May 22, 2015

The Right and Wrong Way To Make Cider

For all that America loves her beer - and we do - cider was in many ways our national beverage back in the day. With water as likely to give you dysentery as hydrate you, cider was a safe drinking alternative in the early days of our nation. It wasn't until the waves of immigration in the 19th Century - where the newly-minted Americans came from regions in Europe that preferred beer - that cider slowly fell into relative obscurity.

That has changed recently, however. Hard cider is making a big comeback. And the ingenuity that small and micro-breweries have applied to beer is also being applied to cider making.

A good example of this new cider revival is Bantam Cider out of Somerville, MA. They make three ciders right now. The one I had is called Rojo. It is a simple cider, made with only four ingredients: apples, ale yeast, sour cherries and peppercorns. It is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious beverages, let alone ciders, that I have ever had.

It is crisp like a cider should be, but with a touch of sour cherry and a hint of spice at the end. You could drink this with dinner or watching the game. I really cannot recommend it enough. Not only because of the taste or because we should support small breweries/cideries*/distilleries (Which we should). It's also important because of the lack of crap in the ingredients.

As a comparison, here is a label from Johnny Appleseed Cider. This brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch, so you can probably see where this is going.

Dextrose AND Sucrose. Call me old-fashioned, but I have always felt that if you have to add sugar to your cider, you're doing it wrong. Yes, I understand that adding sugar ups the alcohol content. You know what else does? Honey. Maybe this is a personal objection more than anything else, but throwing all that sugar into cider is simply not appealing to me. A good, natural cider (like Bantam's Rojo) will hit 5-6% all on its own because of the natural sugars in the apples. Which is plenty good for a bottle of cider. If you want to get ripped, maybe a pint of Majorska vodka is what you're looking for.

And what, exactly, is "flavor"? How is "flavor" an ingredient? I honestly don't know this, so I went to the FDA site to see what "flavor" actually is. Here is their answer:

How are spices, natural flavors or artificial flavors declared in ingredient lists?

Answer: These may be declared in ingredient lists by using either specific common or usual names or by using the declarations “spices,” “flavor” or “natural flavor,” or “artificial flavor.”

So basically, who knows what the hell they put in there. It could be one thing, it could be a catch-all of chemicals. But as a rule of thumb, you shouldn't have to visit the FDA website to figure out what is in your beer/cider/liquor. And if you do, then maybe you shouldn't be drinking that beverage to begin with.

But A-B has an advertising budget of billions and Bantam Cider does not and so the proliferation of crap cider like Johnny Appleseed will continue across America like the blight that it is.

But allow me, in this small, small corner of the Interwebs, to sing the praises of Bantam Cider's Rojo.

It is simple. It is delicious. It kicks the ass of any mass-produced cider I have ever had.

Check them out.

As for locations, if you live in MA, RI, NH, Southern ME or Northern CT you should be able to find it. The rest of you in America, either make the trip to taste or start bugging your distributors to carry it.

Cider: Bantam Cider - Rojo

ABV: 5.4%

Price: Not sure. My wife bought it for me. But if you charged me $3 a bottle, I would pay it.

Recommendation: Strong Buy


* Is "cideries" a word? I think it should be a word. Let's make it a word.


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