Disclaimer: Ciders never used to appeal to me. Given that there was anything else available on tap or in a bottle, I would have chosen it over any kind of cider. But that may be changing. This is the third cider in a row that I've tasted and can't stop raving about (you'll find the others here and here).
Stella Artois Cidre
Stella Artois' Cidre (not a misspelling) is a crisp, fruity burst of sunlight. But you shouldn't be surprised. The Artois brewery has been making outstanding beer in Leuven, Belgium since the 1700s. While their flagship pilsner, Stella Artois, may be looked down upon in the UK (where it's derogatorily referred to as "wife beater"), here in the U.S. it still maintains its reputation as an elegant import, best served ice cold.
Stella makes two ciders: this hand-picked apple cider, and a pear cider. But I have yet to see the pear cider on a shelf anywhere. If anyone knows where to buy it, please leave a comment.
Traditionally, cider makers are competing with beer breweries, providing a gluten free alternative to grain based beverages. But while Stella cider can hold its own against any beer you want to match it with, its crisp and airy mouth feel easily crosses the line to match up against champagnes and white wines as well. And this is intentional. When formulating the recipe they would use to break into the burgeoning global cider market, Stella boldly decided to aim at white wine drinkers. So says Adam Oakley, a VP at Amheiser-Busch InBev, the corporate conglamorate that owns Stella Artois (1).
Although marketed as a Belgian cider, the Stella you'll buy in the U.S. is actually made from American apples in Baldwinsville, New York, not far from Lake Ontario. I would love to get my hands on a bottle created in Europe for a blind testing. Again, if you know where to find one, leave me a note at the bottom of this article.
Nose: Crisp and sweet, with a "pop" like a champagne. Mild fruity characteristics.
Taste: Sips are light and airy, filling the mouth with fruity bubbles. Apple (goes without saying), peach. Unlike most hard ciders, Stella is not overly sweet. Think champagne, not apple juice.
Recommendation: Run to your local Ralphs, Kroger, Marsh or liquor store and pick yourself up a 6-pack. Stella Cidre seems to come and go from shelves around here. So when you see it, do not hesitate. Buy it.