What makes fall so special here in the Shenandoah Valley? Is it that crisp air, comfortably warmed by a slow morning sun? Or maybe the colorful litter and crunch of leaves everywhere you look? While they definitely signal that fall has arrived, nothing reinforces the harvest season like friends, family, and hard cider!
Hard cider is the adult apple juice of the world. Characterized by it’s crisp, juicy, and refreshing taste, it was originally the preferred option over bad drinking water from the 13th through the 17th centuries in England. Though wine, beer, and liquor have seated cider in the corner for generations, this tangy and fruity drink is finding its way back into the markets thanks to craft beer drinkers! Hard cider captures the essence of fall in a bottle – it’s the perfect drink for nights around a campfire,hiking trips, or just hanging out with friends. We’ve rounded up some of the best ciders that you can find in your local grocery store, plus a few extra recommendations from our beer and cider experts here in the Valley. Enjoy!
- Woodchuck Amber Ale | The general consensus of this cider is that it’s one of the best you can find in the grocery store. Described as more sweet than dry, this “clean-tasting” comes set with a deliciously fruity aroma and a highly drinkable, thin finish. We recommend this cider for all seasons, especially fall, as it’s a perfect crowd-pleaser.
- Angry Orchard Crisp Apple | Probably the most widely available cider, it’s abundant for good reason! With great reviews, Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple has been compared to “actually biting into a honey crisp apple.” Aside from Crisp Apple, Angry Orchard also comes in wide variety of flavors, including, but not limited to: Traditional Dry, Apple Ginger, Cinnful Apple, Summer Honey, and Elderflower.
Alright, enough mainstream stuff. Let’s get into the Shenandoah Valley exclusives! Anyone who’s a craft beer drinker is probably already familiar with what’s locally available in the cider department, but we went ahead and picked out some of the best – with a little help from a friend!
We grabbed Holly Redding, craft-beer expert and co-owner of Winchester Brew Works, and John Hovermale, master brewer of Escutcheon Brewery, to find out what’s actually good in our locality:
- Winchester Cider Works | This place has become a staple for locals and visitors alike. Renowned are their flavors that you can choose from, and they’ve got plenty! Choose from a classic apple flavor, blackcurrant, ginger, and pear.
- Wild Hare Cider | This little micro-brewery is an absolute gem and heaven-on-Earth for cider enthusiasts. Holly recommends their Hatch, a classic dry cider with hints of citrus and stone fruit. Another recommendation is their Hopscotch, their lightly dry-hopped cider with pleasant citrus notes – perfect for beer lovers looking to venture into the world of cider.
- Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery | With nothing but great reviews, this cidery is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for something locally sourced and delicious. Currently stocked with five made-from-scratch ciders (Farmhouse style, General’s Reserve, Ginger, Blueberry, and an Old Volstead’s Homemade Cider).
Ciders are serious business; they’re so much more than their “girly drink” reputation. But don’t take our word for it – go out and try all of these delicious ciders to see for yourself how refreshing they are! Just remember to drink responsibly.