Distilled: Ciders be funky and good

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From the March 20, 2014 edition

When most (American) drinkers think of ciders, they think Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, etc. Well, we’ve been doing it wrong. Ciders, along with a handful of other things, are better executed in Europe. (Hemmingway did spend much of his adult life there.)

I digress, but ciders — and their unanticipated appeal — is the root here; as I stumbled upon a handful of these libations that far exceeded expectations. I’ve never been a cider drinker because it’s too sweet for my taste (bubble-guts inducing). But ciders aren’t beholden by sweetness.

The good people at Weiland’s Market informed me that “good cider” is created similarly to sour beers — barrel fermentation, wild yeast. Sours are some of my favorites, because I’m weird and occasionally need a sojourn from Jameson.

Three ciders — from France, Spain and England — were the test subjects. There are similarly made ciders from American producers, but are more expensive. I went with the more cost-effective veterans.

We’ll start with middle funk; Sarasola Sidra Natural from northern Spain. When the label commands you to pour with a three-foot (one-meter) distance to create proper effervescence, you should be titillated. Also, yeast floaties! The Sarasola was a beautiful combination of slightly sweet, big sour and an acidity that’s just right.

Moving on to the super funk, France has the Manoir du Kinkiz Cidre de Fouesnant. This cider ain’t no Maginot Line — no half-measures here. The head gurgles like a science experiment and a simple twist of its champagne-top cage results in an explosion and cork-dented ceiling.

The Cidre de Fouesnant is best described as the malodorous of sour beers. It’s stinky, and the most stomach-acidy thing I’ve drunk in a long while. I couldn’t have been more pleased with this, and there was still the apple sweetness coming through on the back end.

The most ’Mercan comparable, and common tasting, of the ciders was Thatcher’s Green Goblin from England; an oak-aged brew that’s dry like a proper French champagne and sweet like an Italian Asti. I wanted more oakiness, but it was decent.

Ciders can, and should, be enjoyed. Just make sure to get the right ones — from Europe.

Photo by Will Shilling