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Virginia Artisan Hard Apple Ciders

I wasn’t far off base expecting a gluey, sweet beer at the hard cider tasting I attended recently, as that is the most common type of hard cider found in the US. The difference is that these two artisan producers – Ablemarle CiderWorks and Foggy Ridge Cider – handcraft blends of fresh apple juices rather than sugary, manufactured apple juice concentrate.

As at a winetasting, we were presented with ciders from driest to sweetest. The cider-making process is surprisingly the same: Apples are pressed to extract juice, the juice is inoculated with selected strains of yeast to start an alcoholic fermentation which takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Apple varieties are chosen, like champagne grapes, not for lush, ripe sweetness, but for acidity, structure and tannin.

Some quick tasting notes — watch for the full story in the Summer issue of the Virginia Wine Gazette!

Albemarle Cider Works Old Virginia Winesap Cider had a medium bead (that is, medium-fine bubbles) and was delicate and floral with a beguiling finish. It’s incredibly refined and graceful.

Applecheeked cidermaker Diane Flynt of Foggy Ridge Cider

Foggy Ridge Serious Cider marries Yarlington Mill, a tannic apple, with tart American favorites like Roxbury Russet and Ashmead’s Kernel, known to be particularly lively in mouthfeel, to create an airy, almost ethereal quaff.

Albemarle Royal Pippin Cider: Albemarle Ciderworks top seller, and it’s easy to see why. It’s rich enough to pair with good, authentic fish and chips and other lightly-fried dishes.

First Fruit Cider is the best seller from Foggy Ridge. A generous, tangy cider with a lively texture. A foamy mousse gives great mouthfeel and leads to a brilliant finish.

Albemarle Ragged Mountain is a bit sweet on the nose yet shows firm tannin and bracing acidity on the palate.

Foggy Ridge Sweet Stayman: This is the one you wished your family would have at Thanksgiving instead of that overly sweet, mass-produced supermarket brand. Lush and loaded with scrumptious fruit, it’s perfect for that annual fall harvest riot of flavors.