A man, even a beer geek like me, canít live on beer alone. Thatís why, when I just need something different, I grab a cider.
Like craft beer, cider has undergone a huge transformation over the last year, with small, artisanal cider makers opening up throughout the country. It is no longer just mass-produced ciders such as Woodchuck or Strongbow.
Instead, the ciders being produced today are some of the most flavorful and best-tasting alcoholic beverages that you will ever have the chance to taste. And a bonus for all those who canít ingest gluten: All ciders are gluten-free.
New England is home to some of the best cider makers in the country. My favorite is the Downeast Cider House, which recently relocated from Maine to Johnny Appleseedís hometown of Leominster, Mass. They currently produce one cider, which is available in cans.
This cider just screams New England. When you walk into an apple orchard and smell the air, you pick up the aroma of fresh local apples. Thatís exactly what Downeast Cider tastes like. It is hard not to like.
Another top-notch Massachusettsís cider is Bantam Cider, based in Cambridge. Bantamís Wunderkind, a crisp cider with touches of honey on the palate, is wonderful.
Another excellent cider to look for is Farnum Hills Ciders at the Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, N.H.
Farnum Hills makes the biggest variety of ciders in New England, using a combination of American, English and French apple varieties. This results in extremely complex ciders.
They have several sparkling ciders (carbonated), such as the Farnum Hill Semi-Dry and the Farnum Hill Summer Cider. They also have several still (non-carbonated) ciders, which reminds me more of a wine. The Farnum Hill Kingston Black is worth seeking out.
Another winning cider is the Fatty Bampkins Cider from South Casco, Maine. The brewers of Fatty Bampkins Cider, both the regular and the dry, borrow some of their methods from the craft beer world, fermenting their ciders in bourbon and rye barrels, giving them a slightly boozy flavor.
Even some New England breweries are getting in on the action. The Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams beers, and the Harpoon Brewery both brew ciders.
Harpoonís Angry Orchard Hard Ciders, in particular, are winners. They brew three year-round ciders Ė Crisp Apple, Traditional Dry and the Apple Ginger Ė all really good ciders.
They also recently released the Cider House Collection Ė two high-octane ciders that are made with French and Italian apples. The Iceman and the Strawman are both 10 percent alcohol by volume and are worth seeking out.
The Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton makes more than wine. Along with wine and beer, Nashoba makes the New English Cider. It is crisp and fresh tasting, which makes sense since they use apples grown on their own orchard. The cider is only available on-site, so if you are there, pick some up.
Page 2 of 2 - These are a good representation of ciders to get you started, but donít ignore other ciders. There are excellent ciders being produced throughout the U.S., as well as in England and France. Give them a try and you may be surprised to see how different ciders can taste.
Norman Miller is a MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News staff writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out the Beer Nut blog at blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/realbeernut or on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/beernutnorman.