Joanna Baker is the co-founder of Noble Cider in Asheville, NC. She’s written some tasting notes on ciders available at the humble storefront. Look for bottles of Noble in mid-2014!
Bruisin’ Ales: Bring Hard Cider Home for the Holidays
Bruisin’ Ales has the largest selection of craft hard ciders of any bottle shop in Asheville. We like that! Since folks can’t take home a bottle of Noble just yet, we wanted to give you a review of some delicious and interesting hard ciders you can bring home for the holidays from Bruisin’ Ales. If you’re looking for something from North Carolina, try McRitchie Hard Cider and Dry Hard Cider. Although they’re a winery, McRitchie has been making hard cider for many years. They’re the boss in this neck of the woods and really great people, too. Their ciders are very straight ahead and deliciously simple. They go great with food and never overpower. Foggy Ridge and Windy Hill Cidery are also great regional cideries. Foggy Ridge, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, is run by the current Queen of hard cider in the southeast, Dianne Flynt. She’s an excellent spokeswoman for the industry. Windy Hill is out of York, SC and uses their own and WNC apples to make their hard cider. Their ciders are of the sweeter variety.
Here are 5 hard ciders we at Noble Cider think you and yours will enjoy this holiday. They’re all a great value, too! In order from sweet to dry:
McKeown Original, 6% ABV, 750 mL
McKeown is made in Rougemont, Canada. We were drawn to the beautiful, clear cider nicely displayed in clear bottles. And it’s from Canada. Who doesn’t love Canada? We tried to look up the website, but it’s only in French. No one in our group could read French.
- NOSE: The leathery aroma of real cider apples, followed by sweet apple
- TASTE: McKeown Original has a straight-ahead apple flavor with a slightly bitter finish. Applesaucy-like. The carbonation is very subtle. It was the sweetest cider on our list. A bit too sweet for our groups’ palette, but it’d be great with some stinky, dry cheese, or even a light fish or poultry dish.
McKeown Cranberry, 6% ABV, 750 mL
I love a good rose champagne. The color of this cider reminds me of pink champagne. The Cranberry flavor drew me, too, as a great idea for the holidays.
- NOSE: The smell of the Cranberry cider is almost identical to the McKeown Original, with only a slight tart aroma from the cranberries.
- TASTE: Like the nose, the taste is also very similar to the Original, with a slightly more tart finish. It’s also a sweeter style hard cider. This cider could be paired easily with an appetizer course of cheese and salty meats and nuts.
Julian Hard Cider Cherry Bomb, 6.99%, 22 oz.
Made with Montmorency cherry juice, which is said to have health benefits and anti-aging properties, this cider definitely goes “BOOM!” with cherry flavor. It comes in a 22 oz. bottle, which lends to easy finishing in one sitting, especially when shared with a friend.
- NOSE: Immediate cherry! Thankfully, it’s not a candy cherry smell, but one of real tart cherries. It’s an awesome aroma!
- TASTE: Very tart cherry. So much so that it made us ask “Are there apples in this?” Most likely, Julian has back sweetened their hard cider with this delicious cherry juice, which lets the full cherry flavor shine through. The finish is smooth with a nice amount of bitter. The tartness hides the sweetness of this cider, but be wary. There’s a good amount of sugar in this cider. Cherry Bomb would make an excellent drink with chocolate cherry cheesecake or a Black Forest cake. Or serve it in small amounts to sip, like port.
Doc’s Draft, Pumpkin Hard Apple Cider, 6% ABV, 22 oz.
I’m a sucker for pumpkin anything. Food, drink, even those stupid Yankee candles that smell like pumpkin pie. So a hard cider that’s fermented with pumpkins? Yes please!
- NOSE: First sensation is pumpkin pie: earthy, spicy, but not too sweet. Not much apple smell at all.
- TASTE: Doc’s has done it right. The spice is more of an aroma than an overpowering spice taste. There’s the right amount of bitter, a good balance of the apple and pumpkin and spice, and it stays fairly dry throughout. The spice stays with you into the finish as well – more into the nose than down the throat. This cider is more a drink alone cider. Or maybe a delish cider float with Carmel de Leche ice cream! Yes – that’s it!
Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie 2012, 5.5% ABV, 750 mL
Ahhhh…. French cider. French cider apples from Normandy make delicious hard ciders. If you’re new to French ciders, hang in there. They can come across as medicinal and leathery in both aroma and taste. Doesn’t sound good to you? Try it. You might be surprised! This cider is unfiltered and unpasteurized. Traditional French ciders are bottled and stored for at least a year, where they finish their fermentation in the bottle, ending up drier and more carbonated than when they began. Think champagne. The color of this cider is very gold. I recommend a champagne flute for this one.
- NOSE: Leathery and medicinal – a true cider apple smell. The bubbles really bring the dry flavor to the nose.
- TASTE: The taste is really effervescent due to the intense champagne-like carbonation. It’s slightly medicinal, dry, with a good earthy flavor. This cider will go the very best with any part of a meal. Like a good white wine, it will complement your food.
Happy Holidays from Noble Cider! We hope you add hard cider to your shopping list!
NOTES on experiencing hard cider: Always pour your hard cider in a glass. Think of hard cider like a wine. Give it a good sniff. Smell it the way a dog would sniff out that tasty bone in the trashcan – a few short, deep sniffs to really take in the unique aroma that each hard cider has. Then take a sip – roll it around in your mouth and then swallow. With a well-made, complex hard cider, you’ll get several different flavors and tongue sensations, as well as a finish – long or short, depending on the complexity. Just like craft beer and wine, every hard cider will have it’s own characteristic
Joanna Baker, Co-Founder Noble Cider
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