Autumn is in full swing, and what better way is there to celebrate it than drinking a cool and refreshing hard cider? Hard ciders are a great alternative to beer, as they offer a sweeter appeal and are suitable for those looking for a gluten-free alternative. Deciding which hard cider is best for you largely depends on what your taste is. So, what are the different types of hard cider? Let’s find out.
Hard cider can be made from various types of apples, and it turns out hard ciders can even be made from fruits other than apples as well. There’s a vast selection for you to choose from. However, the main types of hard cider include dry, off-dry, semi-dry, and semi-sweet cider. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of hard cider, how hard cider is made, and where you can find the best hard cider brands to celebrate the Fall season with.
What is Hard Cider?
Like wine, hard cider is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting fruit juice, typically apples. The alcohol content of hard cider will vary depending on the brand and type of cider and how sweet or dry it is. The word “hard” is used to distinguish it between regular, non-alcoholic apple cider.
What are the Different Types of Hard Cider?
Hard cider comes in a few different forms. They are typically defined by the level of sweetness they have to offer. In addition, hard ciders are available either still or carbonated. Although it is most popularly made with apples, hard cider can also be made with other fruits, such as peaches, pears, plums, and strawberries. However, the 4 main types of hard cider include:
- Dry cider: dry ciders contain the lowest sugar levels at 0.5% residual sugar or less. They tend to be more acidic than other hard ciders. This is because the yeast consumes the natural sugars, which also makes it have a higher alcohol content than other ciders – up to 7%.
- Off-dry cider: Off-dry ciders typically contain a bit more sugar than dry ciders, usually at 1-2%. These ciders are known for their smooth and rich flavoring.
- Semi-dry cider: Semi-dry ciders contain more than 2% residual sugar and are known to have a more pronounced apple flavor.
- Semi-sweet cider: Semi-sweet hard ciders can contain 4% or more residual sugar. This is the sweetest type of cider available and has robust apple flavors.
In addition to the varying sweetness levels of hard cider, it can also be defined by the types of apples it is made with. Some are made from dessert/supermarket apples, and in contrast, others are made from traditional cider apples, which are more bitter and are typically not recommended for eating.
What is the History Behind Cider?
Hard cider has been around in the United States for a lot longer than you might think. Cider played a considerable role in the lives of the first English settlers. In fact, it was a favorite amongst our Founding Fathers! Although, it was typically referred to as just “cider.”
In early America, apple orchards flourished while barley and grains struggled, and thus, cider was the top drink instead of beer. Not only this but water at this time was often contaminated with dangerous bacteria, so the alcohol in cider became preferred as it was more sanitary to drink. Even children drank a diluted form of cider with low levels of alcohol, called Ciderkin.
In the late 1800s, cider began to decline in popularity for multiple reasons, including a growing popularity of beer thanks to Europeans and the Industrial Revolution causing more people to move from the farms to the city. The most significant blow, however, was the prohibition law that came into effect in 1919. Once prohibition was implemented, prohibitionists made sure cider apple orchards were either chopped or burned down. Even after prohibition was repealed, most people just drank beer.
It wasn’t until 1978 when the Carter Administration legalized homebrewing that cider would begin to make its comeback. Today, cider continues to boom in popularity – with more brands coming out with their own delicious versions of hard cider seemingly every day.
How is Hard Cider Made?
The process behind making hard cider is quite complex. Depending on the product, the process can take anywhere between three months and three years. The process first begins with — you guessed it — harvesting the apples. Hard cider can be made from any apple or fruit; however, as noted earlier, there is a specific type of apple that is preferred when making cider that is typically too bitter for eating.
The apples are then deep-cleaned, ground down, and turned into pulp, also known as pomace. The pomace is then put into layers and squeezed to extract as much liquid as possible.
The liquid is then brought to a temperature of around 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. It is then allowed to go through the fermentation process naturally – which takes a lot longer but preserves the overall flavor and aroma. On the other hand, some cideries may choose to have the natural yeasts killed off, and other yeast is then added. At this point, the yeast converts the sugar into alcohol.
The cider is then moved into a new vat to eliminate all of the built-up yeast, a process known as racking. The fermentation process then creates carbon dioxide with the remaining sugars. At this point, it is up to the cidery whether they want to exhaust the fermentation process for a still cider, or they can choose to bottle it at a designated time to allow for some natural carbonation. Typically, most cideries will enable the cider to become completely dry, where they then go back and add their own sugars to sweeten it.
What is the Best Way to Enjoy Hard Cider?
In order to enjoy it to the absolute most, hard cider is best served in a chilled glass. However, make sure it’s not too cold. Similar to white wine, hard cider should be served at roughly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you serve the hard cider too cold, you won’t fully taste all of the complex flavors. In addition, a large bowl-like glass with a stem is preferred, such as a wine glass, so you can fully enjoy the enticing aromas and flavors the hard cider has to offer. Not only this, but the stem prevents your hands from warming up the cider.
Hard cider is also great paired with food, such as chicken, pork, and salad. If you’re serving hard cider with an entree, it is recommended that you pair it with a dryer cider. If you’re serving hard cider alongside a dessert, it’s best to compliment those flavors with a sweeter cider.
What are the Best Hard Ciders to Try?
Nothing pairs better with your favorite fall activities than a refreshingly cool glass of hard cider. However, you may feel overwhelmed in choosing one to start with. There are many hard ciders brands to choose from, each containing their own unique aromas and flavors. To help you choose, here are our narrowed-down favorites that you can try to kick off the fall season:
- Blake’s Triple Jam Hard Cider – Made in Michigan, this delicious cider is available nationwide. You won’t be able to get enough of the delicious burst of strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries that this semi-sweet cider has to offer. ABV: 6.5%
- Stella Artois Cider– Stella Artois offers their own dry cider that provides just the right amount of subtle sweetness. ABV: 4.5%
- Angry Orchard Crisp Hard Cider -From one of the best-known cider brands, this hard cider offers a crisp yet lighter flavor. ABV: 5%
- Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider – Made in the oldest brewery in Yorkshire, England, this traditional hard cider features a tart apple flavor with flowery aromatics. ABV: 5%
- Crispin Rose Hard Cider – This tasty California cider features notes of apples, pears, rose petals, and hibiscus. ABV: 5%
These are just a handful of the hard ciders currency available on the market. Whichever you decide to choose, always be sure to drink responsibly.
Final Thoughts on the Different Types of Hard Cider
Sipping on a cool and crisp glass of hard cider is an excellent way to welcome the Fall season. Now that you know a little bit more about the different types of hard cider, the rich history of cider, the best way to enjoy cider, and where you can find the best ciders, you’re ready to start tasting!
If you would like to try all of the different types of hard cider, we highly recommend checking out a Cider of the Month Club!