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?

Malus zine

I recently received the first issue of Malus, a new cider zine.

Photo Apr 24, 5 03 21 PM Photo Apr 24, 5 03 43 PM

The first issue included:
– editor’s notes by Ellen Cavalli (of Tilted Shed)
– poetry by Bill Lyon (of Cider View Orchard)
The Trouble With Craft – It’s Not What You Think, by Mike Reis (of Redfield Cider Bar & Bottle Shop and more)
Don’t Be Angry – Give Ryan Burk a Break, by Darlene Hayes (of All Into Cider and Cider Cocktails: Another Bite of the Apple)
Cider Cons – Considering the Triple Entendre, by Andy Brennan (of Aaron Burr)
Made in America – The Case for the Seedling, by Kim Hamblin (of Art+Science)

I really enjoyed it.  None of these articles would have been published in any mainstream way – they were unique, thought-provoking, and relevant.  I’d highly recommend this for any cider enthusiast.

You can subscribe on their website, for $25 per year (4 issues).  Without advertising (at least at this point), I doubt that covers much more than printing and postage.

Has anyone else read the first issue of Malus yet?

Vacation Time

Hi everyone!  This is just a quick note that I’ll be on vacation for the next week (another cruise – yay), so there won’t be any new posts.  You can keep yourself occupied with my previous reviews though.  Have you checked out my Ciders I’ve Tried page lately?  Its a site index of sorts that literally lists every single cider I’ve tried, and the vast majority of them link to tasting notes or a review.


Cider Says turns two years old!

A big thank you to my readers for helping Cider Says reach a new milestone, its second anniversary!  I’ve really enjoyed sharing my cider journey with all of you.  Its been fun, and I look forward to more years of blogging.  In the past year I’ve made over 200 posts, and had 35,000 visitors.  The majority are from the U.S., but folks from several dozen other countries have visited as well (Canada and the UK are the next two most common).  This summer I’ll be attending several cider tasting events (including the epic Cider Summit Seattle!), so look forward to some awesome posts here.


New Page At Cider Says – Review Terminology

A new page is now up here at Cider Says, Review Terminology, which defines the various terms I use in reviews.  On a more general note, Cider Tasting Terminology 101 defines some common cider tasting vocabulary.

Also check out the other pages on this blog:

About is about this blog and myself.

Ciders I’ve Tried is an ongoing list of ciders I’ve tried, including links to those with reviews.  This list has proved helpful several times when I couldn’t remember if I had tried a cider.

Cider Wish List is an ongoing list of ciders I want to find and try.

Hard Cider Info is a page covering some general information about cider.

Cider Says 1st Anniversary

Thank you to my readers for helping Cider Says reach its first anniversary!  I never imagined how popular it would become.  Its been a fun ride and I look forward to more cider-related debauchery.  This summer I’ll be attending several cider tasting events (including the epic Cider Summit Seattle!), so look forward to some awesome trip reports and tasting notes.


Vacation Week

Just a FYI, I’ll be on vacation for a week (Alaska cruise!), so there won’t be any posts for a bit.

cruise photo.jpg

Here are some popular previous posts of mine to tide you over:

4 Posts on the Port Townsend Cider Route (Alpenfire, Finnriver, and Eaglemount)

Tasting Notes from Seattle Cider Summit 2015

My Favorite Ciders of 2015

Here are some of my favorite cider blogs:

Cider Journal

Along Came a Cider

Cider Guide

See you next week!

Cider Says Blog Updates and the Ciders I’ve Tried Page

Blog Updates

Did you know that the Ciders I’ve Tried page has a running list of all the ciders I’ve tried, including links to reviews as applicable?  Check it out!  Let me know if you want info on any ciders I haven’t reviewed (which is mostly those I tasted before starting Cider Says).

I have also been updating the About, Cider Wish List, and Hard Cider Info pages over time, so if you haven’t had a look for awhile, they may be of interest.

Have any input on what you’d like to see here at Cider Says, have a cider recommendation, want to send a sample for review, spot an error, etc?  Contact me.

Where to Find Cider Says

Follow Cider Says on Facebook for post notifications and great cider-related posts I share from other folks.  You can also follow the blog directly by e-mail or on WordPress, using the sidebar (or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices), with the ability to adjust how often you get notification e-mails.

I’m in the cider subgroup on Reddit (as “ciderenthusiast”).

