My, the cider game has definitely upped itself in response to the craft beer revolution. Here are surveys of three brands that have really stepped it up in recent years.
If you like your ciders strong in both profile and in alcohol content, Ace is the way to go. Two of their ciders, the Joker and the Ace High imperial, clock in with higher than average ABVs, at 6.9 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively. Both have a comparably dry flavor, but the craftsmanship is such that it’s hard to distinguish between these and the 5 percent alcohol content of their other ciders (guava, mango, pear and pineapple). The added juices of the flavored varieties definitely add to the sweetness, with the guava, mango and pear represented strongly while the pineapple is more toned down than you might expect. The berry ginger flavor sounds like it would clash but actually works well too.
The most notable thing about this 4-pack sampler is how far apart the ciders represented are on a spectrum. On the traditional end, you have the real dry cider and the pear apple cider (which is made from the juice of freshly-pressed pears) and both carry themselves well. Then, on opposite ends, you have the gentle flavor of the “hibiscus session,” which is light and airy and boats only a 4.3 percent ABV, and then the stouter chile guava offering, which definitely comes on strong with both flavors but the kick from the chiles in the mix are lasting and not for those who don’t enjoy an amply spicy aftertaste.
Woodchuck has long been a staple of Oklahoma liquor stores with their traditional ciders, but they have since gone absolutely wild with the variations. The gentlest is the paloma-inspired cider, which eases you into the “Pearsecco,” the hardest of the bunch with a definite dry wine finish. The mimosa version amps up the orange juice flavor over the sparkling wine but both are intact and the peach bellini version is vibrant upon the taste buds with the fruit bursting through the semi-sweetness of the cider itself.