The Many Styles of Cider
Think of some of your favorite beverages: Wine. Beer. Juice. Soda.
One thing that all of these beverages have in common is that they are general categories. You can drill down into each of them and come up with wildly different styles: Merlot versus Chardonnay; a hoppy IPA versus a rich Stout. Coke versus Ginger Ale. Strawberry Kiwi or fresh-squeezed orange juice. I could go on and on, but I trust you get the point.
Cider is no different. It represents a general category – a beverage made with fermented apple juice, in the most traditional sense. Right now, as we experience the rebirth of the cider tradition in the States, we’ve just scratched the surface of the cider styles that exist. Generally speaking, the majority of cider consumption in the States comes from one style of cider – the very sweet, carbonated, controlled-yeast type. The exciting thing about the growing craft cider movement is that there are just as many styles of cider as there are of wine and beer, and we have much to discover! Here’s a little tutorial on some of the more common cider styles found around the world:
Scrumpy (English Style) – English-style ciders are usually fermented to quite dry and have a bit of funk to them (sometimes called ‘farmy’ because it can smell like hay or horses.) They tend to be carbonated, and if you’ve done much traveling in England, this is the cider you would have tried.
French Style – French ciders also have some farmy notes, but they’re more champagne-like than Scrumpy ciders, meaning they have a lot of tiny bubbles. The French don’t force-carbonate their ciders, and instead bottle condition them to achieve the champagne-like quality and a natural sweetness. These ciders are traditionally served with savory buckwheat crepes, often for breakfast!
Spanish Style – These ciders are super-tart and acidic. If you’ve never tried one, you may think it’s a bit off, but give it a chance! They’re like sour beers – a little funky, a little tart, and an acquired taste.
New England Style – New England style ciders are usually fermented to dryness and have a higher alcohol content than most other ciders because of the amount of sugar in the apples used.
Wild (Spontaneous) – Ciders that are ‘wild’ or ‘spontaneous’ mean that no yeast is added to the juice. Instead, the juice is pressed and left to ferment based on whatever wild yeast strains happen to be in the juice. These ciders take longer to ferment and can be a bit unpredictable – either the yeast offers a complex flavor that really works, or it doesn’t, in which case…cider vinegar!
Ice Cider – Similar to ice wines, ice ciders are made from freezing the juice and removing the water, leaving a highly concentrated, very sweet dessert cider. They’re labor intensive, and very much worth the effort!
These ciders are all made with few additional ingredients outside of apples, yeast, and sometimes a bit extra sugar. The variety comes from the way the blend of apples used from the start and the way the cider is fermented, stored, and aged. Variety also comes from the vintage of the apples as well, just like wine - some years are great growing years, others aren't, and the soil and ecological conditions where apples and grapes are grown affect the flavor of the cider or wine from year to year.
Then, there’s a whole new world of cider styles coming from the craft beer movement. These styles are nearly limitless, but a few categories are starting to settle into their own:
Hopped Ciders – Like hoppy beers? Try a dry-hopped cider if you get a chance! The aroma is hoppy and there’s a bit of that bitter aftertaste, but the sweetness of the cider mixed with the hops gives a totally different flavor than a standard IPA.
Barrel Aged Ciders – Cider aged in bourbon barrels have that same vanilla and alcohol-y finish that a bourbon barrel aged beer has. A variety of different barrels can be used with ciders: white wine, bourbon, rum, and more!
Fruity and Herbal Ciders – Ever had a jalapeno or bell pepper cider? They exist and they’re good! Ginger Cider, Blackberry Cider, Lemongrass and Basil Cider, Pumpkin Cider, the list can go on and on.
We’re excited to bring some of these styles of cider to Indy when we open. We have our standard semi-sweet and dry ciders that will be available all the time, but we’ll also have a rotating selection of seasonal and limited release ciders. Sure to be in the mix are hopped ciders, herbal ciders, barrel-aged ciders, and plenty more. We’d love to know what cider styles sound good to you, so feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment!