While I was doing research for the Serious Eats article, Julia ordered a Woodchuck Amber Cider and I realized it had been a long time since I'd had any cider. How long? If only I had some sort of electronic log of every beverage I've consumed in the past eight years... Ah yes, I had some cider back in 2006 and pointed out that it had been a long time since I'd had any cider. Look for my next review in 2018!
The next time I was at the grocery store I figured I'd get one of those "Build a Six Pack" things and try all the ciders. In terms of loose bottles they only had Woodchuck Amber and Crispin Original. But at least I had a baseline cider and a new one for contrast, and the color of the Crispin was tantalizing. This was also an interesting battle because Woodchuck is owned by an LLC in its native Vermont, where the company helped reintroduce hard cider to America after decades of neglect and now controls half of the market in this particular beverage. Crispin, on the other hand, was founded in Minnesota by a South African cider enthusiast, became the third biggest cider producer, and is now owned by beer powerhouse MillerCoors. So the independent is the big market leader and the smaller English-style cidery is part of the global consolidation of the brewing industry...
Woodchuck Amber Hard Cider
The classic that we all know, and found in bottle and draught form throughout the country. I've always wanted to know the varieties, but cideries tend to be pretty secretive about their apple blends. The Amber seems to dominate with reds and is rich and slightly sweet with a bit of thickness to it, like standard apple juice. Slightly sour aroma and the drink clings to your lips a bit. It was good to try it again after so long, but I'll always prefer their Granny Smith version.
Crispin Original Natural Hard Apple Cider
This one is made with a blend of red and green apples, living a lighter, crisper profile that reminds me a lot of Sauvignon Blanc. It's not as sweet as the Woodchuck and has a brighter, more refreshing character. I started craving shellfish, and I think I'm going to serve this in the future with a big batch of moules normande. I'm also really excited to try some of their wide and fascinating other ciders made in a variety of styles.
In this instance I'm going to call Crispin the winner, but have to give Woodchuck credit for bringing cider back to the nation and maintaining a standard of quality and independence over the past twenty years. It's still hot outside, so chill some cider and work a few bottles into the old beer rotation.