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The Cider Press: Tips for Pairing Fish and Cider

Pairing Fish with Hard Cider

Like that old (and often incorrect) adage that fish always tastes best with white wine, people often assume that hard cider and fish (both light in body) are always going to be a natural match. It's sometimes true, but not all ciders are the same, and there are many, many kinds (and preparations) of fish in the sea.

What about sweeter cider? And what about fried fish? Fish and hard cider both offer a wide array of flavors and textures, and a little planning in advance can improve your meal. By considering a few key factors, we can find delicious ciders to pair with everything from crab rangoon to clam chowder.

Cider and Fish Pairing Pointers

  1. Think about body: While flounder is delicate and subtle, salmon is rich and heartier. Try to match the dish's heft with the body of your cider.
  2. Consider fat: Lighter fish preparations won't bog down your tastebuds, but fried foods and creamier, richer dishes can exhaust your palate. As the fat content in your dish goes up, so should the carbonation of your cider. The added bubbles will scrape your palate clean and prepare you to try the next bite.
  3. Match Flavors: Try to bring out the flavors of the cider in your sauces and marinades, and look for ciders that share the essential flavors of your dish. Fruity, tropical ciders will complement mango salsa, while earthier ciders will be especially delicious with with mushrooms or capers. And there are few things more amazing than a bone-dry, mineral-focused cider with a dozen oysters on the half shell

Your Fish and Cider Cheat Sheet

It's hard to steer too wrong here, so don't be afraid to grab your favorite bottle the next time you sit down to everything from a clam bake to a sushi roll. In general, however, there are some suggestions that will help you flex your cider sommelier skills.

Pair the Raw Bar with Still Ciders
Raw shellfish deserves a cider that's equally crisp and unassuming, so the freshness of the seafood will shine through. Since oysters, clams, and shrimp cocktail are relatively light, we can forgo carbonation and aggressive flavors. Instead, reach for an extra-dry still cider such as Albee Hill from Eve's Cidery. This cider's concentrated mineral qualities will pair well with salt-water snacks. Just be sure to go light on the cocktail and tartar sauce—if you are a dipper then you'll need the added body of a semi-dry or off-dry cider.

Drink More Aggressive Ciders with Fried Fish
Refreshing acidity and and lively carbonation will help cut through the fat and cleanse the palate when you're eating fried seafood. While excessive sweetness should be avoided, fuller bodied ciders such as Slyboro's Hidden Star will hold up to these richer dishes. But there's no reason to get super-fancy—don't hesitate to grab a can of Crispin Brownlane to knock back with your next order of fish and chips.

Pick French Cider for Sushi Night
While wasabi lovers will prefer an extra dry, sparkling cider to cut the heat, French cider—such as our beloved Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie—works wonders with everything from tobiko to tuna rolls. The slight sweetness and earthy character will enhance umami.

Saucy Preparations Need Semi-Dry Ciders
Semi-dry cider is sort of the bulletproof choice in cider pairing. It has enough body to hold up to everything from flaky fish in light cream sauce to curry shrimp and noodles. West Country's Reine de Pomme is an incredibly versatile option. If you're on the west coast, go with something from Tieton Cider Works. In general, if you're ordering a variety of seafood dishes and any of them have rich sauces, then semi-dry is the way to go.

Do you drink hard cider with fish? Got any favorite pairings?

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.

More Cider Pairing Tips

The Best Cider to Pair with Pizza »
Pairing Cider and Cheese »

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