try perennial artisan ales cider 2015 photo by jonathan gayman

Here comes the season for cider

The season of apple picking and bonfires calls for sipping on cider. Not the sugary sweet candy versions, but one of the thoughtful artisanal varieties currently leading a hard cider renaissance. While local favorites like Schlafly Hard Apple Cider and Urban Chestnut Bushelhead have been around for years, American craft cider is going the way of natural wine and weird sour beer, with a growing emphasis on terroir, eliminating additives and natural fermentation.

According to The Side Project Cellar tasting room manager Katie Herrera, regional differences abound. French ciders are often barrel-aged and wine-like. Spanish ciders are full of Mediterranean flavors, often tasting of briny olives and the salty sea. American ciders make use of distinct apple varietals with a production approach increasingly similar to their European counterparts.

“Our approach is more of a natural fermentation, without back-sweetening, adding preservatives, things like that. And we also go pretty much low to no carbonation – we’re doing natural as opposed to forced carbonation,” said Phil Wymore, owner-brewer at Perennial Artisan Ales. Last year, Perennial released its first cider with plans to craft another later this fall or winter.

With all the hard work that goes into sourcing heirloom apples, fermenting with natural yeasts, and barrel- and bottle-aging for more complex flavor and texture, there’s never been a better time to start drinking cider. Here, Herrera’s picks for some bonfire-worthy bottles and cans:

Virtue Cider

This French-style bottle from Michigan is a brut cider fermented with French yeast and aged in oak barrels. Reminiscent of Champagne, it’s crisp, tart and slightly mineral. 

$10. The Wine & Cheese Place, 9755 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.962.8150

Ginger Perry
Argus Cidery

This pear cider is dry with very minimal sweetness, characterized by the spicy zip of ginger. It’s effervescent and slightly tart. The pear and ginger balance each other out, so there’s no sharp bite or lingering sourness.

6-pack: $12.25. Craft Beer Cellar, 8113 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.222.2444

Gravenstein Rosé
Seattle Cider Co.

This blush-colored beauty is made from early-season Gravenstein apples fermented and aged in petit verdot barrels from neighboring Crucible Wines. Slightly tannic, it’s like a mix of cider and rosé. Released each May, availability is limited.

$25. The Side Project Cellar, 7373 Marietta Ave., Maplewood, 314.224.5211

Michigan Brut
Virtue Cider

The apples used in this brut cider are grown along Michigan’s cider coast on Lake Michigan. It’s crisp, tart and dry with subtle citrus, yeast and oak flavors.

4-pack: $10. The Wine & Cheese Place, 9755 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.962.8150 

Argus Cidery

This is the Texas-based cidery’s plain old apple variety, which is dry with just a hint of sweetness and a big dose of effervescence. “Just like you’re biting into a fresh apple,” Herrera said.

6-pack: $12.25. Craft Beer Cellar, 8113 Maryland Ave., Clayton, 314.222.2444

Cider 2015
Perennial Artisan Ales

Perennial’s inaugural cider features a blend of Fuji, Jonathan, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples, all grown in the Midwest. It’s naturally fermented and aged in wine barrels for a year.

$15. Perennial Artisan Ales, 8125 Michigan Ave., St. Louis, 314.631.7300

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