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?

Ferme de Beau Soleil Cidre Fermier Brut

Review of Ferme de Beau Soleil’s Cidre Fermier Bio Brut, a French “Farmer’s Cider”.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery, although I am a fan of French cidre (see some of my reviews here).

Photo Apr 22, 4 47 25 PM

Cider:  Cidre Fermier Bio Brut
Cidery:  Ferme de Beau Soleil
Cidery Location:  Matignon, Brittany, France
ABV:  5%
How Supplied:  750ml champagne corked & caged bottles
Style:  Breton French cidre

Photo Apr 22, 4 47 36 PM Photo Apr 22, 4 47 52 PM

Availability:  likely limited, imported by “Wines of France”

Cider Description:  Google translated as To offer you this raw cider, I have selected and assembled the best varieties of apples live from my orchards.  Since a slow fermentation and craftsmanship, its characteristic fruity taste will seduce you with an aperitif, until dessert.

Cidery Description:  The Renouard family has been making cider since 1975, and were certified organic in 2008.  The current cidermaker is Thomas Renouard (one source said its a one-man operation-wow).

Price:  $12
Where Bought:  Full Throttle Bottles in Seattle WA
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  browsing, the first time I had been in since their long closure for remodel

Photo Apr 22, 4 49 32 PM.jpg

First Impression:  Light orange amber hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells of bittersweet cider apples and yeast.

Tasting Notes:  On the drier side of semi-sweet.  Light to medium bodied.  Moderate tartness.  Low acidity, tannins, and funk.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness.  Notes of bittersweet cider apples & pomace, caramel, yeast, earth, leather, and orange.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate apple flavor and flavor intensity.  Moderate to high complexity and sessionability.

My Opinion:  Excellent!  This cider had some nice stages, from tart to flavorful & funky to tannic.  I really liked everything about it – flavor profile, complexity, tannins, funk, etc.  It was edging towards rustic, yet without any sourness (which is my least liked quality).  However, it didn’t quite have as much of that fluffy texture (body) I love with French cidres (which I assume is from the keeving process), I’m guessing as it wasn’t as carbonated as many selections.

Most Similar to:  Pierre Huet AOC Pays D’Auge CidreManoir de Grandouet AOP Pays d’Auge CidreManoir de Grandouet Cidre Fermier BrutL’Hermitiére Cidre Brut, and Christian Drouin Pays d’Auge

Closing Notes:  I liked how this combined my favorite elements of both Brittany and Normandy ciders – sweeter, apple-forward, funky, but not sour.  It also hits a nice price point, about average of what I’ve seen.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?