the fastest growing alcoholic beverage category? Craft beer? Boutique
wines? Artisan cocktails?
Answer: none of
the above. The fastest growing is hard cider. From 2011 to 2013, itís
tripled in production, from 9.4 million gallons to 32 million gallons.
Now, thatís still basically a drop in the bucket, as cider accounts
for less than 1 percent of all alcoholic beverages consumed, but with
this growth, thereís now a variety of exciting apple-icious
offerings to try.
To pick through
the plethora, we sat down with Kaleb Schwecke, who works as the beer
marketing director for Rayís Wine and Spirits.
Apple Ciderís Steeltown Anniversary Cider: This limited release
ages the apple cider in five different kinds of bourbon barrels, and
the resulting blend offers flavors of bourbon, vanilla and a touch of
Orchard Oak Aged Brut Cider: "The soft vanilla balances out
the sweetness of the apples, and they use a really dry champagne yeast
so itís effervescent and bubbly. Itís a good champagne
alternative," says Schwecke. Schwecke also recommends visiting
Island Orchardís tasting room to try the dry hop cider, which is
only sold there.
Bite Hard Cider: This Sonoma County cider also uses a brut
champagne yeast, and the resulting cider is clean, crisp and dry.
Because it comes in a four-pack of cans, itís easy to take
backpacking or picnicking, Schwecke says.
Hard Cider from Oliver Winery: This Indiana-based winemaker
produces a delicately bubbled delicious hard cider, and at 9 percent
alcohol, itís a bit more potent. The winemaker recently redesigned
his packaging, and the new bottle is both humorous and irreverent.
"This cider is crisp, clean and delicious," Schwecke says.
Wineryís Barn Swallow Cider: "AeppelTreow makes some great
ciders," says Schwecke. This Burlington winery makes a variety of
apple ciders and apple wines ó according to owner and cidermaker
Charles McGonagal, "thereís not a hard and clear distinction
between apple wine and hard apple cider" ó but the most popular
AeppelTreow cider youíll find in the Milwaukee area is its Barn
Swallow hard cider made from green apples. Itís semi-dry, with just
a hint of apple blossom flavor. Though Rayís doesnít sell this,
youíll find Barn Swallow at Beans & Barley, Goodkind, Braise and
many other places. When AppelTreow opens for the season in May, try
their Appley Doux sparkling cider, made through the champagne method
of aging. "It has soft, fine bubbles," says McGonagal.