Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Woodchuck Hard Cider

Last week, I dined for lunch at the Elephant Walk in Cambridge and wanted something cool and refreshing to drink with my meal. I opted for the Woodchuck Pear Cider and was very satisfied with its taste. So, over this Memorial Day weekend, I decided to check out some of their other flavors too, mostly hard apple ciders.

Hard cider is an alcoholic cider which is popular in many different countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, and Argentina. It is most popular in the United Kingdom, which has the highest per capita consumption. Hard cider comes in a variety of styles and flavors, from dry to sweet, and the alcohol content commonly ranges from 2% to 8.5%. Though it can be made from almost any type of apple, some types are preferred and you can even get hard ciders made from a single type of apple. Pear cider, sometimes called perry, is also becoming popular nowadays.

Hard cider was extremely popular in the U.S. during colonial times. Water was often considered unsanitary and hard cider was very easy to produce so made for an enticing alternative. As an example, in Massachusetts in 1776, the average consumption per capita of hard cider was about 35 gallons. During this period, hard cider also served as currency and might be used to pay salaries. Some goods and services were priced in barrels of cider. But by the time of Prohibition, the popularity of hard cider had diminished significantly, and it was not until the 1990s that hard cider started to become popular once again.

In 1990, the Proctorsville Winery in Vermont produced some apple wines and “Vermont Old-Fashioned Hard Cider.” But they wanted to make a much better hard cider and worked at improving their existing cider, making it a more artisanal product. They named this new hard cider, Woodchuck, and it did very well. They grew so much that in 1996 they moved to Springfield, Vermont, calling their new place the Green Mountain Cidery, though they would eventually relocate once again, this time to Middlebury, Vermont.

The cidery is eco-conscious and recycles all of their waste plastic, paper, cardboard and glass. They use water saving measures that cut their water usage in half. Their bottles are made with up to 50% recycled glass and they also use Earth-friendly cleaning products. They use other eco-conscious measures as well.

They currently produce five different ciders: Amber, 802 Dark & Dry, Granny Smith, Pear and Raspberry. They vary in alcohol content, either 4% or 5%, and each 12oz bottle has 150 calories. So they have less calories than sodas or wine coolers. They are all lightly carbonated, almost a mild effervescence. I tried all of the ciders except for the Raspberry (though I will try it in the near future).

The Amber is their original hard apple cider, and it has a clean, strong apple flavor with a bit of sweetness. I enjoyed its taste, though, as a personal preference, I would not drink more than a couple of them at any one time due to the sweetness. Their 802 Dark & Dry is more my style, as it has a drier taste. It was made with caramelized sugar rather than white sugar, which makes it taste less sweet and also gives it a darker color. It still possesses a strong apple flavor, but it something I could drink bottle after bottle because it is drier.

Their Granny Smith is also more dry, but as it is made from 100% Granny Smith apples, it has a more tart and tangy taste. I enjoyed this flavor too, but I couldn't drink too many of these at any one time due to all that tartness. The Pear is a bit sweet, but not as much as the Amber, and has a rich pear taste. It almost seems like biting into a juicy, ripe pear. I love the taste of pears and this cider really pleased me.

Overall, I would recommend all four flavors, and it will depend on your personal preferences which ones you might prefer over the others. My own suggestion would be to buy a mix of the varieties and drink different ones over the course of the day. That is what I did this weekend, and I appreciated them even better when I could drink different ones, and not get into a rut drinking the same style, bottle after bottle.

Though I certainly will buy more of the Woodchuck ciders, I want to try some other hard ciders too. Anyone have some suggestions?


Unknown said...

My "everyday" cider is Woodchuck 802, but I like all kinds of cider. Here are some other suggestions to try that I like:

Crispin - comes in 3 regular varieties, plus some limited editions. Very high quality and sophisticated.

Strongbow - when I find cider on tap around here, it's almost always Strongbow. "English" style cider, that's fairly dry.

Blackthorn - similar to Strongbow

Original Sin - somewhere between Strongbow and Woodchuck.

Here are a few others that I don't like as well, but others might:


Kristi Davis - Grotto Cellars said...

I've never been much of a fan of cider but I really need to go back and taste again.

Amanda Maynard said...

Farnum Hill makes really good dry ciders in New Hampshire. Other than that, I'm a fan of Original Sin. Very good stuff.

Joy said...

Strongbow, K, and Magners are all really good. In my area at least, that is the order of most likely to find. You may have to call around or search a bit for the latter two.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi J Wynia:
Thanks very much for all of the recommendations, and I will have to try some of them soon.

Hi Kristi:
Yes, I do suggest trying them again. Some of these artisanl ciders are excellent, and well worth seeking out.

Hi Amanda & Joy:
Thanks for your suggestions too.

I have some taste testing to do!

DWS said...

Given that you liked their standard ciders, you should try Woodchuck's limited release ciders (if you haven't already). The Summer 2011 cider, which has a hint of blueberry, is very good.

Richard Auffrey said...

I have tasted a couple of their limited release ciders, though they can be hard to find at times. They can be quite interesting, and worth checking out.

Anonymous said...

OMG, what a horrible cider! Although the box says it is "crisp", it is cloyingly sweet. And it has some weird flavoring added that is just terrible. DO NOT waste your money on this!

Anonymous said...

just to clarify, I was talking about their "pear" cider. have not tried the apple ones