The Cider Press Taste Test: Canned Ciders

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[Photos: Christopher Lehault]

There are few things more refreshing on a hot summer day than a crisp, tart cider. And while our favorite bottled ciders are perfect for a beach house lunch, there are some places where glass bottles are just not welcome. Canned cider has been a standard at the outdoor festivals and campgrounds of England for years. These ciders are straightforward, uncomplicated beverages, often opting for apple juice concentrates and additives instead of complex blends of bittersharp and bittersweet apples we find in bottled ciders.

Unpretentious and refreshing, canned ciders should be drunk ice cold, preferably with a group of friends, during the hot summer months. As the thermostat hit 90º this past weekend in NYC, we scoured the shelves and came back with four canned ciders to test out for your next camping or boating trip.

We chilled our ciders down and cracked them open in hopes of crisp refreshment. But for the most part, these canned ciders left a lot to be desired. Most were made from an amalgamation of concentrated juice, added sweeteners, and additional acids to mimic cider character. Those looking for earthy flavors and tart acidity will be disappointed. But if you're just looking for a refreshing beverage on a hot camping trip, these will do just fine, especially if you pick from the top of the list.

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Crispin Brownlane (3.75/5)
While Crispin is an American cider brand, their Brownslane cider is imported straight from England. The main draw here is the use of bittersweet cider apples which impart a bit of complex, earthy flavor. The added sugar imparts a distinct, caramelized character that may be off-putting to dry cider drinkers but is pleasing to those who prefer their ciders on the sweeter side.

Strongbow (3/5)
The world's best-selling cider, Strongbow scored points for both its distinct dryness as well as a profound Granny Smith apple character. Ice cold, Strongbow is incredibly drinkable, but as it warms, the added sugar pushes the flavor from tasting like fresh apple to something that resembles a green-apple Lifesaver.

Williams's Sir Perry (2/5)
The only perry in our tasting, William's Sir Perry comes from the same producer as Blackthorn. While most perries are delicate, we found Sir Perry to be a bit abrasive. There is a pronounced pear flavor but there is also a sharp tartness contrasted by notes of confectioner's sugar and ashy undertones.

Blackthorn (1/5)
Ashy, candied, and tart, Blackthorn cider tasted more like drinking green Pixie Stix than a can of cider. Even ice cold, there were pronounced notes of stale tobacco and table sugar masked by a chemical, acidic note. Blackthorn is a popular cider worldwide—we are hoping that we simply purchased an off can. Regardless, I am inclined to think that, even if a fresher sampling were available, you'd be better off with one of the ciders above.

About the author: Christopher Lehault is a New Jersey-based cider journalist, craft beer documentarian, and home brewer. Follow his cider adventures on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

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