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Cider Flight: Weathering the Season’s Apple Brews



All that Americana foolishness the wee ones are taught about Johnny Appleseed isn't entirely BS — just about 65 percent. In truth, there was a fellow named John Chapman who introduced apple trees in groves to the west — back when that meant Ohio. The fruit he was slinging around Hell's half acre, however, wasn't for wholesome snacks and pie. They were little crabby things — cider apples — best used for tying one on.

With the cooler fall weather, of course it was up to DJ, Memphis' favorite Irishman, to throw an All-American Ciderfest over at his pub, Celtic Crossing.

"It was my wife's idea," he pointed out. I feel you brother. In my house, the good ideas generally are, as well.

Sipping cider at Celtic
  • Sipping cider at Celtic

They'd had a Ciderfest last year, and along with periodic Scotch and bourbon and gin tastings, as well as World Cup-inspired beers, Celtic is a pretty good place to pop in and have something you've never tried.

"DJ," I said, "you really love a festival."

"Well, if you're going to own an Irish bar," he replied, "you'd better learn to throw a party."

In these unsettled times, there is a certain genius to that. I mean, the Irish basically colonized half the large cities east of the Mississippi without firing a shot. They drank their way in.

For Ciderfest, the weather broke the habit of a century and cooperated with very fall-like temperatures on a crisp, beautiful day. Football was on the widescreen, and pale, fizzy flights were passed around all over the place — drawn from 26 different bottled ciders, and four on draft.

The flights are a great way to go, even though DJ and I both agreed that, with our generation, a flight was a way to try something new and decide which of the four you were going to stick with on the night's epic journey to get plowed. These younger kids, though, will order flights and then more flights, sampling and tasting. According to DJ, "They want to own the experience. See all of what is out there. It's really a better way than what we did."

"Oh God, without a doubt," I think I said.

Memphis' own Long Road Cider was slinging a clean, crisp, and dry tipple called Lagerhead — which is worth the trip out there to try a pint. Of course, the big names were there, like Angry Orchard, with an unfiltered cider that tasted unfiltered, a rosé that tasted like a rosé, and an extra crisp that tasted ... Well, you get the picture. Evidently the trend of esoteric craft-brew names hasn't gripped the cider community just yet.

Then things did get creative. I'd had something that had been cleverly christened a Black & Wood earlier that week; it's a Guinness and Woodchuck cider. This concoction is the artistic love child of a traditional Black & Tan and a shandy: The whole thing gets lightened up with the cider, but it isn't as sweet as a beer doused in lemonade.

Woodchuck's Pear Cider is another off-the-wall choice. It's not what you're probably expecting: It's very good and lacks the bite of an apple cider. It goes down smooth, almost weirdly so. Mrs. M liked it, although she stuck with her Bud Light.

There was a cider-inspired food menu, but we managed to miss it, although at home I marinate pork in cider all the time, and it works beautifully. Sitting in Celtic, watching Cooper Avenue go one way then the other, we had the bacon-wrapped shrimp — which are beautifully non-greasy and will go with whatever you're drinking — and the fries. Mrs. M has strong opinions on French fries, and these were in in her top five. Although it should be pointed out that the lady has been known, from to time, to change her mind on things.

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