Cider House Rules
There are a few interlopers among us this month, as the usual variety of beer styles welcome their apple-based cousin, cider. Chicago recently hosted the annual CiderCon, organized by the United States Association of Cider Makers, so it seemed appropriate to include a few artisanal selections that stood out during the conference. Not to worry: Hoppy, malty, and crisp barley-based beverages still dominate this month’s round up.
Eden Sparkling Dry Cider
8.5% ABV: This could be the cider that finally draws Champagne drinkers into the orchard. Yeasty and funky and bone dry, Eden’s sparkling wine-like cider combines famous cider Kingston Black (50% of its fermentable base) with dessert fruit and heirloom apples. It also employs the Champagne-inspired process of secondary bottle fermentation and hand-disgorgement.
Seattle Cider Co. Gin Botanical Hard Cider
6.9% ABV: Yes, it’s as complex as it sounds. Seattle Cider Co. incorporates spent gin botanicals from its home city’s Batch 206 Distillery for a chorus of flavors not traditionally present in a cider. The juniper’s not as pronounced as many might expect from a gin, allowing some of its citrus elements to share the stage. If Eden’s Sparkling Dry woos sparkling wine people, this one should do the same for craft spirits fans.
Slyboro Cider House La Sainte Terre
8.0% ABV: With 20 percent of its recipe coming from ice cider, La Sainte Terre has a distinct sweetness that’s actually quite welcome among its drier elements. It’s never cloying, which is rarely an easy thing to say about sweetness in cider. Carbonation is robust and the nose has a hint of sharp cheese on it—something that it, needless to say, pairs with quite well.
Harpoon Camp Wannamango
5.0% ABV: Now back to our regularly scheduled beers. And if this one doesn’t scream “summer,” nothing does. Boston-based Harpoon combines a traditional pale ale with mango, creating a super-crisp, refreshingly tropical beverage that might make a good substitute for a mimosa at brunch.
The Alchemist Beelzebub
8.0% ABV: On a completely different flavor plane is this devilishly bitter American imperial stout from Stowe, Vermont’s The Alchemist. It pours an opaque, almost black, dark brown—with a medium brown head. And it showcases notes of burnt chocolate and high-cacao-percentage dark chocolate, thanks to the harmonious interplay between the ample hop content and roasted malt
Samuel Adams Irish Red
5.8% ABV: Boston Beer’s tribute to the Emerald Isle is a copper-to-nearly-brown brew with lots of dark fruit, caramel, and cookies on the nose, and a pronounced nuttiness on the palate. The finish is mildly bitter, but it dissipates fairly quickly.
4.7% ABV: Nothing fishy here, just a solid, generously hopped extra pale ale—kudos to Chicago’s Half-Acre for not jumping on the “session IPA” bandwagon with this one. Dominant notes alternate between fresh-cut grass and tropical fruit juice, mostly the former.
Mother Earth Endless River
5.0% ABV: With summer just around the corner, let’s wrap things up on a crisp note. Kinston, North Carolina’s Mother Earth brings lots of bread and biscuit, and some subtle fruit, to this flavorful, medium-dry interpretation of a traditional German Kölsch. There’s just enough of a bite on the finish to keep things interesting.