Despite my previous intonations on hops, I recently found myself face to face with another of these hopped ciders. Though it seems to be more or less in vogue right now, the flavor of hops seems to be mostly contained in beer and is just now spilling over into cider. You don’t really hear about how hoppy a wine is, and you certainly can’t get a bottle of sparkling hop water (or can you?). As a humble, if biased reviewer, I have no choice but to explore these forays into the world where my beloved ciders and these strange hops are forced to mingle.
I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll mention it a thousand times: Woodchuck Cidery knows their stuff. If anyone was going to make a hoppy cider that I’d enjoy, it would be my favorite cidery out of Vermont. I enjoyed Angry Orchard’s Hop’n Mad, but the Woodchuck’s Hopsation makes it look more like a first attempt. The flavor of the Hopsation is far more refined, the blend of the two major ingredients is masterfully created. The hops lend almost no bitterness at all to the cider, but instead enhance the latent sourness of the apple.
Woodchuck is probably the most prolific cidery in terms of the number of varieties produced, and I am continually impressed with the quality. Their reputation is such that, even in the case of flavors that I do not gravitate toward like the Hopsation (and the Pumpkin that I previously reviewed), I am more than willing to try one with the knowledge that it may not be my favorite, but it will be well-crafted and at the very least interesting. My experience with the previous five ciders on my list has led me to view that rodent of theirs as a stamp of approval.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10
The funny thing about hops is that they possess a very distinctive flavor, yet they are not something that is used to flavor anything other than alcoholic beverages. You can’t go out to a restaurant and order a steak garnished with rosemary and hops. Yet, hops are an integral part of the beer-brewing process. In my own experience, it is this carefully-crafted flavor that has turned me off to more than a few beers: most notably, to IPAs. As I have done in the past with tequila and scotch, I thought I might share with you my feelings on IPAs.
I do not like IPAs.
They taste like tree-bark that someone has tried to disguise as a pleasurable drink.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t approach Angry Orchard’s Hop’n Mad cider with some amount of trepidation. As my soapbox on IPAs may have indicated, I do not have the most pleasant history with hops. I’ve been lied to in the past: deceived into thinking “maybe this one will be different,” only to be met with dismay. Contrary to what some breweries may think (and despite the visual similarities between the words), bitter does not always mean better. I have always been baffled by IPA connoisseurs, as I don’t understand how someone can take such pleasure in a flavor consisting of all the bitterness of a grapefruit coupled with the sensation of getting hit in the mouth with a brick.
Grandstanding aside, I found the Hop’n Mad to be surprisingly palatable. The hop flavor doesn’t arrive immediately, and when it does, it certainly doesn’t deliver the kickback I’ve come to associate with hops. Instead, it’s a subtler flavor, accenting the apple very well by hitting a different region of the tongue. Granted, the flavor is still there, but combined with the sweetness of the apple (a much sweeter baseline than beer) it comes off as palatable as possible. The two flavors combine to make something that borders on sour, but holds back at the last minute. The finish contains only a slight dryness: a far cry from both IPAs and dry ciders alike. The color is nothing special, and the aroma betrays nothing of the hop flavor within.
Overall, I found the Hop’n Mad rather enjoyable. It was definitely more enjoyable that I was expecting. This is to say that I was expecting to have to suffer through my six pack, but after the first one, I was more than a little pleased that I had five more to go.
The Ciderman’s Rating: 8/10