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TASTE Tastes Some Cider

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By Dan Clarke with Karen Lewis

Ciders have been around quite a while.

They’ve been a real presence in the southwest of England, as well as other apple-growing parts of the world. At the moment, they’re very popular in the U.S. Whether they’re on their way to establishing a long-time niche in this country’s marketplace or are just riding the coattails of the craft beer revolution remains to be seen.

strongbow orange blossom bottle Picmonkey

Recently Taste publications received samples of four variations on the cider theme. Though having a lot of experience tasting and judging wines (and a few years tasting beers, for that matter), I thought it would be better to assign the investigation of these four Strongbow hard apple ciders to somebody else. I have not become a cider aficionado, though I’ve tasted some that, especially on a warm day, were refreshing and seemed almost like a good alternative to a gin & tonic or a pint of lager. So I sought to find someone who really liked cider and drank it in preference to other beverages. Lately I’ve been spending time in a place that specializes in craft beer. They have about 40 frequently-changing beer taps and three cider taps, which also rotate frequently. Several times I took my chilled samples of Strongbow’s offerings into the place, but never found that cider drinker who looked like he/she would be able to taste and opine for us.

Eventually, I opened what looked like the basic theme on which the other samples were variants. All four seemed to be made with a base of apples and I chose the one labeled “Gold Apple.” It was o.k., I guess. It tasted like most other ciders I’ve had—no better and no worse, but less than exciting for my palate. I needed help, at least in the form of a second opinion. Eventually I co-opted Karen Lewis to this investigation. She’s been visiting the West Coast on vacation, but has been a bartender in Florida for several years. She pours a lot of cider at her place of business. After my experience with the Strongbow Gold Apple, I wanted to give a fair shake to the remaining three ciders, which were labeled Orange Blossom, Cherry Blossom and Honey. I tasted along with Karen, but the comments are hers, unless noted otherwise:

Orange Blossom (4.5% alc.)

“It’s a light golden color. Maybe a little bit orangey. The orange component is there in the aroma and in the flavor, but it’s not as prominent as I would have thought. Not bad really. Has an o.k. sweet/tart balance.”

Cherry Blossom (4.5% alc.)

“Clearly a different color from the orange sample, this has a nice dark pink or cherry color. I don’t like the nose on this one, but the flavor is more attractive. It seems to have a genuine cherry personality. Seems sweeter than the orange. More soda pop-like.”

Honey (5% alc.)

“I don’t find this particularly honey-like. Not in the aroma nor in the flavor, either.”

Explaining that I’d visited the Strongbow website and found some suggestions for food pairings and drink recipes using the various styles of cider as ingredients, I asked for her input. As a restaurant professional what did she think of the possibilities?

“Well, if you were already a cider drinker and preferred to drink that with your meal instead of wine or a beer, I guess the suggestions might be helpful,” she responded. “As far as using it as an ingredient in drinks, such as including it in a Mimosa like you suggested, I think these don’t have enough personality or strength of flavor to add anything to an otherwise well-made drink. They might just get lost in the mix with the other components.”

 

Editor's note:  Since Taste California Travel has no category dedicated to cider, we placed this article in "beer."

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