As is true with a lot of people, I wasn’t a big fan of beer in my early drinking days, but it was cheap and readily available, so I drank it. However, when cider came on the scene in my later college years, I was excitedly obsessed with finding the perfect cider. Woodchuck was popular and decent, but way too sweet for my taste and Strongbow was good but I didn’t like drinking from a can, so I was thrilled when I found K Cider out of the UK, which had a higher alcohol percentage and a dry, apple flavor that drew me in.
There really wasn’t anything that compared to K Cider until I moved to London and I discovered a love for Scrumpy Jack in the pubs and then Bulmers while in Dublin. After returning to the U.S., no cider was quite the same and I went on a cider hiatus for several years.
Fast forward to recent years and the cider scene has exploded, especially locally. With the U of M creating new apple varieties and orchards experimenting with ways to expand their business, we’re right in the middle of the action when it comes to local cider.
Those efforts will be celebrated during Minnesota Cider Week, June 5 to June 10 with a bunch of tap takeovers, cider dinners, cider competitions, cider trivia, and even cider flights paired with yoga. The activities all lead into the big celebration at the Minnesota Craft Cider Festival Saturday, June 10, from noon to 4 p.m. at Red River Kitchen at City House in downtown St. Paul. Tickets can be purchased here.
I was lucky to meet with a few cider makers and sample some of what is being offered next week. I was so impressed with the new cider scene and I think you will be too.
Here are a few highlights of ciders that struck my fancy:
Yellow Belly Cider – Ginger by Sapsucker Farms
This cider is ginger-forward and has a citrus finish. If you love ginger like I do, you’ll really enjoy this cider. Made with ginger grown on the farm in Mora, Minnesota, Sapsucker has found a way to expand their line of cider and make use of what they grow. I was so impressed by this cider that I can’t wait to share it with friends.
Gin Botanical Cider by Urban Forage Winery and Cider House
Urban Forage is unique in that it produces ciders (and wines and mead) from foraged fruits around the city. I was most impressed by the Gin Botanical Cider that uses spent gin spices like juniper, coriander, and orris root from Lawless Distillery that are paired with their bone-dry flagship cider. If you can’t make it to cider week events, check out their tap room when it opens in July or swing by to get a bottle for home.
Sparkling Dry by Number 12 Cider House
Number 12 Cider House offers 3 varieties of cider and my clear favorite was the Sparkling Dry, an English-style cider. There is a prominent apple flavor and a tartness from using crab apples and the cider is quite dry and effervescent. This would be an excellent celebration drink because of its similarity to champagne and would make a great gift too. While the taproom is open each weekend in the summer, I’m particularly excited for wood-fired pizzas on Sundays.
A couple other notable ciders include Purple Reign from Hoch Orchard & Gardens, which is a nod to Prince using purple raspberries and apples and thus has a beautiful purple color. Also tasty was the Alchemy from Milk & Honey Ciders, which is a magnificent sweet ice cider, perfect for special occasions or for sipping by the fire on a chilly night.
Be sure to check out the list of events for June 5 – June 10 on the MN Cider Guild website and help celebrate and support local cider makers! Can’t make it to the events or want even more cider? Be sure to attend the Minnesota Craft Cider Festival Saturday, June 10, where you can taste local, national, and international ciders and enjoy food from Red River Kitchen in St. Paul.