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?

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Pick Cider Ideas for Thanksgiving 2018

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I actually remembered to do a Thanksgiving cider article this year, so here it goes!  A list of some suggestions (at least for folks who can get these in their area) for Thanksgiving-dinner friendly ciders.  Besides pairing with a variety of foods, I think the ideal holiday cider will appeal to a wide audience (presuming you will share it with the table).  However, these selections will of course sway towards my personal tastes.

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French ciders – French ciders are inherently food-friendly, and have a wide appeal, typically being mid-level sweetness and apple-forward, but often having surprising complexity.  Its fun to share something unique (imported) with guests too.  Plus, they have a lower ABV, which can be ideal for meals earlier in the day.  Some of my favorites are from Domaine de la MinotiereEric BordeletKystinLa ChouetteL’HermitiéreManoir de Grandouet, and Pierre Huet.  I recently picked up a 5L mini keg of Bordelet, but I’m saving that for Christmas.  The easiest French cider to find for some may be Dan Armor, sold at Trader Joe’s, and at only $5 / 750ml, its an excellent value, and something I wouldn’t hesitate to serve at my house.  My top American-made French-style cider pick is 2 Towns Cidre Bouche.

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AeppelTreow Appely Doux – This Wisconsin methode champenoise (naturally sparkling) selection is mid-level sweetness with a flavor profile of citrus, green apple, honey, and floral.  It would make a nice champagne alternative anytime.

Alpenfire Spark! – This Washington cider is a great introduction to heritage ciders, with some rich notes of apple pomace, honey, orange, and leather, but remaining mid-level sweetness and clean.

Bertolinos Hard Cider – This Italian cider is mid-level sweetness, has some good fizz, and notes of honey, pineapple, and grapefruit.  Especially wide crowd appeal from my experience.

Eden Specialty Ciders – This Vermont cidery may have started with ice ciders (which I cover later), but they make some amazing regular ciders with wide appeal, such as their super complex Sparkling Semi-Dry, rich Guinevere’s Pearls, or new canned Heritage cider, which has to be the highest quality cider I’ve ever seen in a can.

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Eve’s Rustica This New York mid-sweetness cider has some unique notes of honey, cream/vanilla, and fruit, all expertly crafted just from the apples and yeast.

Liberty Kingston Black This Washington single varietal is made only from the iconic Kingston Black apples, yet I think it would have a wide appeal, as it retains some sweetness (semi-dry), is flavorful, and doesn’t cross over into funky/sour/bitter territory.

Slyboro Old Sin This New York semi-dry cider has some rich tannic flavor reminiscent of English cider, with notes of butterscotch, caramel, and tropical fruit, and is another selection which would make a great introductory heritage cider.  Lovely color to it too!

Snowdrift – This Washington cidery has several Thanksgiving-worthy crowd-pleasing cider selections, such as their Cidermaker’s Reserve (semi-dry, sparkling, fruity, and complex), Seckel Perry (mid-level sweetness, made only from Seckel pears), and Cliffbreaks Blend (semi-sweet, tart, and fruity).

Tilted Shed Smoked This dry cider hails from California, and is unique, nuanced, oaky, and slightly smokey.  Probably a bit less likely to be widely appealing, but I think it would be appreciated by certain audiences, and to me seems uniquely suited to Thanksgiving dinner.

Wandering Aengus Bloom – This Washington cider is mid-level sweetness and made from heirloom apples, but has widely appealing familiar notes of honey, green apple, and tropical fruit.

Whitewood Jonathan – This Washington cider is a single-varietal of Jonathan apples, and dry to semi-dry, but super approachable, being apple-forward with notes of citrus and honey.

ice cider – For a special treat with dessert, try ice cider.  It is made from naturally concentrating apple juice using cold to increase the sugar content before fermenting, resulting in a higher ABV sweet dessert cider bursting with flavor.  One of my favorites is Eden Brandy Barrel Aged Heirloom.

Pommeau – Also, Pommeau (cider + apple brandy) is another great dessert cider option.  It is made by fortifying cider (either fermented or unfermented juice) with distilled apple juice (brandy).  Like ice cider, it is a nice sipping option, although it is available in a wide range of sweetness.  Some of my favorites are from 2 Towns, Etienne DupontEZ OrchardsHerout, and Wandering Aengus.

