Yet again, I was presented with another opportunity to investigate a beverage term. This time, staring down the barrels of two imperial aged ciders, I had to get to googling to figure out what calling a drink “imperial” actually means. It’s a term mostly thrown around when talking about stout beers, but can be applied to a number of brewed beverages (most of which are also beers). It has some very google-able history, but it essentially means it’s a drink that’s at least twice as strong as it usually is, both in flavor and in alcohol content.
I’ve had these two winter-themed ciders in the queue for quite some time, and I finally had a quiet, snowy weekend where I could try both of them (I guess Bad Apple isn’t winter themed, but Nice & Naughty is and I extrapolated). For supposedly being twice as flavorful as a normal cider, the Bad Apple was underwhelming. While clocking in at 10.5% ABV, the Bad Apple’s flavor felt very uninspiring. It felt very much like they were playing it safe with this one. The aroma was heady, and the finish was smooth, but the overall flavor left something to be desired.
On the other hand, Nice & Naughty was brimming with flavor. With a similar ABV, this cider really brought 2 Towns’ A-game. Every sip was loaded with the taste of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of clove accompanying the already rich apple flavor. This was one that I wish wasn’t a seasonal release because I enjoyed it so thoroughly.
The Ciderman’s Ratings
The Bad Apple: 6/10
Nice & Naughty: 9.5/10
Pomegranates are a weird fruit. The first time I had a pomegranate, I must have been 15 or 16, and while I had heard of them, I had assumed it was just a fruit that you juiced (the POM juice had recently made its debut in those oddly-shaped bottles). I picked one up at the grocery store and decided to see what all the fuss was about. The inside of a pomegranate is like an alien landscape, with hundreds of almost iridescent red seeds clinging to stalks of what looked like a strange form of coral. It was a far cry from the experience of cutting into an apple.
Hailing from Onalaska, Wisconsin (a short drive from where I purchased the cider), Sandbar Cider’s Pomegranate is made by Lost Island Wine. Much like a wine, the cider has an incredibly fragrant aroma, this particular one saturated with berry notes. At the first sip, the flavor is bursting with the twin fruits, each very well represented. The pomegranate and apple complement one another very well, resulting in a balanced cider that is sweet, but in a natural way rather than tasting like it has been overloaded with a mound of sugar.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of purchasing local ciders. I’m not positive I would have found this Sandbar had I not been visiting friends in Wisconsin. I would encourage you to partake in ciders local to your area. There is the possibility of a treasure such as this one being hidden near you (and if you find yourself in the LaCrosse area of Wisconsin, check this one out).
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10
In my study of ciders, I have encountered the Spanish Sidro style, wherein you must shake the cider before pouring from a 36″ elevation in order to create the proper level of effervescence. With Deal’s Original, I encountered the exact opposite; when I opened the bottle cap, it completely exploded, covering me, my kitchen walls, and floor. Luckily, I was able to save enough to sample, but only the amount pictured to the right. Unfortunately, this cider was a gift from a dear friend, and is only available near where he lives in Iowa.
To add to this misfortune, the cider is really good. According to their website, the cider uses a blend of apples, but does not indicate which apples these are. Perhaps the most appealing part of this is that it tastes undeniably like apples, but completely different from the 110 other ciders I’ve tried thus far. The taste has a familiar, almost pear-like quality; it almost tastes like the memory of apples, if that makes any sense. The cider masterfully balances sweet and dry, resulting in an extremely smooth, sessionable cider.
The website also indicates that Deal’s makes a raspberry, a peach, and a limited-release pear cider, all of which I’d like to try if they demonstrate the same level of craftsmanship as this one. Next time I’m down in the Ames, IA region, I’ll have to be sure to pick up what I can find.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 9/10
Jellyfish are a pretty weird animal. They have earned a monicker as similarly misleading as the pineapple in that they are neither made of jelly, nor are they fish. They are mysterious aquatic creatures that drift to and fro in a mesmerically beautiful way. Because they don’t actually have brains, or even a central nervous system, they almost seem like plantlife: floating in the tidal winds, their tendrils billowing like tongues of flame.
Starcut Ciders’ Immortal Jelly was a uniquely enjoyable
cider. Packing the flavors of a quartet of berries (straw, blue, black, and rasp), the Immortal Jelly bears a pleasant aroma and aftertaste reminiscent of a fine jam. These berry flavors counterbalance the slightly acerbic
semi-sweet apple, leading to a very smooth, even finish.
