Alcoholic cider has become a hot trend, with a load of options on shelves and draft lists. The problem here - which ones are actually good and which ones are merely saccharine ciders - is tough to figure out. Well, here's an easy cheat sheet: Virtue has some of the best ciders on the market.

Alcoholic cider has become a hot trend, with a load of options on shelves and draft lists. The problem here — which ones are actually good and which ones are merely saccharine ciders — is tough to figure out. Well, here’s an easy cheat sheet: Virtue has some of the best ciders on the market.

Virtue was founded in 2011 by former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall, a well-respected brewer. Hall’s fine-tuned palate led him to create cider recipes based off traditional methods used in Europe for hundreds of years. The result is a line of ciders that tastes nothing like the Woodchuck dreck you’ll find in big-box grocery stores.

The first Virtue cider I tried was on draft at Condado Tacos in the Short North, and it was quite excellent. But since I only had a sip of someone else’s, I knew further investigation was needed. So I sampled one of Virtue’s Estate Series ciders, using apples (a mix of early season, highly acidic ones) from Nichols Farm & Orchard in Marengo, Illinois. Virtue has its own farm, but uses apples from outside orchards for the Estate Series.

The Nichols Farm & Orchard Virtue is a light, tart cider with some prevalent notes of funky acidity. It’s basically what would happen if a sour beer and a cider had a baby, which is appropriate given Virtue’s open fermentation production methods. Those looking for some apple-y sweet flavor need not apply. There is some sweetness here, but it’s more of a complement to the sourness rather than a balance.

Where this Virtue cider truly excels is in its refreshing body — big effervescence — that is followed by the more complex funk and floral flavors. This is an easily sessionable libation that also has an exciting flavor profile.

My lone quibble is you have to be in the mood for this Virtue cider — but you could say that about most drinks, I guess — given the sharp tartness. Since the weather is warming, I’ve been in the mood for more ciders, especially ones as well-executed as Virtue’s.

photo courtesy of Virtue