Blue Mountain Cherry Cider
Tieton Cider Works Cherry Cider
Original Sin Cherry Tree Cider
If there is one staple that just about every American cider maker produces besides good, old "cider," it has to be cherry cider. I would like to believe that there was some divine intervention by the goddess Pomona to inspire such a blend but, realistically, it is most likely the result of local availability. Most cherries are grown in temperate regions, with the Pacific Northwest, Michigan, and (to a much lesser extent) the Hudson Valley producing the bulk of the country's cherries. Notice a similarity between cherry growing regions and apple ones? Exactly.
But geographical conveniences aside, there is still something incredibly satisfying about cherry cider. The acidity of a well made cider can elevate common sweet cherries from bland to brilliant, while cider's complexity and tannic structure can give weight to tart cherries and bring out their flavor. For me, cherry ciders are a way to extend the delicious taste of too-short cherry growing season well into the fall where these ciders make an ideal pairing for the richer dishes and sturdier herbs that I forgot once summer vegetables started to appear at the local farmstand.
The flavor profile of cherry cider can vary greatly; each cider maker has the opportunity to showcase their own interpretation of the pairing. We sampled several cherry ciders from around the country to find some favorites to recommend.
Refined Cherry Ciders
These easy drinking ciders walk the line between cherry flavors and cider notes but are still distinctly cider-forward. In general, they are off-dry to medium dry, and delicious with fall salads, roast chicken, or anywhere that a bit of acidity will cut through a rich sauce.
Robinette's Apple Haus & Winery Apple Cherry Hard Cider Grand Rapids, Michigan, 6.8% ABV Robinette's Apple Cherry Hard Cider is one of the lightest that we tried and that refreshing character also makes it one of the most versatile. It is a cider foremost with clean, tart apple flavors, a bit of citrus, and just a hint of cherry. The cherry here is more complex than we found in other ciders with notes not just of the fruit, but also of cherry stone and maraschino liqueur. This is our go-to choice on on a hot day.
Original Sin Cherry Tree Cider New York, NY (with apples and cherries from Milton Freewater, Oregon), 6.7% ABV Cherry Tree is one lip-smacking cider with big, luscious fruit flavors. It is led by a dominant sour cherry character you'll also be reminded of strawberries, rhubarb, and tart, red apples. The medium-dryness keeps everything in check and makes this cider work with main courses as well as on its own. The best choice for someone looking for a lot of "cherry" in an easy-going cider.
Blue Mountain Cherry Cider Milton Freewater, Oregon, 6.25% ABV
Our favorite. This is the ideal cherry cider for real cider lovers. The tart cherry flavor is defined and forceful but there is also a prominent apple character that adds to both the complexity and the drinkability. This is a bit drier than the other rich cherry ciders and we would easily open a second bottle after finishing the first.
Anthem Cherry Salem, Oregon, 5.5% ABV (not pictured) Anthem Cherry cider takes a more easy-going approach than any of the other ciders we tried. The flavor is straight forward; tart cherries alongside flavors that will remind you of fresh Granny Smiths; but that is what makes it so enjoyable. This is a cider that you can reach for without having to think too much, but don't be surprised if your friends quickly finish off the bottle.
These are cherry-forward ciders where the apple character is mostly in the structure and acidity rather than the flavor. These ciders pair best with pork dishes or hard cheeses. They do wonders embracing the richness of avocados and anywhere that you want the cider to be the star.
Tieton Cider Works Cherry Cider Tieton, Washington, 6.9% ABV Of the sweeter cherry ciders that we tried, this was the clear favorite. For me, this is right where a full bodied, cherry cider should be. It is big on fresh cherry flavor with the apples providing acidity, structure, and tannins rather than strong flavors. The finish is clean with spicy clove notes. I wish there was a bit more carbonation to off-set the full body but that should not stop you from seeking this bottle out. (Click here to learn more about Tieton Cider Works in our interview with original cider maker, Cindy Richter.)
Northville Winery Crimson Dew Northville, Michigan, 6.5% ABV We tried Crimson Dew last year in our Michigan cider roundup and we still stand by its big, bracing flavors. If you are looking for lush, sweet cherry flavors then this is a cider for you. There is enough tartness to keep everything in check but it is definitely more for the drinker with a sweet tooth.
Bellwether Hard Cider Cherry Street Trumansburg, NY, 5.5% ABV Probably the most unfocused cider of the bunch, the Cherry Street cider starts with quality cider apples and finishes with a healthy dose of cherry. But the overall flavor is a bit too sweet and there are subtle, medicinal notes that disrupt the whole experience.
All bottles except the Bellwether were press samples provided for review consideration.