If you pay attention (especially to Cincy Brewcast), you know that I’m not always a huge fan of cider. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that so much of it is way too sweet for me, and just sorta tastes like… apples. However, with that being said, every once in a while I get a little glimpse into the possibility of something else – and have even found one here and there that I would say I enjoy, even.
With the recent announcement from MadTree that they are producing their own cider in-house (and from real, whole apples too… mind you) I thought it might be time to take a little peek at the state of ciders here in town. I won’t dig in too deeply, this is a beer blog after all. But… with so many breweries offering something in the cider world, I can’t keep ignoring it completely on here.
Why Is Cider Important?
Let’s set aside the strange (but obviously true) fact that not everyone likes, or always wants to drink a beer when they go out. There is a definite benefit to you, or me, as a craft beer drinker to digging into the cider pool every once in a while. Enjoying beer is often about expanding your palate as much as it is drinking the latest creation while you’re hanging out with friends. Finding flavors that you don’t often, or ever, find in beer only helps push those boundaries in your head (and on your tongue). I can’t encourage you as a beer drinker enough to always be trying new drinks and new food if only to push the flavors that you’re used to into fun new places.
So, even if you don’t find yourself falling in love with cider in the same ways that you fell in love with beer, keep drinking it from time to time. Use cider to make your beer enjoyment even better.
While they knew from day one that cider would eventually make its way onto their taps at Braxton, they didn’t know that it would take them literally years of trial and error to perfect it. Their ‘Kickback’ line of ciders, so far, consists of the standard sweet cider and a rose, which brings an extra kick of aroma and flavor and a little bit of tartness to the party. Both products are also available in packaging if you find yourself looking for something a little different the next time you’re in your favorite bottle shop.
Christian Moerlein launched their line of ciders under the OTR Cider Company flag back in 2016, and while you’ll see some fun experiments from time to time, they still hold down the fort with two offerings, a crisp apple, and a dry hopped cider. You can find them on tap at both their taprooms usually, and especially when I find myself at the lager house looking for something a little different to pair up with some food I’ll grab one from time to time. They have been available in packaging, but I haven’t seen them on shelves recently, and they might have been bumped from the lineup to draft only this year.
FigLeaf is flying under the radar too much when it comes to their cider program. Maybe it’s the lack of it in packaging on shelves around town, but I feel like people aren’t nearly aware enough about what I consider some of the best cider in town. Their Peach Impediment (you can hear us talk about this one on Cincy Brewcast Volume 4, Episode 18) is absolutely fantastic, and they make sure to brew up a pretty steady rotation of fun experiments with some other fruits too. (Their Mango #5 had a lot of people raving when it was released in the summer) – keep your eyes on these guys… they are set to do big things with Cincy cider if they decide to roll heavier with it.
So far, only releasing a couple Perrys (that a cider made with pears) on draft in their taproom – Fretboard has none-the-less dipped their toes into the game enough that they deserve a mention on this list. While I didn’t get to try their shot at it, the reviews I heard were solid and put them right in the middle of the top of the pack here in town. I’m excited to see if they focus a little harder on cider as they get the chance to settle in and stretch their wings a little bit in the coming years.
Listermann has been dabbling in the cider real for a while now, without really shifting into a low gear and focusing hard on it. With a few different fruited ciders that will pop up on tap from time to time, I’d love to see what they can do with it if they focus a little harder. It’s pretty clear that the talent that exists in those walls could do some really fun stuff in the cider realm. Nothing is in packaging right now, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future!
MadTree said as they were releasing their new 42 Mile cider that for the foreseeable future they’d just have one variety on tap, and that on tap was where you’d find it. I would LOVE to see these folks get some cider packaging out onto store shelves, and would especially love to see them start experimenting a little deeper into different flavors and how they can compliment what MadTree already does. (They have one of the most continually varied tap lists in the city.) I haven’t gotten to try theirs yet as of writing this – but it’s definitely on my list – they’ve won my almost blind trust at this point with their talent.
As of writing, March First is definitely at the top of the Cider mountain here in town (in my book) they are pumping out not just constant cider in their taproom and in packaging, but they’re always pushing themselves into new experiments that see packaging as well. From day one these guys branded themselves as a brewery/distillery and cidery – and it shows. Leaning towards the sweeter end of the spectrum (so far) they’ve done some fun collaborations with local candy companies and ice cream shops that let cider shine in a place that I had previously never seen it shine.
Queen City Brewery of Cincinnati
While again, I haven’t tried this one yet – it’s got some really loyal fans who have been giving me a lot of reasons to make a trip over to Blue Ash to give it a try. The brewery calls it ‘A Very Berry Cider’ which already sounds delicious. I assume this is another sweet one (that seems to be what this city craves) and the addition of berries to it seems natural to me. I’m curious to see what these guys are going to do in the future in the cider realm.
Rhinegeist kicked things into a new gear in Cincinnati when they released their first two “Cidergeist” releases back in 2015 and have since turned the game literally on its head with what is the best selling cider in the city (Bubbles). However… there is always a little controversy when something is popular, and purists will be quick to point out that technically, Bubbles and their other new fruited cider can called Wowie are ales. So while Rhinegeist does experiment from time to time with other flavors, “true” ciders are a little more rare for the brewery who is still the biggest cider game in town in my book.
When Sonder opened their doors this fall, they did so with an excellent cider right alongside their beers. Scarlett is a cherry cider that uses the cherry paired up with apple to create something that is decidedly different than other things you’ll find around town. The sweetness is dialed back on this, which moves it very near the top of my list – and while it’s not yet in packaging… you can bet if it makes its way there at some point it’ll make it’s way promptly into my fridge without a second’s hesitation.
Sons of Toil
It’s easy to overlook a brewery in Mt. Orab, and I have been given a little bit of flack for considering Mt. Orab as part of Cincy, but dear lord… they are doing some really fantastic stuff out there and deserve any mention that I can give them. This doesn’t end on the beer side, either – with their cider kicking some major ass too. Berries, Apples, Mangoes… it’s all part of their game, and they don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. If you like cider, it’s worth a drive out for an afternoon in their taproom just checking out what the latest creation might be.
Swine City is still one of the new guys in town – nearing their first anniversary in January… but they are planning big things – with big beers, sour beers, and cider all coming together to do something that Fairfield has been waiting for. The brewery’s ‘We Roll Thicc’ gets its fair share of fruit treatments to make sure that there is a steady rotation of fun experiments to keep your palate happy, and the base itself might just do the trick alone!
Wooden Cask has a theme that ties into the “pub culture” of times long past, and cider fits into that theme perfectly for me. They were the first place that was able to make a cider that actually got my mind thinking a little differently about what it could be for me, and have since made my all-time favorite cider that I’ve had with their wine barrel aged WC Cider – it was spectacular. As is the usual case here in Cincy, their ciders are only available on tap, so you won’t find WC Cider on any store shelves… for now?