I’m on Cider Expert (as “cidersays”).  Its a cider review website currently in closed beta, but they are accepting some requests for accounts, especially for folks with some cider experience, such as bloggers.

I’m in the Hard Cider Appreciation Society group on Facebook (as “Kate Smith”).  For some reason folks using Facebook as a page (such as Cider Says) can’t post in groups, so I have to use my personal account.  Note that I don’t accept friend requests from folks I don’t know in real life though.

Have a great week!

Do I have a Cider Problem?

My cider collection keeps growing faster than I can drink it!  I was clearing out the pantry to accommodate some Costco items, and since most of my cider inventory was out on the kitchen floor, I added the rest to take a group shot:


Its still dominated by Woodchuck…a lot of Winter Chill, and some Barrel Select, Summer Time, Amber, Gumption, & Out on a Limb Oopsy Daisy, and even a Sour Cherry, the last Cellar Series before they moved to the Out on a Limb series.  Woodchuck holds a special place in my heart between it being the first cider I tried (Amber, a few years ago), my being one of the winners of their Ciderbration (new cidery opening) contest in 2014, all the varieties they offer, and it being my favorite commercial cider.

However, there are also plenty of interesting selections I’ve picked up lately.  I think this is the complete list in the photo above, in no particular order:

Eaglemount Quince (the half drank bottle on the far right lol)
Dragon’s Head Wild Fermented
Millstone Cobbler
Dan Armor Cuvee Brut (a $5 find at Trader Joe’s)
2 Towns Cider Master Reserve, Batch No. 01 Barrel Select Blend
Finnriver Honey Meadow
Aspall Imperial
Reverend Nat’s Revival
Thistly Cross Whisky Cask
2 Towns The Bad Apple
Tieton Cidermaker’s Reserve
Sheppy’s Oak Matured
Original Sin Pear
Smith & Forge
Angry Orchard The Muse
Worley’s Premium Vintage
Nashi Orchards Perry
Argus Ciderkin
Dublin’s Pub
Attila Scourge of God
Red Tank Happy Cider
Freyeisen Apfelwein
Crispin Browns Lane
Ace PIneapple
Schilling Oak Aged
Spire Mountain Dark & Dry

Quite the mix of craft & commercial and local & imported.  Lots of new ciders to review!

Have you tried any of these ciders?  How much cider is too much?  Or, could you never have enough cider on hand?

Do You Know How Many Cider Bars there are in the U.S.?

Have you ever been to a cider bar?  Or did you not know they even exist?  Yes, they do–an entire bar devoted to hard cider!  Most have an extensive tap selection.  Some serve food.  Some have a bottle shop for you to have a bottled cider there or one to take home.  Some also serve other types of alcoholic beverages.  We are lucky enough to have two in the Seattle area, but I was curious how prevalent they are in the U.S.  I was able to find 11.  Are there any others?  Do you have any information to share about any of them?

My definitions for inclusion were cider-focused bar/pub type establishments (although some places also have other beverages) that offer cider from more than one cidery (ie. a tap room for a single cider company was not included, but it was if they also offer ciders from other cideries).  Many cideries have great tap rooms that are more like a bar than a tasting room though.  Note that “The Northman” is also planned in Chicago IL but hasn’t opened yet.

A “cider bar” is quite a new trend, as all of these opened in the last few years as far as I know (although apparently Ace gets credit for the first modern cider bar, which opened in 1999 but closed in 2010; they have a tap room now though).

Capitol Cider (Seattle WA)
20 cider taps
250+ bottles (list available online)
beer, wine, & cocktails also available
full gluten free kitchen

Schilling Cider House (Seattle WA)
32 cider taps (2 Nitro)
250+ bottles
no food (allowed to bring in outside food)
also carries their own line of ciders

Bushwhacker Cider (Portland OR, Woodlawn location)
14 cider taps
bottles available
full kitchen
also carries their own line of ciders

Bushwhacker Cider (Portland OR, Brooklyn location)
8 cider taps
350+ bottles
limited food menu
also carries their own line of ciders

Portland Cider House (Portland OR)
28 cider taps
no food (allowed to bring in outside food)
also carries their own line of ciders

McMenamin’s Tavern & Pool (part of their Portland OR location)
6 cider taps
full restaurant
also carries their own line of ciders (Edgefield)

Upcider (San Francisco CA)
cider on tap & bottled
limited food menu

Scrumpy’s Hard Cider Bar (Fort Collins CO)
18 cider taps
limited food menu
also carries their own line of ciders

Urban Orchard (Asheville NC)
7 cider taps
limited food menu
beer & wine also available
also carries their own line of ciders

Wassail (New York City NY)
13 cider taps
full restaurant (vegetarian)
wine, beer, & cocktails also available

Finger Lakes Cider House (Interlaken NY)
has cider from five local cideries (Good Life, Black Diamond, Eve’s, Redbyrd, & South Hill)
23 cider taps
limited food menu

It looks like the Schilling CIder House wins for the most number of cider taps, at 32!  Check out my review.

