Cider is a traditionally straightforward beverage—whether it’s the soft stuff or the hard stuff, cider is made with apples and not much else.
Tell that to today’s local hard cider makers.
From spices to berries to citrus to hops, all sorts of adjuncts are showing up in cider these days. And much as craft beer drinkers can’t get enough of brews with wacky ingredients (Oreos and fried chicken f’real?), cider sippers are getting into the unusual too.
Locally, Andy Hannas, Tim Edmond, and Dan Potter are leading the charge at Potter’s Craft Cider.
“Tim, Dan and I all used to brew beer at home before we started making cider, and they were looking at starting a brewery before they wound up in the cider world,” Hannas says. “That was definitely a big source of inspiration early on. Hopped cider was the third product we made. They had a lot of beer ideas they were kicking around, and I had things in mind from my homebrewing days, so we started experimenting.”
With Virginia Cider Week set to flow November 9-18, start priming your palate with these three unique hard cider offerings.
The latest fruit of Potter’s experiments is a collaboration with cult favorite The Veil Brewing Co. Working with The Veil’s Dirt Nap Double IPA as a baseline, the team hit Dirt Napple with Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and Nelson Sauvin hops before finishing it with lactose sugar, which doesn’t turn to alcohol in the presence of yeast. The result is a cider with some residual sugar (nearly all of Potter’s ciders are dry) and a New England IPA-like mouthfeel.
“It is obviously much different from the beer it was modeled after, but it was interesting to try one of our ciders and add some sugar,” Hannas says. “It is by no means a sweet cider like a lot of others out there, but to have something that finished not quite so dry was interesting. And it changed the way the hops expressed.”
The 6.9 percent ABV cider is still available in four packs at the Potter’s tasting room, though supply is dwindling. If you can’t grab one, be on the lookout for kegs around town as Virginia Cider Week approaches.
Castle Hill Cider keeps it super traditional—except when it comes to Big Pippin. This sister line of ciders features four varieties: ginger and oaked spirits, hopped ginger, elderberry and cherry, and prickly pear and orange blossom. The beverages range from 6.9 to 11 percent alcohol and will be hitting shelves in 12-ounce cans by December, according to cider maker and orchard manager Stuart Madany.
“Adjunct ciders are generally at a lower price point and higher volume,” he says. “They’re made of what I’d call the better apples that are not cider specific—jonathans, yorks, pink ladies, and golden delicious.”
Blood Orange Cider
Bold Rock Hard Cider doesn’t hide its ambitions—namely, to make relatively sweet, drinkable cider for the masses. But that also means the cidery is willing to put just about anything into a hard beverage if it’ll attract a new fan or two.
Take Bold Rock’s Blood Orange cider, which blends blood orange juice and locally harvested Blue Ridge apples. The naturally hazy beverage, sitting at an easy drinking 4.7 percent ABV, combines the crisp tartness of cider with a zip of the trendiest citrus on the market. Blood Orange Cider is available in 12-ounce bottles at a variety of stores around Charlottesville, so cider lovers can get to sippin’ ASAP.