Visit the Pick Cider campaign website for lots more great info, and try your local fine bottle shop or online, such as through Cider in Love or VinoShipper.  No matter which cider/s you choose, I’d encourage you to pick up some extra bottles, as a good cider can easily turn even those who have sworn off cider into cider lovers, holidays are holidays, and plus with the lower ABV, a bottle doesn’t go as far as wine.

Kystin Kalysie

Review of Kystin’s Kalysie, a French perry (from 100% pears) with ginger.  I’ve previously tried their Opalyne and Cuvée XVII.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by French Cider Inc. / Beauchamp Imports.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Kalysie
Cidery:  Kystin
Cidery Location:  Brittany France
ABV:  2.0%
How Supplied:  330ml bottles
Style:  Breton French Demi-Sec (sweet) perry (100% pear) with ginger

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Availability:  limited, imported by French Cider Inc.

Cider Description (translated):  A hint of temptation.  A crystalline dress, a nose with tonic accents of Ginger. A fruity attack, delicate to finish on a spicy lemon note.  Ginger bursts to the pear for a striking union.  Ideal as an aperitif, it will accompany fish and shellfish, pasta cheese parsley, and of course chocolate.

Cidery Description:  Created in 2012, Kystin offers a range of original and very unique gourmet ciders, made of unusual ingredients such as chestnuts, pears and ginger. With a history dating back to the 14th century, Kystin ciders combine fruit, tradition and authenticity to create an unforgetabble taste. The brand recently released “Kalysie” – a pear ginger cider named as a tribute to the Khaleesi character from popular TV series Game of Thrones.

Price:  n/a (retails for $7.49 / bottle)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  through French Cider Inc.

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First Impression:  Light straw yellow hue.  Low carbonation.  Smells mild, of candied ginger with a hint of pear.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  No bitterness, sourness, funk, or tannins.  Notes of pear & pear juice, pineapple, and ginger.  Moderate length finish.  Moderate pear flavor.  Low ginger flavor.  Low to moderate flavor intensity and complexity.  High sessionability.

My Opinion:  Great!  I don’t usually like ginger, but it was quite mild, and the bit of ginger bite added to the overall flavor profile, to help balance the sweetness of the perry.  The ginger was stronger in the scent than the taste.  Nice pear flavor and not too sweet.  However, there wasn’t anything about this perry that seemed French-like; I would have guessed this was a U.S. perry.  Nothing wrong with that though.  This would be a nice selection for brunch or lunch, at only 2% ABV.

Most Similar to:  A more refined/craft version of Woodchuck Tank Series Pear Ginger

Closing Notes:  This is the third of three Kystin varieties currently available in the U.S. (also see my reviews of their Opalyne and Cuvée XVII).  Its interesting to see European cideries release flavored ciders/perries, similar to the U.S., when they have all the ideal apple and pear varieties for cider and perry making and such a long history of doing so.  However, I can see new products increasing sales and expanding their target market.  Some other flavored European ciders I’ve tried are Ramborn Cascade Hopped Cider and Lefevre Winter Cidre.

Have you tried French perry?  What did you think?

Kystin Cuvée XVII

Review of Kystin’s Cuvée XVII, a French cidre.  The “XVII” refers to the 16 apple varieties plus a 17th ingredient, chestnuts.  I’ve previously tried their Opalyne.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by French Cider Inc. / Beauchamp Imports.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Cuvée XVII
Cidery:  Kystin
Cidery Location:  Brittany France
ABV:  4.0%
How Supplied:  750ml bottles
Style:  Breton French Demi-Sec (sweet) cidre from 16 varieties of cider apples, with chestnuts

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Availability:  limited, imported by French Cider Inc.

Cider Description (translated):  After seven long years of experimentation, a maceration of chestnut, raw, crushed, for many months in the juice will finally be retained to tie apple and chestnut: La Cuvée XVII is born!  Today, it offers us a particularity and unique flavor, amazing Chefs and Sommeliers of very beautiful establishments, honoring the Gastronomy and knowing how to put forward the difference.  Its sublime amber color, its tuberous nose, its attack very fresh honeyed apples gradually gives place to the flavors of Chestnut and its notes of undergrowth.  There is also the creamy chestnut, cocoa and floral notes very intense. 

