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6 Connecticut Hard Ciders to Try

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Front row, from left: 1741 Unfiltered Hard Apple Cider (Lyman Orchards, Middlefield); Sock Hop Cider (Stafford Cidery, Stafford Springs). Back row, from left: New England Dry Cider (Yankee Cider Co., East Haddam); Fresh Blend (New England Cider Co., Wallingford); Kingston Black (Spoke + Spy Ciderworks, Middletown); Hard Cider (The Cidery at Averill Farm, Washington).

Hard cider, or just “cider” as enthusiasts call it, was once the most popular beverage in Connecticut. Most houses had apple trees and many had apple presses to produce cider. These days many in the state and across the country are rediscovering their ancestral love for the fermented fruit of the tree. Though Connecticut hasn’t caught up with its New York neighbor, a historic apple producer with a wide range of cider houses, cider makers in our state are producing cider that would make early settlers proud. To taste some local ciders, watch for the various tastings and cider-related events taking place statewide as part of the inaugural Cider Week Connecticut, Nov. 10-18 (ciderweekct.com). In the meantime, here are some of our favorites.

Kingston Black - Spoke + Spy Ciderworks, Middletown

This cider house is dedicated to producing dry ciders with heirloom varieties of apples, and produces a range of high-end ciders, including some made with natural fermentation. One standout so far is the Kingston Black, named for the bittersharp English variety of apple. Last year the Kingston Black won a silver medal at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, the world’s largest cider event, and a silver medal at the Big E cider competition. Perfect for the serious cider drinker, the Kingston Black lives up to its reputation. It’s not always available in the taproom, but whatever is available is worth trying in its place, as Spoke + Spy consistently offers great small-batch ciders. 860-346-2739, spokeandspy.com

Fresh Blend - New England Cider Co., Wallingford

The flagship cider from New England Cider Co. is a great introduction to hard cider. Made with a blend of dry cider and freshly pressed apple juice straight from an orchard, it is sweet enough to attract new converts to the drink but not so sweet it will scare serious cider drinkers away. It is apple-forward, eminently drinkable and refreshing. There’s a reason this is one of the most widely distributed ciders in Connecticut. 203-793-7646, newenglandcider.com

1741 Unfiltered Hard Apple Cider - Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

Named for the year Lyman Orchards started as a farm, this full-bodied, hazy cider has a refreshingly subtle sweetness matched with a hint of tartness. The result is a flavorful, easy-drinking, everyday cider that’s made for kicking back and enjoying. Packaged in Massachusetts by Stormalong Cider, but made from a Connecticut recipe, this is a cider worth seeking out. 860-266-5472, lymanorchards.com

Hard Cider - The Cidery at Averill Farm, Washington

Proudly crafted from only two ingredients, Averill’s orchard-grown heirloom apples and yeast, this traditional cider has a light appearance and powerful, tart, earthy, funky-in-a-good-way flavor reminiscent of a sour beer. Made with European apple varieties including Beden, Tremlett’s Bitter, Porter’s Perfection, Dabinett and Richelieu, it’s a drink well suited to the serious cider and apple enthusiast. 860-868-2777, averillfarm.com

New England Dry Cider - Yankee Cider Co., East Haddam

Made with a mix of McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp apples, this traditional dry cider is very low in sugar, has only a subtle apple flavor and has a light, champagne-like body. It’s the ideal choice for someone who finds many varieties of cider too sweet. Yankee Cider Co. is the sister business of Staehly Farm & Winery in East Haddam. Currently you can buy the cider at the winery tasting room, but soon the cider house will have a dedicated cider tap room and will offer a wider range of ciders, some made from heirloom varieties grown at Yankee Cider Co.’s orchard. 860-873-9774, yankeeciders.com

Sock Hop Cider - Stafford Cidery, Stafford Springs

One of the few unfortunate offshoots of the craft beer industry’s success is that it has encouraged people to put hops in everything. Cider is a frequent victim of this practice, often resulting in ciders with a bitter aftertaste accentuating the worst elements of the herb. With Sock Hop, the herbal hop flavors are emphasized, not bitterness. As a result, this cider is fun, flavorful and intriguing. Perfect for a beer lover looking to explore the cider world. 860-851-9339, crazycockcider.com


This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. Did you like what you read? You can subscribe here.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University