Fall is officially here, and what better way to celebrate the season than with some hard cider? It’s been gaining some serious popularity, continuously showing up alongside beer on menus and on draft. It’s sweet, tart, delicious, and as diverse in variety and taste as beer. Get fall festive with a few picks from Vermont on Tap’s roundup of Vermont hard ciders.
The most well-known and widely distributed Vermont cider, Woodchuck is at the top of the list for any cider lover. To kick off the season, the Fall Limited Release is always a classic with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. But Woodchuck also has Private Reserves, Farmhouse Selects, and their Cellar Series to mix it up. For the adventurous cider drinker, I’d recommend the Barrel Select–crisp apple cider paired with smoky Kentucky Bourbon. Look forward to visiting their new cidery some time in spring 2014.
Citizen is becoming a staple on Vermont beer menus and is starting to become almost as prevalent as Woodchuck in local restaurants despite only being founded in 2011. When the three guys who started Citizen Cider cranked out their first 5,000 gallons, people couldn’t get enough. It was so popular that production is now up to 20,000 gallons! They have some of the more unique ciders you’ll come across with varieties like bROSé (cider with blueberries), Dry-Hopped, and, my new favorite, AMERiCRAN. If you thought the flagship Unified Press was all there was to Citizen, stop by their eclectic Essex cidery for a tasting and see what you’re missing!
Harpoon Cider Series
That’s right, Harpoon actually makes 3 different types of cider, but 2 of them are difficult to come by in your regular grocery store. Besides the Harpoon Craft Cider, they also have a Honey Cider and a Pumpkin Cider. If you really want a taste of fall, go with the Pumpkin. It’s all of the quintessential fall flavors in one delicious drink.
Champlain Orchards makes a spectrum of ciders that range from beer-like to wine-like. Three different branches fall under the Champlain Orchards heading. The Pruner’s series is refreshing with fruit-forward apple taste–it’s what a typical hard cider drinker would probably expect. Then there’s their Champlain Hard Cider, which is more like an apple wine with its classier bottles and fancier flavors. Finally they have their Vermont Ice Ciders, which resemble sweet dessert wines.
Flag Hill Farm Vermont Hard Cyder
The traditional, farmhouse-style ciders from Flag Hill Farm can only be found at a select few places around Vermont, but they’re worth trying if you can get your hands on them. They offer both a still and sparkling option, both of which are aged for two years before being bottled. These are the types of ciders you could serve at a more elegant or upscale fall-themed dinner party–they’re the champagnes of hard cider.
Whetstone Ciderworks has been crafting artisanal ciders in southern Vermont since 2010, and it’s available in even fewer places than Flag Hill. It’s the kind of small family operation that makes you feel like you can taste the maker’s passion in every sip. Whetstone offers four distinct, dry ciders. For dinner on a crisp fall night, pair their Whetstone Reserve with some sharp cheddar, baguette, and apple wedges and enjoy a Vermont classic: the ploughman’s lunch.
Use your favorite Vermont hard cider to create this unbelievable mac and cheese. This loaded dish will warm you up on chilly fall nights.
Half a box of macaroni
1-2 apples, cored and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 cup Vermont hard cider of your choice
1 cup heavy cream
18 ounces Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons maple syrup (or more to taste)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat and sauté onion and apple until translucent and fairly caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside when done.
- Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat and add flour and mustard powder, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes. Add the hard cider and heavy cream and continue to stir frequently until mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
- Add cheddar and stir until melted.
- Add cooked pasta to a casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over pasta, add apples, onions, and bacon (if using), and stir gently to combine.
- In a separate bowl, add maple syrup to panko and stir to combine. Add extra maple syrup for more sweetness. Sprinkle panko over the top of the mac and cheese.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.