This is my first cider from Starcut, and from the look of their website, they have a whole host of ciders that I have never seen before. The Immortal Jelly was a gift brought back from the depths of Wisconsin, so if I ever see any in my neck of the woods, I’ll be sure to pick it up.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8.5/10
I’ve always been able to separate out my opinion of something from the general hype surrounding it. When Netflix’s Stranger Things first arrived to the platform, social media was thoroughly abuzz with posts and articles about it, exalting its greatness and repeating the opinion that I “totally needed to watch it.” I waited a month or so, but when I eventually got around to watching it, I found it to be pretty good. Not revolutionary to the genre, nor by any means my favorite Netflix original series. It was just pretty good.
Ace Cider’s Pineapple cider had been sitting in my queue for months, if not over a year. Of the ciders in my untested collection, it received the largest number of comments from houseguests. It seemed that everyone had an opinion on this cider. It was either the best pineapple cider they had ever had, or it was far too sweet and I was going to hate it. After trying it, I respectfully disagree with both opinions.
The Ace Pineapple does a pretty fantastic job of blending the apple and pineapple flavors, such that neither is battling too contentiously for the forefront of the flavor. Both are equally present, and the cider certainly benefits from this. Though the cider was sweet, I did not find it overpoweringly so. That is always a risk with such a saccharine fruit, but Ace does a nice job of keeping this in check. The aroma is full and fruity, and the finish is smooth and clean. Overall, as far as pineapple ciders go, I would say that the Ace Pineapple is not revolutionary, but pretty darn good.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10
“At a cantina on a star in a planetary system far far away, the surviving beautiful sister, takes a hit on a hookah pipe and listens for incider information.” –Excerpt from the neck label of the Ace Space.
Every May, in honor of May the Fourth, I expand on thosepithy “may the Fourth be with you” posts and commit an entire month to Star Wars-themed posts of pictures, questions, and witty thematic banter. A review of this, my 100th cider, seemed tangentially on theme until I read that caption from the bottleneck. It was only upon visiting the cider’s web page that I found out the owner of Ace Cider’s wife was an actor in the cantina scene in A New Hope.
The Ace SpAce is the first of its kind, a bold combination of flavors that are so diametrically opposite, they even have an aphorism based on their difference. Even the look of the cider is unique: a milky orange, reminiscent of Bespin at sundown. Perhaps the strongest quality of this cider is just how different and alien it tastes. The pulpy affect of orange juice is something not found in apple-based beverages. There is no suspension of disbelief in imagining drinking this at a cantina on Tatooine, a bar on Coruscant, or anywhere in the galaxy after a hard-fought victory against the empire.
The cider’s opening crawl features a hint of apple, but the orange flavor takes over shortly after and dominates the palate with its citrus notes. The flavor lingers on like a ghost, inviting you to experience more and complete the cider. Unfortunately, I do think that this cider could use more apple to bring balance to the overall presentation. But, for a special release, I feel that the SpAce certainly delivers.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10
Despite having now visited 31 of the 50 United States, I do not like to travel. People in my generation don’t just value travel: they seem to aspire to it. My newsfeed is constantly bombarded by vacation photos, yet they do not instill in me the sense of wanderlust that seems to have permeated my peers. I am much more like a hobbit in this regard; I am perfectly content to sit at home in comfortable, stationary bliss, surrounded by familiarity.
I recently trekked the 22 hours out to Williamsburg Virginia to attend a good friend’s wedding. I had one goal for this trip: acquire and drink a local cider. This goal was met the first night of our stay, because after spending that long in a car, I sure as hell needed a drink. The local cider on tap happened to be Bold Rock, which I had also seen at some of the gas stations along the way and had been curious to try.
Unfortunately, I would not say that the Bold Rock is a cider worth crossing half the country for. The aroma was pleasant enough, but the flavor left something to be desired. It may have been served too cold (which seems to be happening to me a lot lately), but nothing about the flavor was forward enough to be notable. The finish was clean enough, but this was just a very average, middle of the road cider. I did see that Bold Rock makes several varieties, which I’d be happy to sample as long as I don’t have to cross five states to get it (I may have mentioned before, but I don’t particularly care for travel).
The Ciderman’s Rating: 5/10