in which two old friends discuss three ciders from Angry Orchard
Jake: Are you a cider fan?
Travis: Love me some apple juice, ever since I was a young buck. Now, all adult like, the fact that it’s also an adult beverage is nothing short of fantastic. I’ve tried some here in the states, like Woodchuck, but I really sank my teeth into the style on a trip to England. It’s an American misconception that cider has to be sweet and overtly juice-like in character. This is just in poor taste — or, ahem, the “common tongue.” Cider, or cidre, has a long traditional history in Europe, and you can find an extremely eclectic selection of flavors, brewers (or are they “pressers?”) and styles within this category. When I slip back a cider, I want the snap of breaking an apple’s skin, the mouth-watering acidity, the sweet cloaked by tart that feels good. Feels healthy. You need that bite at the end.
Jake: What do you think of the name “Angry Orchard?”
Travis: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Some classic television right there. But knowing it’s a brewery, it brings back the bite I mentioned earlier — these apples ain’t playin’ around. They bad. They mean. If the Angry Orchard were a professional sports team, what sport would it be?
Jake: I’m seeing Angry Orchard as a National Basketball Association team, because I would like to know more about how their game works but at the same time am not really putting in the time. Don’t get me wrong, once I’m watching a game I like what’s going on, and I can thoroughly enjoy myself, but it’s turning the game on that’s the problem. I guess what I’m trying to do here is relate my relationship with cider to my relationship with basketball: I don’t know much about either. Was that clear? Was I laying it on a little thick?
Travis: How would they play?
Jake: Angry Orchard would play ferociously. They’d play in a way that would make their rivals want to say they play dirty, but they wouldn’t actually break any rules. Just toeing that line. Their mascot would be an angry foam tree on rollerskates.
Travis: Are you, or have you ever, been guilty of cider abuse in the state of Maine?
Jake: The last time I bought cider it was from from Trader Joe’s, unpasteurized. This was the regular, non-alcoholic cider in the plastic jug. I put it in my fridge and immediately forgot all about it. When I finally looked at it a few weeks later, the plastic jug was swelled up like a balloon. Science had been happening in there. It now had a distinct kick to it, and I realized that I wouldn’t have to buy any alcohol right away. Did I abuse that cider? If I did, I hope it didn’t mind.
Jake: What do you think of the look and smell?
Travis: Looked like apples, smelled like apples, tasted like apples. The pour was gold, almost invited amber, a reddish to the body.
Jake: What about the first sip?
Travis: The first sip took me back to when I was a toddler and swallowed a penny, my mother had me drink two towering pints of cider upon the doctor’s orders. I’ll never forget that. Probably why I like it so much today.
Jake: Compared to the ciders I’ve tried — crafted in both traditional and refrigerator-amnesia styles — Crisp Apple seems very sweet. I’d say it’s creeping up towards the level of apple candy sweetness, almost too sugary. Most ciders I’ve had before are drier and more tart. Tthis tastes less like cider to me and more like juice. The bottle calls it a “fruit-forward” cider and I guess that hits it on the nose — like you said, it smells like apples and tastes like apples. Sweet and very easy to drink. If it weren’t for the carbonation I’d never even guess this is alcoholic.
Travis: The carbonation kept it sparkling on, dancing. It didn’t knock my socks off, it didn’t taste alcoholic at all.
Jake: The bottle says there’s a “slightly sweet, ripe apple flavor.” What do you think?
Travis: I think this description is on point. The flavor was exactly what comes to mind when you say apple cider. The sweetness was prevalent, but did not dominate. I could have had a glass of this with breakfast, next to my coffee and eggs. Actually, that sounds like some solid brunch time.
Jake: This would be a perfect cider for Sunday brunch.
Travis: Forget mimosas. I’m always called out for drinking those anyways.
Jake: Let’s go to one of those places where it’s kind of fancy but nobody’s clothes are ironed and everyone is wearing sunglasses. Coffee and cider, with scrambled eggs, home fries and toast. Strawberry jam on the side. Two ciders with the meal, maybe one after? What do you have to do today? It’s so nice out, and this cider puts me in the mind of lying in a field and not thinking about taxes.
Travis: This is what I’m talking about. Real simple, tall pint — this cider has that bitter, that bite I was talking about. It’s not too sweet, less carbonated, and slides back easy for maximum drinkability. This ain’t juice, son. I can picture this lined up in the taps at a South London pub, half ales, half ciders, football (proper) on the TV, and we’re slammin’m home chanting for Arsenal! Okay. Little overboard. But my favorite of the line.
Jake: On this one the bottle says the dryness makes you “pucker and look forward to another sip.” True? Is the sourness a good thing?
Travis: Absolutely. I did not physically pucker, because I’m a man, but the feeling was recognized.
Jake: This definitely made me feel more like a man. I’m not saying it’s going to put hair on my chest, but this is what I think of when I think of cider.
Travis: Apples need that tartness, the sour, and balanced so well with the hops create a hardy drink. That kick in the finish is essential, otherwise it’s alcoholic fruit juice. The cider must shed its sweet easy veneer and rise, in America, as a manly drink. Thank you, Angry Orchard. Thank you.
Jake: I think this one is a lot less sweet than Crisp Apple — and that’s not to say that it’s overly sour, either. Really nice and balanced, with a little bit of tartness and spice. This is what I’m expecting when I order a hard cider. Less juice, more spice. (Is that taken? Can that be our cider blog? “Less Juice, More Spice,” picture of you and me leaning back-to-back with ciders in our hands?)
Jake: Ginger. Thoughts?
Travis: You don’t see apple and ginger hanging out that often, only certain times of the year, but this really worked. The ginger added that subtle spice, invoking the holidays. It added more to the bite I keep going on about. It’s good to splash some flavor down, as long as it’s balanced. How you dig that ginger, baby?
Jake: I’m a fan of ginger — in fact, the few times I’ve gone out for fancy wear-a-blazer drinks, I’ve always found myself staring at an inscrutable cocktail menu with one safe choice starting back at me: Dark and Stormy. Ginger and rum is one thing, however, and ginger and cider is quite another. I’m happy to say I liked it. I think this is my favorite of all three.
Travis: Do you find it more novelty purchase or sessionable choice?
Jake: The bottle makes it sound like kind of a novelty — “distinct,” “fresh Nigerian ginger,” “unlike any cider you’ve had before” — but I think it’s blended perfectly for session drinking. The ginger is just the right strength for you to know it’s there, but you’re not going to mistake this cider for a highball cocktail anytime soon. It’s apple cider with ginger, and it’s really good. Is this like any cider you’ve had before?
Travis: No, not really. I’ve had some fine mulled cider, heated, with rum, but the Apple Ginger didn’t take me there. It’s really a finely balanced spice choice, great flavor profiles. The finish is crisp, warmed my heart, and did incite further drinking, which is the goal, I imagine. Fine cider. Happy thoughts. Warm hearts.