Angry Orchard Stone Dry

Review of Angry Orchard’s newest variety, Stone Dry.  It is their driest Core selection, and described as a twist on English cider.

This is a review of a sample bottle provided to Cider Says by Angry Orchard.  Although I will take care to treat it the same as any other review, there is always the potential for bias as I received this for free.  The only consideration I knowingly made was pushing this up in my cider review cue, considering it is a new release and the info may be helpful for folks deciding to purchase it.  I love free stuff, especially cider!  Want your cider or cider-related product reviewed here?  Contact me.

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They send me two bottles, a fact sheet, a note from head cider maker Ryan Burk, and a large quantity of bubble wrap (not pictured).

Cider:  Stone Dry
Cidery:  Angry Orchard
Cidery Location:  Walden NY (their new R&D facility)
Cider Production Locations:  Cincinnati OH & Breingsville PA
ABV:  5.5%
How Supplied:  six pack of 12oz bottles
(will also have limited draft availability to start, nationwide in 2016)

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Ingredient List:  Hard cider, water, sugar, apple juice concentrate, carbon dioxide, malic acid and sulfites to preserve freshness

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Availability:  year round, wide release, launched 09/24/2015 (part of their Core collection)

Fact Sheet from Angry Orchard: For more than two decades, the cider makers at Angry Orchard have been experimenting with ingredients from all over the world and tinkering with recipes to perfect the craft of cider making in the U.S.  In the UK – where cider is 15% of the beer segment, as opposed to around 1% in the U.S. – traditional English dry ciders have been around for centuries and are a cultural mainstay.  These styles are known for their use of traditional bittersweet apple varieties and showcasing naturally occurring tannins that create a drying effect on the palate.

Angry Orchard Stone Dry – the driest cider in Angry Orchard’s core collection – is an American interpretation of the traditional English dry cider style. It offers a bright apple aroma, juicy flavor, and a clean dry finish, showcasing an intricate balance between the sweetness and acidity of culinary apples and the tannins of traditional cider making apples. The traditional apples chosen by the cider makers are European bittersweet varieties like Dabinett, Binet Rouge, and Harry Masters Jersey, which contribute to the high tannic character and dry finish. The result is a refreshing, slightly puckering cider with a drying finish, most often felt on the middle of your tongue and the front part of your mouth.

While most of the juice from apples in the cider is fermented, Angry Orchard’s cider makers add a bit of non-fermented bittersweet apple juice into the cider during the post-fermentation stage to help achieve this cider’s balanced, dry taste.  This results in Stone Dry’s fuller tannic mouthfeel as well as perceived dryness and robust bittersweet aromatic notes – much like a very ripe apple.

As the palates of American cider drinkers have continued to grow in sophistication and evolve with the increasing popularity of hard cider here, Angry Orchard has developed a broad range of cider styles for drinkers to try and to showcase what American cider can be, including the newest year-round offering.

Angry Orchard Stone Dry pairs well with a wide variety of foods, from porcine plates to seafood dishes.  This take on a traditional European dry style cider is an excellent accompaniment to charcuterie, including cured meats and aged cheeses, and is a great introduction to fall foods and heartier dishes or stews with root vegetables.  It can also be used as an ingredient in recipes, such as mussels steamed in Angry Orchard Stone Dry cider.

Price:  retails for $7.50 a six pack in my area, although Angry Orchard’s fact sheet said $8.99-10.99
Where Bought:  n/a
Where Drank:  home
How Found:  on my doorstep

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First Impression:  Amber hue with very little carbonation.  They got quite a bit of color out of this one.  Dry “cheap” apple scent….I just didn’t pick up much nose to this one.

Opinion:  Semi-dry.  Mild bitterness, tannins, astringency, and acidity.  Simple flavor.  Almost watered down tasting.  I get a bit of that bittersweet apple flavor, but this doesn’t remind me of English style cider at all (which to me often have a really rich flavor).  Quick finish.  Definitely more drinkable than their other varieties I’ve had (which is most of them), but I’m not impressed.  More flavor would definitely be nice.  Its unfortunate they use apple juice concentrate (and water & sugar oddly enough!).  It tastes like they were trying to eek some tannins out of dessert apples, although they note the use of bittersweet apples.

I find it interesting their description indicates more a drying flavor (which I’d call astringency) than dryness (lack of sweetness).  I actually through their fact sheet was kinda funny, coming from the biggest commercial cidermaker in the U.S.  It seems they are trying to reconnect with craft cidermaking, between releasing this variety and moving into an R&D facility with a 60 acre orchard earlier this year (article).  They have plans to open a tasting room there in the fall for their small batch creations.

Comparison to Woodchuck Gumption:  It seems this may be Angry Orchard’s response to Woodchuck’s latest hit, Gumption (in addition to responding to requests for a drier cider in general).  So, I thought a comparison was in order. Note that I didn’t however have a bottle of Gumption available (I may have to get one for a side by side test with my second bottle of Stone Dry), so I went by memory and notes. They both incorporate bittersweet apples and aim to make a drier cider for their core collection.  Stone Dry comes across as significantly drier than Gumption (even more so than the 7 vs. 13 grams of sugar per 12 oz would indicate).  Where it gets interesting is the calories, 150 for Stone Dry vs. 220 for Gumption (for equivalent ABV).  I found Gumption to be more flavorful and more rich in general.  Stone Dry includes concentrate (and water & sugar) where Gumption doesn’t.  However, Gumption is listed to have “natural flavor”.  Gumption gets my vote as far as likability, although for someone that wants the driest easily found commercial cider available, Stone Dry may be a good choice.  The driest commercial cider I’ve ever seen by the way is Ace Joker, which only has an impressive 3 grams of sugar per 12 oz, but it isn’t quite as readily available (I have a bottle of Joker at home to try).

Closing Notes:   Not bad.  Definitely drinkable.  If a bar had this and no other cider, I’d buy it.  I won’t on the other hand pay for Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple variety, which is too syrupy for my liking.  Stone Dry is an above average commercial offering, but I wouldn’t in any way say this is a craft cider (neither would I describe Woodchuck as craft though).

Have you tried Angry Orchard Stone Dry?  What did you think?