Batch Series Limited Edition Imperial Cider.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.  I picked it up in Victoria in September, when we were in port for a cruise.

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Cider:  Limited Edition Imperial Cider
Cidery:  Central City Brewing
Cidery Location:  Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
ABV:  11.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Canadian cider from local apples, bourbon barrel aged

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Availability:  limited seasonal release, since fall 2016, only in British Columbia (although in general their products are available throughout Canada; see here)

Cider Description:  Central City Brewers & Distillers’ Oak Aged Craft Cider is a limited edition, small batch apple cider. Made from 100% Okanangan Valley apples, oak aged with subtle bourbon tones. The resulting flavour is complex with notes of vanilla bringing balance to a rich, crisp apple character. The effervescent finish makes for a refreshing and flavourful cider experience.

Cidery Description:  This brewery opened in 2003.  In addition to beer, they also produce spirits and cider.

Price:  $16.44 CAD (~ $13.00 U.S.)
Where Bought:  The Strath in Victoria B.C.
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  Browsing.  I had never heard of this producer, and it sounded like a cider I’d like.

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First Impression:  Medium straw yellow hue.  Still (no carbonation).  Smells of alcohol, oak, and honey.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry to semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of honey, lemon, bourbon, oak, and caramelized sugar.  Long boozy finish.  Low oak influence, apple flavor, and sessionability.  Moderate bourbon flavor, flavor intensity, and complexity.

My Opinion:  Awesome!  I loved the flavor profile of this cider.  It was quite alcoholic, but well balanced and tasty.  The bourbon was definitely noticeable, which I liked, but not overwhelming.  I shared it with a friend on Christmas day, and it was a great choice.  The high quality surprised me, as I haven’t enjoyed too many ciders from breweries.  Often they are rather beer-like.

Most Similar to:  (1) Moonlight Meadery Little Apples (the new canned version like this, but without the first batch can liner issue; it remains much drier than their previous draft version); (2) Eden Specialty Ciders Cellar Series Guinevere’s Pearls (except it lacks bourbon); and (3) 2 Towns Bad Apple (except it also lacks bourbon)

Closing Notes:  I hope to be able to find this again.  It was an awesome value too!

Have you tried Central City’s Imperial Cider?  What did you think?