I like hard cider. I like it a lot, and I try every new brand and variant I comes across, always hoping to find one that’s better than my favorites. This is a roundup of my favorite ciders.
First, though, I figured I’d address a question I get sometimes - why cider and not beer, or do I also like beer? No, I really don’t like beer, and it isn’t because I haven’t tried the beer you like, I promise. When I was stationed at DLI in Monterey, California, I had numerous fellow soldiers make it their mission to introduce me to the beer they just new I’d like. Of all the various American and especially international beers they made me try, I only ever found one I could tolerate, and only just - Guinness, and really only with pizza. I just never acquired a taste for beer, whereas I liked hard cider from the start. I also like whiskey, particularly Irish Whiskey, so there’s that.
When I think of my favorite ciders, I have to qualify them as favorite from a tap or favorite from a bottle. I’ve never tried to look into the science side of why cider from a tap tastes different from the same cider from a bottle, but I can tell you it does. I don’t mind Woodchuck Amber on draft, but I don’t care for it from a bottle.
Favorite Draft Cider
My favorite cider from a tap is Magners, an Irish cider, although it’s sold as Bulmers in Ireland.
I’m not a cider, beer, or wine critic, so I don’t know all the specialized vocabulary one would use to describe Magners. I know I like it. I would say it is semi-sweet but not cloyingly sweet. It’s not high gravity, being listed at only 4.5% ABV on RateBeer. I’m not sure I’d like it paired with every food I like to eat, but since I can only find it locally at Irish restaurants, I like it just fine with bangers and mash. I do pick it up in bottles from time to time in Nashville, but while I like it in bottles, I like it much more on draft.
Favorite Bottled Cider
My favorite cider from a bottle right now is Angry Orchard Iceman.
Angry Orchard is, at least among my friends, the cider we love to make fun of. It crashed into the grocery stores and local pubs and restaurants a year or so ago and in many places became the only cider offered. Angry Orchard has a few different flavors sold in six or twelve packs of 12 oz bottles. Iceman is different - it’s part of their Cider House collection and it, along with two other variants called Strawman (terrible) and Muse (quite good) are sold in 750ml bottles. They’re also high gravity, with Iceman measuring 10% ABV.
I like Iceman a lot. In fact, if it weren’t so relatively expensive and unwieldy in its huge bottle, I’d probably buy it as my staple and sample new labels as I found them. For all I know Tennessee’s backwards alcohol laws prohibit the sale of something that strong in six or twelve packs. Iceman is sweeter than Magners but not too sweet. It is also very crisp and just smells good, slightly of honey maybe.
One final note on cider. I’d always heard that the Irish drink Bulmers over ice and thought that sounded so strange. Recently I tried Magners over ice and was quite pleased with the results. Again, no idea if there’s any science-based explnation for it, but I prefer all my cider over ice now, and the next time I order Magners at an Irish pub or restaurant, I’m going to request a glass of ice on the side.