My friend and peer, Karamy Ford, wrote about the general irreverence for the wine varietal Malbec in her article last week. She referred to it as “the Rodney Dangerfield” of wines. Both funny and apropos, it got me wondering about which beer family member is the one with “no respect.” Easily, it’s gotta be cider.
Let’s face it: cider is very much a one-trick pony. It’s either good or it’s not. What else is cider going to taste like but apples?
Cider has one quality that’s really a double-edged sword for it; it’s relatively low in alcohol and highly drinkable. Because it has the tendency to go down like water and is possessive of a rather high sugar count, they drink quickly and can sneak a buzz on you in a flash. For most people, that’s the “first edge of the sword.” So what’s the second? I say it’s financial. Spend $9-10 on a six-pack and see how quickly they disappear.
Another big strike against cider is lack of quality in production. There have been ciders made with flavor extracts, artificial flavors and “taste-a-likes.” One sip will tell you how close to a natural apple flavor the cider contains.
Finally, most ciders, whether apple or pear or raspberry, are out of control with sugar and ultra-tart flavors and people find them to be either sickly sweet or face-imploding sour. These candy-like associations have earned cider a reputation as a “girly” drink along with cosmopolitans and chocolate-inis.
Before anyone writes to this publication screaming for my sexist hide, please note that I have three sisters and was raised to respect the fairer sex. My point is simply that the lion’s share of beer drinkers in the world are men and as they perceive cider as a beverage that impugns their studliness, its sales suffer for it.
In general, it takes a lot for a cider to stand out from the pack. Woodchuck Cider seems to have accomplished this with their Belgian White. The use of Belgian ale yeast to ferment the pressed apple juice creates a fuller texture than that found in other hard cider. It also lends a distinctive spice note.
An almost impossible three-way mixture of cider, Belgian witbier and sauvignon blanc wine, Belgian White is, at once, crisp, creamy, citrus-tart and earthy. This one’s a dynamite combination of bretanomyces yeast funk, bright green apple skin, a hint of cinnamon, coriander, fresh grass lemon zest and flowers. Its bright acidity makes the mouth water and sends signals to the brain that you’re thirstier than you realize.
For the record, I’ve always had nothing but respect for Mr. Dangerfield. This tasty beverage wins my admiration as well.