Hard cider has long been considered a bar drink for the weak stomached and the gluten intolerant. But now mainstream cider companies are hoping to shake their apple juice image by using craft brewing techniques to mature their sweet stuff.
Aging beer and wine in wooden barrels adds a complex flavor profile to a beverage. The barrels, often leftover from the bourbon-making process, infuse the beverage with a whiskey-like taste and a tannic, almost drying quality. Craft brewers, and even some small-batch cider companies (see: Bad Seed’s Bourbon Barrel Reserve and Good Intent Cider’s North Meets South), have been using these techniques for a few years to appeal to more sophisticated drinkers. Now major cider companies such as Woodchuck and Crispin are barrel-aging their ciders, with the hope of appealing to the same mature drinkers and heightening their craft cred.
Crispin’s new Steel Town cider takes barrel-aging to the extreme: Its apple wine is aged in five barrels—bourbon, rye, port, sherry and red wine. The five resulting ciders are then blended together and flavored with vanilla and honey. We found Steel Town (6.9% ABV) to still taste sweet like a cider, but also mellow like a smokey and fruity carbonated mezcal. Crispin Steel Town is in limited release but available nation-wide.