7 Things I Love About Hard Cider

Hard cider…whats not to love?  To me, it is the perfect refreshing alcoholic beverage.  Here are some things I love about hard cider:

Alternative to Beer & Wine:  I’ll admit I’ve never truly understood the appeal of beer as it tastes pretty horrible to me, and my taste in wine is very narrow (only sweeter varieties such as Moscato or sweet sparkling wine).  Hard cider is a great alternative to beer & wine, and is becoming increasingly more available & popular.  Hard cider is also more easily likable for most folks than beer or wine, which can be an acquired taste.  At most bars & restaurants you can now typically find at least one variety of hard cider.

Something for Everyone: There are varieties to suit every taste, from dry to sweet, from mild to intense.  Its not a “girly” drink.  Its not only sweet or only dry.  It is immensely diverse.

Uniqueness:  So much can be done with hard cider.  No two varieties taste the same.  There are endless possibilities for flavors.  It can be barrel aged.  Cider is available from numerous countries around the world, and there is a seemingly endless number of varieties,

History:  Hard cider is actually the most historic & traditional beverage in the U.S.  It historically originated in Kazakhstan millennia ago.  Cider was the drink of choice of early American settlers, who actually drank a watered down version of it instead of water due to potentially lethal bacteria.  It was popular in the colonial era.  Honeybees were first imported to America in the early 1600s to pollinate apple trees.  Apples are actually a fairly sustainable crop, as an apple tree will continue to bear fruit for decades.  Unfortunately cider went out of favor, but its current resurgence is awesome.

Supporting Local Businesses:  I love to support local business, especially when they have a good product.  Although I don’t exclusively buy local craft cider, it is a significant portion of my purchases.  And while many may seem a bit expensive, for a local craft product, there can still be fairly affordable, more so than wine for example.

Its a great anytime beverage:  At almost any time of year and any time of day, cider is a great option.  It also pairs well with almost every type of food.  I also enjoy a good cocktail, but there are plenty of times a hard cider is more appealing, such as with lunch, when it would be a bit odd to order a martini!

Taste:  But most importantly, it tastes good!  The alcoholic kick is a nice bonus too.  Folks should drink what they love and love what they drink.

Why do you love hard cider?

Affording Craft Cider

As much as I love to support local craft cideries, there are two reasons I often buy commercial cider in addition to craft cider.

Sweetness:  I tend towards liking sweeter cider.  Most of the craft cider I’ve tried tends towards dry, which is admittedly traditional for hard cider.  Luckily there are a few good local craft cidery options for sweeter cider, such as Spire Mountain and Schilling, which both offer affordable craft cider in multi-packs.

Cost:  Its a bit spendy to only buy craft cider.  Even though I typically only drink on the weekends, and don’t drink an excessive amount, its difficult to always justify spending $6-$20 for a bottle of cider when I could get a four or six pack which will last me the entire weekend for $7-$10.  However, I love sampling new ciders, so I typically buy a mix of craft & commercial, which appeases both my taste buds and my wallet.  Its a treat to pick up something new to try!  I’m curious what everyone else thinks on this topic:

Cider Cocktails for the Independence Day Holiday, Anyone?

I’ve been wanting to get into trying cider cocktails, and in my research found some of the following ideas:

Woodchuck Watermelon Cider Cubes:  A blended mix of watermelon, pineapple, & raspberries, frozen in an ice cube tray to add to cider (such as their hint of blueberry cider, Summer Time).  Useful in warm weather to keep a cider cool without watering it down.  They give a bonus recipe to pour any extra fruit mixture into half an empty watermelon, mix in their Gumption cider variety, and freeze it–slushy anyone?

Cider Sangria:  This sounds yummy, and I imagine there are many directions it can be taken.  Not sure I’d do a semi-dry cider with Grand Marnier and ice cider though (plus the later two ingredients would be expensive)…I’m thinking more of cider with juice & fruit.  I think even just adding fruit to cider would be yummy…it reminds me of Rev Nat’s Revival, with a wonderful tropical fruit flavor.

