Best Places to Drink Cider
Urban Orchard, Asheville NC
West Asheville’s family-owned Urban Orchard Cidery serves no less than eight of their distinct cider styles on tap at any time in a tap room located just above the production floor. Sourcing apples from orchards in nearby Hendersonville, the Urban Orchard crew has experimented with nearly 50 distinct recipes since 2013. For first timers, Creative Director Jeff Anderson recommends “beginning with the sweeter options and working your way to the drier end of the scale.”
Reverend Nat’s, Portland OR
Owner Nat West describes his line of creatively flavored ciders as “cider for beer drinkers.” West’s wealth of both cider and beer knowledge (he owns the largest cider book library in Portland) puts him in a unique position to embrace beer friendly ingredients like hops and beer yeast to achieve a diverse range of complex flavors in his ciders, which tend to be less sweet than most apple based ciders.
Downeast Cider, Charlestown MA
Co-founder Ross Brockman describes trying cider for the first time to tasting different kinds of fruit. “It would be kind of absurd to make a decision on whether or not you like fruit based on a bite of [just one kind, like] a tomato.” Downeast’s emphasis on unfiltered offerings is part of a conscious effort to change how people see cider from adult apple juice to, as Brockman puts it, “the good, cloudy stuff from an orchard.”
Bushwhacker Cider, Portland OR
Laying claim to the title of Portland’s first cider pub, Bushwhacker cider started with 35 state-made ciders before expanding to its current rotating selection of over 350 bottles from around the world. For their own seasonal ciders, co-owner Erin Smith emphasizes Bushwhacker’s selection of Oregon apples and pears from Hood River and beyond as a source of purity. “We don’t like to add things like sugar," she says. "You want to make sure you can taste the apple.”
Julian Cider, Julian CA
Nestled in the Cuyamaca mountains an hour Northeast of San Diego, Julian California is a frontier mining town known as much for its history as it is for its apple pie. Julian Cider Founder Paul Thomas takes the freshness of his juice so seriously that he chills fall apple harvests to 32 degrees in nitrogen-filled vaults for use throughout the year in his lineup of fruit forward ciders, which pair freshly squeezed apple juice with ripe cherries, raspberries and blueberries without adding any sugar.
Upcider, San Francisco CA
Compared to when Upcider opened four years ago, Co-Owner Ozgun Gundogdu says, “we definitely see more enthusiastic and informed clientele.” One of the few cider centric establishments in San Francisco, Upcider’s list of nearly 300 draft and bottle selections hail from as close as Petaluma, Forestville and Sebastopol California to as far away as New Zealand. “The range is wide open. Imagine a drink that ranges from apple cider vinegar to mead-like sweetness,” says Gundogdu.
Sociable Cider Werks, Minneapolis MN
Managing Director Jim Watkins advises new cider drinkers to “look for stuff that is made nearby, that is made by hand and that is made with the highest quality ingredients.” Though these principles might seem traditional, the cidery (also a licensed brewery) is no stranger to innovation. Using gluten-free grains like sorghum to add tannin to recipes allows for creative solutions to the region’s lack of bitter apple varieties, which are usually used to achieve the same effect in cider making.
Wassail, New York NY
Wassail’s Cider Director Dan Pucci describes New York’s cider culture by saying, “It hasn't yet developed the cultural baggage of beer or wine, so those trying it for the first time can be a lot more open.” Featuring over 90 cider selections along with an inventive apple- and pear-based cocktail list, Pucci describes the overall philosophy by saying, “We want our ciders to be unique and expressive of terroir, varietal or style. The beverages on our list showcase the incredible diversity and potential of apples.”
Stem Ciders, Denver CO
Started by two apple-loving Michigan expats, Stem Cider’s impressive range of naturally occurring bold flavors are the result hard work by its founders. “We strive to rejuvenate the cider tradition by creating high quality craft ciders without adding sugar, flavor or essence,” said co-founder Eric Foster. An alluring lineup of ambitious recipes that include ciders barrel-aged in both bourbon barrels and red zinfandel casks makes a visit to their Denver taproom well worth the trip.
Argus Cidery, Austin TX
When Wes Mickel applied for the first cider license in Texas, the question of whether his dry ciders were more like wine or beer came up a lot. Sourcing a majority of apples from Texas and Arkansas—with other varietals brought in for use in special fermentation lines that produce as few as just 300 bottles—allows Mickel to press fresh juice year round. Even pineapple makes an appearance in the form of Argus’ demi-sec fermentable version of the fermented Mexican fruit wine teach.
The Northman, Chicago IL
Cider aficionado Brian Rutzen curated a menu of over 100 ciders for this Chicago cider bar, including regional collaborations with Michigan apple growers. The recipes are designed to complement food by chef Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead, as well as cider-friendly cheeses.
Lost Valley Cider Co., Milwaukee
This bottle shop and bar has more than 20 ciders on tap, most of which can be bought in 32-ounce take-home growlers, plus an extensive bottle list from around the world.
Texas Keeper, Manchaca TX
Located just outside Austin, Texas, Keeper has been bottling its small-batch ciders since 2013. Now it's pouring limited releases at a new taproom.
ANXO, Washington DC
ANXO ferments cider on-site in a Barolo wine cask. In the works: a new production facility in 2017.
Vermont's terrific Shacksbury has just the thing for the cider-loving crowd: a subscription club. Members receive shipments of three or six bottles of limited-release ciders each quarter ($55 for three bottles; $100 for six), including terroir-based passion projects from its head cider maker, released first (and sometimes exclusively) to the club.