Now that Labor Day is behind us, we're ready for bonfires, s'mores and apple cider. Over the past several years, craft brewers and beer nerds have been taking cider more seriously; there are well-crafted ciders coming from all over the country.
What is it? Apple cider is made from fermented apple juice. You can add sugar or more fruit during fermentation, though U.S. law says cider must be made from at least 50 percent fresh apple juice. Americans have been making cider since the 1600s, as early settlers didn't always have a clean water source.
What does it taste like? Hard cider is usually made from apples specifically grown for cidermaking, as opposed to varieties like Granny Smith or Red Delicious that are bred for eating. Just like beer, cider can taste differently based on how it's produced. Farmhouse cider is a bit sweeter, thanks to more sugar; barrel-aged ciders get a sharper flavor from, yes, barrel aging.
Stella Artois Cidre: Start with this classic to dip your toe into the world of ciders. This Belgian cider presents flavors of red apples and apricots, complemented by oranges and almonds.
Crispin Brownslane English Dry Cider: If you're a little more adventurous, try a traditional dark English cider. It's made with bittersweet cider apples from Worcestershire; the flavor is up front with apple sweetness along with tannins.
Austin EastCider Blood Orange: Out of Austin, Texas, this cider is a little more fun. Billed as a "Mimosa in a can," this zesty, dry cider is made with Moro blood oranges, heirloom bittersweet apples and American Sweet apples.