Cider Mimosa:  Either pear cider (perry) with orange juice (Perry Mimosa) or méthode champenoise (a champagne-like sparkling cider) with pineapple juice (Summer Mimosa).  Both are simple and sound yummy!  I imagine with these as well there are many directions they can be taken.

Cider Margarita:  Tequila, cider, and Grand Marnier.  Sounds interesting enough to be good!  They use cinnamon & sugar on the rim instead of salt.

Cider Ice Cream Float:  Not exactly a cocktail, but it is something I’ve been meaning to try for awhile.  For some reason I think it would be especially good with dark cider, such as Spire Mountain Dark & Dry.

Orchard Limeade:  Green apple cider, absinthe, and lime juice.  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

Apple Rum Punch:  Coconut rum, spiced rum, dark rum, cider, orange juice, and pineapple juice.  I’m curious how this would be with cider added.  I’ve had similar drinks without cider, and think they can be tasty if they aren’t overly sweet.

Have you tried any cider cocktails?  How did it turn out?

New Pages Added at Cider Says!

I’ve added some new pages:

Ciders I’ve Tried – Ongoing list of hard ciders I have tried (I’ll be adding reviews for some, but let me know if you want an opinion on anything)

Cider Wish List – Ongoing list of hard ciders I want to try

Hard Cider Info – Article-style post of misc info on hard cider, which I’ll be adding to

Poll – What do you want to see here at CIder Says?

My Cider Stash

Wondering what cider is currently in my fridge & pantry?  Then you read my mind!  Yeah…its quite a list.

Snowdrift Cornice (open)
Woodchuck Winter Chill (many)
Woodchuck Summer Time (multiple)
Woodchuck Barrel Select (multiple)
Schilling Oak Aged (multiple)
Woodchuck Sour Cherry (one)
Ace Pineapple (multiple)
Spire Mountain Dark & Dry (multiple)
Wyder’s Reposado Pear (multiple)
Rev Nat’s Revival (one)
Thistly Cross Scottish Whisky Cask (one)
Angry Orchard The Muse (one)
Eaglemount Quince (one)
NV Cider Half Past Prudent (one)
Worley’s Premium Vintage (one)
Atlas Hard Apple Cider (one)
Liberty Manchurian Crabapple (one)

Hard Cider, a Recently-Realized Hobby

I’ve come to realize that sampling hard cider has become quite a hobby for me, and my husband has been suggesting I start a blog.  So, even if only to make a record of what ciders I’ve tried, I’m going for it.  Here is a bit about me, this blog, etc.

Name:  Kate
Location:  near Seattle, WA
Age:  30ish
Occupation:  engineer
Status:  married (very happily)
Pets:  one tortoise

First cider I tried:  Woodchuck Amber, around Dec 2013

Favorite types of ciders:  on the sweeter side of the spectrum, barrel aged, unique, local

Some of my favorite ciders:  Woodchuck Winter Chill, Spire Mountain Dark & Dry, Thistly Cross Whisky Cask, Reverend Nat’s Revival, Alpenfire Spark

Some of my least favorite ciders:  Strongbow, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple, Sonoma Cider The Washboard (the only literally undrinkable cider to date, although strangely enough my hubby loved it), Square Mile Cider Original Apple (maybe I got a bad batch, but it tasted like it had literally gone bad)

What I like about hard cider:  Its yummy, plain and simple!  I’ve never liked beer & wine, so cider is a great alternative.  There is so much variety & complexity as well.  Its fun to try new ciders, or old favorites.  I like that it is becoming more popular.  There are some really great products even in my own backyard (well, maybe not that close, but in my state at least).  Its pretty affordable, especially considering how much more they charge for many wines, when it isn’t all that different (fermented apple juice vs. grape juice).  I really enjoy trying new ciders, even if I’m not sure it’ll be quite up my alley and they are on the pricey side, just for the point of trying them.

One of my favorite cider experiences:  Winning a contest put on by Woodchuck to go to the grand opening of their new cidery (Ciderbration 2014).  It was an awesome VIP weekend in Middlebury VT.

Review style:  Simple.  I’m not into the fru fru reviews which discuss the hue, aroma, level of carbonation, food pairings, etc.  You either like a cider or you don’t.  Who cares about all that fancy stuff?

Blog name inspiration:  If the cider could speak, what would it say?