At A Glance
Beer: Woodchuck Granny Smith Draft Cider
Pros: Light, spritzy, and tart–like a cold Asti Spumante!
Cons: Not every pub has ciders in the cooler
The Bottom Line: I recommend Woodchuck Granny Smith to anyone who wants a light, fruity alternative to beer and wine. This is a sophisticated yet inexpensive tipple!
Beer is beer, and wine is wine, but what the heck are we supposed to make of cider? Cider tasting might actually have more in common with wine tasting, but wine people don’t seem to want to adopt it as their own, and so it’s become something of a step-child to beer aficionados (along with mead, but that’s another story altogether…).
One of the great things about getting into cider (and perry, which is cider made from pears) is that you can find ciders that are very close in taste and appearance to champagnes and other types of wines. Some people argue that because cider is fruit juice, that it should be discussed along with wine — after all, what is cider really but a fruit wine in which apple is the fruit?? — but for whatever reason, most wine critics feel that cider is beneath their dignity while most beer critics (myself included) are perfectly happy to tip back a pint of cider every now and then. I kind of like that.
With hints of fall looming each evening, I’m starting to feel the urge to sample a few ciders along with my usual diet of stouts and dopplebocks, and so I snagged on a six of Woodchuck’s Granny Smith Cider while cruising around my local beer warehouse. Before I commence to sipping, let’s chat a bit about cider…
What To Expect In a Cider…
In a nutshell, ciders vary considerably. You have very strong ciders, and very weak ciders. You have highly processed ciders in which the cidermaker tightly controlled the original gravity, the fermentation temperatures, and then filtered the final product — and you have coarser (sometimes called “farmhouse”) ciders that are more natural, rougher, more variable drinks. You have alcohol levels of 3 percent, and you have alcohol levels of 12 percent.
One of the things that most affects how you or I perceive the cider is its balance. Is it tart or is it sweet? There is a sliding scale that British cider tasters use to help them evaluate the tartness or sweetness relative to other brands.
Ciders can be as bubbly as a champagne, or they can be as flat as a glass of tap water — and the great thing is that neither approach is “right” or “wrong”. It’s just one of the many aspects that a cidery can leverage to differentiate their ciders from the competition.
Now, without further ado, let’s pop open this bottle and take it for a test sip…
A Crisp, Light Glass of Woodchuck Cider…
Cider is usually served like beers, in tall mugs or pint glasses, but I really think the perfect glass for a pale sparkling cider is the champagne flute. That’s the glass that best presents a drink like this, so that’s what I’m using.
Very sparkling, with coarse, rough, fast-rising bubbles that form a short-lived head but that continues to tingle the tongue long into the pint. Brilliant clarity with an extremely pale yellow — almost to the point of being white — color. A very beautiful glass of cider!
Some light green apple scent, but the aroma is more subdued than I expected. There’s just a faint edge of a phenolic plastic-like note at the edge.
Mmmmm! The slightly sharp acidic bite really helps make this drink stand out as not being just another “kiddie” soda pop drink. If you like the flavor and mouthfeel of sweeter tasting sparkling wines — like Asti Spumante — then I think you’ll really enjoy a glass of the Woodchuck Granny Smith cider. It’s got the same kind of light spritzy fruit flavor, but with the distinctive green apple edge.
While this cider is unquestionably on the tart side of the marketplace, it is surprisingly mild for a varietal cider made with Granny Smith apples. I think it probably rates about a 6 on CAMRA’s 1-9 scale — not sweet, but not mouth-puckering either.
The Verdict is In:
Woodchuck Granny Smith Cider is a refreshing cider that will appeal more to people with a taste for champagnes than for beer, but it is an excellent change of pace for anyone who needs a break from the incessant barrage of mediocre (or worse) pale light lagers that are the unfortunate mainstay of most of the beer drinking world.
This cider is the kind of drink that I think I’d enjoy most with a Sunday morning brunch. I like the crisp acidity of this drink much better than I like most dry champagnes, and I think this would go perfectly with a plate of fresh fruits and melon as I sit out on the patio with a cup of strong coffee and sweet rolls. Mmmm!
For more information about the Woodchuck, visit their web site.