Cidery Description:  Created in 2012, Kystin offers a range of original and very unique gourmet ciders, made of unusual ingredients such as chestnuts, pears and ginger. With a history dating back to the 14th century, Kystin ciders combine fruit, tradition and authenticity to create an unforgetabble taste. The brand recently released “Kalysie” – a pear ginger cider named as a tribute to the Khaleesi character from popular TV series Game of Thrones.

Price:  n/a (retails for $26.99)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  through French Cider Inc.

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First Impression:  Light orange hue.  Moderate carbonation.  Smells of sweet apple with earth and nut.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-sweet to semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied.  Low tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Moderate tannins.  Hints of bitterness.  No sourness or funk.  Notes of bittersweet cider apple & pomace, yeast, nuts, orange, leather, and earth.  Long tannic nutty finish.  High apple flavor, sessionability, and complexity.  Moderate to high flavor intensity.

My Opinion:  Excellent!  I love the uniqueness of this cider.  Quite complex and flavorful.  Probably the most tannic French cidre I’ve ever had, which I enjoyed, and the nuttiness paired perfectly.  Also less sweet than I was expecting for a Demi-Sec, which makes it quite versatile.  I drank this at cellar temperature (in between fridge & room temps), which the cidery recommended, and I agree with.

Most Similar to:  I’ve actually tried two Chestnut themed ciders, an English cider aged in a Chestnut wood cask (Sandford Orchards Chestnut Cask), and a cider with Chestnut crabapples and aged with toasted oak spirals (Number 12 Chestnut), but neither were with actual chestnuts.  The most nutty cider I’ve had was an English Perry from Hogan’s, but again, no nuts.

Closing Notes:  Next up is Kystin’s Kalysie, a perry (100% pears) with ginger.  So far I’m quite impressed, especially considering this is a relatively new cidery (2012), especially in comparison to the age of many other French cideries which have been around for generations.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?

Kystin Opalyne

Review of Kystin’s Opalyne, a Brut French cidre.  It is my first time trying anything from this cidery.

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>>This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by French Cider Inc. / Beauchamp Imports.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received it for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.<<

Cider:  Opalyne
Cidery:  Kystin
Cidery Location:  Brittany France
ABV:  5.0%
How Supplied:  330ml bottles
Style:  Breton French cidre from cider apples, Brut (dry)

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Availability:  limited, imported by French Cider Inc.

Cider Description (translated):  This is our last born, after intense demand from our customers.  The Opalyne cuvée finally offers us a cider of haute couture with creamy foam.  Its composition of sweet fruit, sweet bitter make it a delight on the palate.  Let yourself be seduced and travel again in our history that is written day after day thanks to you.

Cidery Description:  Created in 2012, Kystin offers a range of original and very unique gourmet ciders, made of unusual ingredients such as chestnuts, pears and ginger. With a history dating back to the 14th century, Kystin ciders combine fruit, tradition and authenticity to create an unforgetabble taste. The brand recently released “Kalysie” – a pear ginger cider named as a tribute to the Khaleesi character from popular TV series Game of Thrones.

Price:  n/a (retails $6.99 / bottle)
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  through French Cider Inc.

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First Impression:  Light amber hue.  Low to moderate carbonation.  Smells apple and yeast forward.

Tasting Notes:  Semi-dry.  Light to medium bodied, with some fluffiness.  Low to moderate tartness.  Moderate acidity.  Low tannins.  No bitterness, sourness, or funk.  Notes of bittersweet apple juice and pomace, yeast, and orange.  Moderate length finish.  High apple flavor and sessionability.  Moderate flavor intensity and complexity.

My Opinion:  Great!  More complex than the average American cider, apple (but not apple juice) forward, full on flavor, and not too sweet.  Not quite as much of that fluffy texture that is common with French ciders, but a bit.  I’d love to see this available in a multipack, as this is a great every day selection.

Most Similar to:  a more refined version of Celt

Closing Notes:  This is French Cider Inc‘s first Brittany (vs. Normandy region) cidery.  I have two more ciders from them for review.

Have you tried French cidre?  What did you think?