Every Fall, my wife and I make our way up from the crowded streets of Los Angeles to the rustic mountain region known as Oak Glen. Only about an hour and a half directly east of downtown, the change in scenery is drastic as you drive up to Oak Glen's 4,700 foot elevation from the flat plain of San Bernardino County. Palm trees, scrub brush and desert give way to oak and pine on the windy mountain road, and you know you have arrived when you begin to see signs for apple orchards, cider mills, and seasonal harvest festivals.
Remember these mouth-puckering candy apple delights?
Sure, inevitably the candy would sharpen itself into a mouth-mutilating blade. But despite the pain, as chewy caramel comingled with sweet apple, it was pure bliss.
Johnny Appleseed hard apple cider is an adult version of the the caramel apple candy. In fact, this cider is so candy-like it has more common with a cocktail than it does dry ciders.
Johnny Appleseed is American made. It's a subsidiary of Amhauser-Busch, and crafted in Baldwinsville, New York... the same place Stella's Cidre is sourced from. I sampled this cider on draft. But A-B recommends it on the rocks, again pointing to its cocktailish nature.
Johnny Appleseed Hard Apple Cider
Nose: Sour apples
Taste: Caramel apple suckers + alcohol
Recommendation: This is the perfect cider for people who love sweet drinks, but if dry ciders are your thing, you'll want to look elsewhere.
About the brewery: Sonoma's aim is to make better cider and elevate the craft. And with The Anvil, they've done it. The brewery is located in Healdsburg, CA, in the heart of Sonoma County, just north of San Francisco. Their ciders are available on tap in select markets, but the bottles can be found in 25 states. Oh, and did I mention that everything they do is organic?
Sonoma Organic Cider: The Anvil
Nose: Sassafras and Jack Daniels.
Taste: Tennessee whiskey in a cider body. The crunchy, hollow texture usually found in a cider is gone- it is overwhelmed and filled by the bourbon notes, followed by Sassafras and a mild sweetness. I tried this alongside a Blackthorn cider; Anvil is darker and heavier, more like a Scottish ale.
Recommendation: Buy and try! This is not the typical cider for cider lovers only. If you like bourbon, if you like bourbon aged beers, you will like this cider.
Woodchuck Hard Cider Hopsation
You don't typically think of cider and hops as being a good combination. In fact, prior to seeing Woodchuck Hopsation at Trader Joe's, I had never even considered apple and hops as complimentary flavors.
The first Woodchuck cider was handcrafted in 1991 at a small Vermont winery that previously specialized in Apple wine. By 2007, Woodchuck had become the first American cider to sell more than 1,000,000 bottles, and if you ask for a cider at most pubs or restaurants today, it's still the most widely available option.
Woodchuck goes above and beyond when it comes to sustainability. They get power from the sun, and... wait for it... this is pretty special... cow dung. Yep, this delicious cider is made with manure. Check it out: Green Mountain Power. It's pretty cool.
For more information on the history of cider, check out this humorous timeline. Or to learn how hard cider is made, visit this link. Scroll down to read my review right underneath this picture.
Nose: Spicy citrus, tart, sour apple Jolly Rancher.