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’Tis the Season for a Cider … or Two

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And so it was that Littlebit came down from atop the mountain and said unto me: "Verily, Father, I really haven't the taste for beer, so I'll have an apple cider." Or words to that effect.

Sewanee has wrapped up a very nearly plague-free semester and sent its charges home to take their exams. Judging by some of the Instagram feeds, exactly how they stayed very nearly plague-free is God's own private mystery, but here we are.

At any rate, that's how I found myself hoisting a pair of Woodchuck amber ciders with the gal.

In wines and champagne, I tend toward the dry side of things, so Woodchuck amber was a little sweeter than I'm used to, but it's crisp enough that I don't mind it. What's more, apple cider fits the environment, which really is half the battle when you're stepping out of the usual well-worn habits and trying something different.

No bad apple — Lakeland’s Long Road Cider makes a stiff drink with Pommaux.
  • No bad apple — Lakeland’s Long Road Cider makes a stiff drink with Pommaux.

It's fall — sure it's about to be winter, but it's going to keep feeling like fall until January. The leaves are still turning is what I'm getting at here, and that always provokes a rash of almost historical Johnny Appleseed pieces on the Sunday-morning shows. Which is where I learned that until prohibition the vast majority of apple production in the United States was for booze, not the heart-healthy, keeps-the-doctor-away varieties of the fruit we cram down our children's throats.

This was always a struggle with Littlebit, who didn't like apples — until now. So for the craft beer set sneering at the cider, this isn't a new fad but a tremendous patriotic backflip of a century and a half.

I'm glad she suggested it because I forgot how much I like the stuff. It doesn't have a foamy collar like a beer, but there is enough fizz to give it a little bite, which is what makes cider so refreshing. It goes down pretty easy, and to judge by the way I outpaced Littlebit, a little too easy. Not the sort of example I need to be setting.

Now that we've launched ourselves into the eatin' season, it's good to know that cider pairs well with roasty fall dishes — and you'd be hard-pressed to find a better beer to quaff with a roast turkey or a grilled chicken than a crisp, well-made apple cider.

Woodchuck is made in Vermont — and they seem like the sort to be good at this kind of thing. For a more local option, there is the Long Road Cider Company located in Lakeland, also available around town if you don't want to make the trip. Besides, some of their ciders pack a wallop, so the return trip from out there can get swirly. They also have a 19-proof hard cider called Pommaux that isn't exactly liquor — but it is great for making an interesting twist on the Wassail-type hot-spiced holiday mug. True, it rarely gets cold enough to require it, but it sure as hell gets damp and clammy enough.

If you want to take a six-pack home, you're better off with Nashville's Diskin Cider — which sounds suspiciously like a pecker joke. At any rate, on a recommendation I tried their Daydream Prickly Pear Rosé Cider. Well, I try my best to be positive here, and for that matter I also try not to be sexist, but ... This rosé pear cider seems to be ringing the same bell that wine coolers rang back in the '90s. The sweetness borders on Jolly Rancher territory, and pears don't have the crisp bite to counterbalance it. In short, I know what market they've targeted, and why said market likes the stuff. But I am not that market.

For the record, Littlebit recommends Bold Rock Cider, which claims both Virginia and North Carolina as home. Alas, you've got to head up into the mountains for a pour.

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