How ‘Bout Them Apples

by Eric Griffith and Mimi Griffith

I know what you’re thinking…”Real men don’t drink cider!”  But you would be wrong.  In fact most men, including our founding fathers, drank plenty of cider during the American Revolution and beyond.  These men were not hiding in their homes sipping the tart stuff; they were out in masses at pubs across the colonies imbibing together while plotting to break free from the Brits.  Benjamin Franklin is credited with the quote, “He that drinks his cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone.”  So hide no more you cider drinkers as tonight is your night.

Dictonary.com defines cider as: the juice pressed from apples used for drinking, either before fermentation (sweet cider) or after fermentation (hard cider), or for making applejack, vinegar, etc.  Lucky for us, we get to try the “hard cider” variety tonight.

Cider School

Derek Bean, Area Sales Manger for Crispin Cider Company, turned beer school into cider school for the evening, and brought four different samples to help us understand the finer points of these apple-based libations.   Launched in 2008 out of Minnesota, Crispin Cider Company is focused on pure apple juice and does not add extra sugar or colorants to their ciders.  The result is a cider that is much more natural in taste and not as sugary sweet as other commercial ciders.  In 2010 Crispin acquired the award-winning Fox Barrel Cider Company of California.  Tonight Derek presented two ciders from each company and suggested to serve the cider over ice and drink with an open mind.

While cider is often presented in six-packs like beer, it is actually more closely related to wine because of the lack of malts and hops and the yeast strains it shares with white wine.  So gather a few of your wine-loving friends and compromise with a round of ciders.

Crispin Original

He says- The Original is clear in appearance with a faint yellow color.  The smell is apple, but is not overwhelming.  Good carbonation creates a very crisp finish.  The flavor is most intense on the front and middle part of the tongue.  The apple is extremely natural and I almost taste the core and seeds in the cider.

She says- I didn’t know what to expect from ciders.  I’ve maybe tasted one or two along the way but that’s it.  The original is very light in color and clear.  It coated the glass in bubbles.  Right away I got a sweet white wine scent.  It reminded me of my early drinking college days when we would go to a Missouri vineyard and would be offered one sweet wine after the other.  My first taste was intensely sweet and tart, and to be honest it made me squint.

Crispin Brut

He says- The Brut appears the same in the glass as the original with faint yellow  color and plenty of bubbles.  This cider feels much dryer in the mouth and is not as sweet as the original.  Less cloying than the original and the experience is more about the mouthfeel than the taste.  If you like the dryness of champagne then you should enjoy this cider.  I liked it better than the Original.

She says- Also light in color, this one was very dry on the tongue much like a champagne.  I easily picked up on the white wine notes.  We learned that white wine yeast is used in the production of the Crispin ciders and they really do remind you of a fruity white wine.  Now I will say that not long after college my palette changed and when it comes to wines I stopped drinking white and moved to only reds.  It has probably been at least twenty years since I’ve had even half a glass of a white wine.  If you’re a white wine lover, then you’ll probably really like this cider on a hot summer day.

Fox Barrel Black Currant

He says- The color reminded me of watermelon juice.  Not as bubbly as the  Crispin, but still carbonated.  Not much to offer on the nose, but some berry aroma.  The cider was more like juice because of the lower carbonation.  The berry flavor was muted in the tasted, but strong enough to cut down the tartness level.  This reminds of the apple juice I drank as a kid.  Goes down very easy and at 5.5% could get you in trouble.

She says- After the first two samples being so similar to white wine, and me not being a white wine lover I was even more skeptical when they poured this one!  It was rose in color and it reminded me of a bad experience with a bottle of Lancers many years ago.   This one was a little bit better to me but still very tart.

Fox Barrel Pear Cider 

He says- Darker in color than the Crispin samples, but nice and bubbly.  This has a nice dry mouthfeel, but still flavorful.  Pear can be a hard flavor to identify for me so I am not sure I would notice the pear flavor without the label information, but I do like the taste and the fact that it is a little mellower makes it more drinkable.

She says- This one was my favorite of the night!  To me, it was not nearly as “sharp” as the previous ones.  I love a good juicy ripe pear in the fall and the pear flavor in this was solid.  I could see drinking this poolside in the summer.  It was refreshing without the overt tartness.  It felt very clean and light.

Mimi’s Last Sip

I’d be interested in trying the Fox Barrel Mulling Cider Derek mentioned.  Also I couldn’t help wondering if any of these ciders could be used in cooking.  Perhaps you could do something with the Brut in a white fish dish, or the Black Currant in a pork tenderloin dish.  When I explored the Crispin web site they do have a list of recipes using their ciders so I wasn’t far off.  I could also see them being paired with artisanal cheeses on a crisp fall day.   It was fun to explore a facet of adult beverages I wasn’t familiar with.

Here is a great video about Crispin founder Joe Heron and his approach to marketing

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wA18rjJpuQ&NR=1]

Husband and wife Eric and Mimi have been attending beer school for about a year now and love every minute of it. Mimi was born and raised in St. Louis. Besides sitting down with a fabulous pint of beer, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her horse. Eric was born and raised in Texas. He enjoys sports and searching for the next great beer. A search he says he has been on for five years and one that will certainly never end. Mimi, on the other hand, just realized beer actually has flavor about a year ago. After having moved away for a few years, in 2007, this happy couple moved back to St. Louis and is enjoying all the St. Louis beer scene has to offer, especially Cicero’s Beer School. Cicero’s is lucky to have such an enthusiastic couple writing the beer school blog!


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