How ’bout them apples?

This article was originally published in September 2014

Cider is now featured on almost every menu in town, thanks in part to how well it works as a gluten-free replacement for beer. As its popularity continues to soar, it’s getting trickier to understand what’s available, thanks to ever more styles and packaging options.

Half of our bestselling ciders are in cans, and the other half in bottles. This relates slightly to price: Cans are sometimes a better value. However, you might taste the aluminum unless you pour them into a glass. Selecting a can or bottle simply boils down to personal choice.

Discerning the level of sweetness can be hard without tasting. Mass market ciders use apple concentrate, sugar (sometimes high fructose corn syrup [HFCS]), water and preservatives like potassium metabisulfite; these beverages are labeled cider although they’re more akin to soda with alcohol. In comparison, ciders from France and Spain are made with traditional apple varietals and techniques that express their region. Most ciders at PCC are from the Pacific Northwest and fall between these two extremes, but even those labeled “sweet” won’t be anywhere near as sweet as the soda-as-cider brands. And, you’ll never find HFCS or artificial preservatives on our shelves.

Additionally, three unusual styles are becoming more common. Hopped cider combines fresh hops and a base cider for a drink much like a light IPA. You’ll also spot “barrel aged” options. Borrowed from winemaking, this gives the cider rich, smoky undertones along the lines of bourbon. Northwestern cideries love experimenting with fruit other than apples — you’ll find black currant, apricot, cherry, pear and pumpkin cider, among others. These use real fruit for their flavor, and will be sweet or tart as appropriate to their source.

Seattle Cider Co. Dry

Our bestselling cider, this handsome can contains clean, crisp cider that accomplishes the trick of being highly drinkable with anything from a blue cheese burger to prime rib. It’s as local as it gets, made in SoDo from fresh-pressed Washington apples.

Anthem Hops

Using Oregon-grown Cascade hops and Northwest apples, this light cider has a dry, floral flavor that is closer to a lager than a straight apple cider. Try with roast chicken or as a refreshing gluten-free substitute for your favorite IPA.

Basa Jaun

A little musky, a little tart, this subtle, wonderfully effervescent cider stands apart from typically still Basque ciders and is a blissful introduction to the possibilities of traditional styles. Enjoy with a charcuterie plate and your favorite Gouda.

Finnriver Black Currant Lavender

Finnriver is an expert at blending fruits into its ciders, offering a fresh seasonal blend five times each year. The lavender plays a cameo role, delicately rounding off the sweet-tart simplicity of black currant. It’s lovely with any fresh, green salad.

Schilling Oak Aged

If this were a beer, it would be an amber. Barrel aging makes it mellow, with a touch of smoky, buttery sweetness. Serve with barbecued ribs or just enjoy it with your next plate of mac ‘n cheese.

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