The Beerification of Cider

The last two ciders sent to me by breweries arrived in elegant bottles with dark, wine-like labels--Crispin's Venus Reigns and the first Cider Master Reserve from 2 Towns. The latter came in a wine bottle with a cork to boot. But in both cases, I was reminded a lot more of special-release beers rather than wine. Both were good. The Crispin was actually a pear wine (like a concentrated perry) aged in wine barrels. It was heavy and rich, and had huge winy overtones. It was perhaps a little too much of a good thing, though I enjoyed it in a decadent way.

The 2 Towns is exceptional--it's one of the best American ciders I've ever had. It's also winy, but more in the sense that it tastes like a great white. It's slightly tart, but has round fruit flavors; peach, Meyer lemon, quince, and--well, I don't know my fruit flavors the way a wine writer would. Sometimes with "heritage" ciders (or whatever cideries call them), you end up admiring them more than enjoying them. But Reserve is pure pleasure--had Sally not been around, I would happily have drunk the whole bottle.

Nevertheless, it is striking how cider makers are not only positioning these like specialty beers, but pitching them the way breweries do, by discussing the process. Both go into a fair amount of detail about the barrels they used, and Crispin mentioned the process they used on the pear wine.

Cider fits somewhere in-between beer and wine on the spectrum of drinks. It is actually a wine--fermented fruit--but it's roughly the strength of beer and served effervescent. Some cideries have leaned toward wine, others toward beer. Generally speaking, though, high-end stuff is pitched like wine, low end stuff like beer. But maybe that hasn't been working. Now, it seems, cideries are using the language of high-end beer to sell high-end cider.