Throwdown: The Best Hard Cider in CNY
Welcome to Throwdown, a continuing series on the best of Central New York. Past stories have compared the best pizza and wineries in CNY. In this edition of Throwdown, we take a look at CNY’s best hard cider.
Ah, fall…the favorite season of apple lovers, young and old. As the popularity of fall has continued to be commercialized (pumpkin spice everything, apple cider everything, Halloween decor sales starting in the summer…), a delicious trend has emerged: hard cider.
Sure, hard cider’s been around for ages, but when there are graduate students like yours truly trying to find new ways to get schwasty, it helps to test out local favorites in the intoxicant library.
As a former resident of Downstate New York (anybody heard of Neversink? Anybody?) and a new resident of Central New York, I’ve heard plenty of amazing things about the area’s apple orchards. Beak & Skiff, Critz Farms, Abbott Farms…the list goes on and on. Now, I love apple picking as much as the next girl, but what I really wanted to do was find an alternative to more generic, mainstream ciders like Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, or Redd’s Ale. Luckily, basically everyone’s favorite apple orchards also make everyone’s favorite hard ciders. As a self-proclaimed hard cider connoisseur, I knew I needed to answer one question: who makes the best hard cider in Central New York?
After researching the most popular apple orchards and cideries in CNY, I went cider hunting. I was familiar with almost all of the selections, besides the apple wine, but I wanted to see how the opinions of others lined up with my own. These are the five that I ended up testing out on my friends:
- Harvest Moon Cidery at Critz Farms – Four Screw hard cider with maple syrup
- Beak & Skiff – 1911 hard cider (blueberry)
- Montezuma Winery – Golden Delicious apple wine (yes, I know this isn’t technically a cider, but it’s sweet and made out of apples, and the stores that sell the cider I wanted to test were sold out)
- Beak & Skiff – 1911 hard cider (original)
- Harvest Moon Cidery at Critz Farms – Maple Moon hard cider (also with maple syrup)
Unsurprisingly, my friends and fellow graduate students jumped at the chance to take a break from our busy schedules to sample a bunch of different hard ciders and eat apple pie (oh yeah, I brought apple pie) on a Sunday evening. Six people showed up to the blind taste test: Elliot Williams, Sabrina Bernadel, Jasmine Gomez, Morgan Bulman, Stephanie Smalls, and Samantha Mendoza.
Along with taking notes on how they liked each sample, I had my six tasters rate each of their drinks with a score of zero to five apples (cute, right?). Here are some of their thoughts:
Four Screw Hard Cider w/ maple syrup:
Elliot – Needs more flavor…not too bitter, not too sweet. Score: 3 apples
Sabrina – Not super flavorful, more natural. Score: 2.5 apples
Jasmine – Good, but too sweet. 3.5 apples
Morgan – This one goes down almost too easily. I could drink it all night! Score: 4 apples
Stephanie – Not so sweet, but still drinkable. Score: 4 apples
Samantha – Not very sweet…you can’t tell that it’s cider. Score: 1.8 apples
AVERAGE: 3.1 apples
1911 Blueberry Hard Cider:
Elliot – Not the best…too sweet. 3 apples
Sabrina – Sweet, has another fruit mixed in (cranberry or raspberry?); light, not dry. 4 apples
Jasmine – I would drink it, but it’s just okay. 2.5 apples
Morgan – It’s just the right amount of tart. Not too sweet, but it gives it a differentiating bite, in a good way. 4 apples
Stephanie – Sweeter, fruitier…drinkable. 4 apples
Samantha – Tastes like grapefruit? Good aftertaste. 3. apples
Montezuma Winery’s apple wine:
Elliot – Too strong! 2 apples
Sabrina – Definitely an apple wine, very sweet. Need to sip it. 3 apples
Jasmine – (Disclaimer: Jasmine was enjoying the tasting so much, she forgot to take notes after the first two ciders) 2 apples
Morgan – This is a wine and it’s gross. Tastes like hard liquor. 1 apple
Stephanie – Tastes like liquor. 1 apple
Samantha – No comment. 1 apple
1911 Original Hard Cider:
Elliot – Tasty…just right. 4 apples
Sabrina – Sweet cider…hint of other flavor? Peach? Not as natural tasting, but still flavorful. 4 apples
Jasmine – 3 apples
Morgan – It tastes like the first one, but slightly different. It’s slightly sweeter. 3 apples
Stephanie – More citrusy than the others, a little harsh. 2 apples
Samantha – Kind of peachy. 4 apples
Maple Moon Hard Cider w/ maple syrup:
Elliot – Too sweet, just…okay. 3 apples
Sabrina – Aftertaste of something “apple-juicey”…honey? 3.5 apples
Jasmine – 1.5 apples
Morgan – This tastes like someone tried to fuse pumpkin spice lattes with cider and I’m not having it. 1 apple
Stephanie – Less carbonated, confusingly sweet; kind of smells like cough syrup. 1.5 apples
Samantha – Perfect score! 5 apples
It was a tight call between both of the 1911 ciders, but the blueberry-flavored cider is our winner. As someone who is pretty familiar with hard cider (I’m a hard cider connoisseur, remember?), I can attest to my friends’ judgment of this drink—it’s light, it’s not too sweet, and the blueberry flavor isn’t overwhelming at all.
I recommend that everyone tries all of the ciders on this list (even that apple wine), because let’s face it…good cider is good cider; local cider is even better.