You’ll find more than just alcoholic apple juice on shelves these days. Dry, barrel-aged and hopped versions offer a spin on what cider can be: tannic, herbal, spicy, but not cloyingly sweet. Cider skeptics, just try a glass.
Fennville, Mich.’s Virtue was founded by former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall, but his brut cider has more in common with champagne than beer: White-wine-like tannins and big, zippy bubbles make it an ideal pairing for briny oysters or creamy cheese.
EZ Orchards Hawk Haus
Named for the Kestrel hawks that nest among the Jonathan and Yarlington Mill apple trees in the Willamette Valley orchard, this musty, effervescent cider remains refreshing with an apple skin quality that doesn’t read sweet.
Nine Pin Willsie Dry Hop
Hopped ciders aren’t always balanced, but the Albany, N.Y., ciderhouse nails it: Minty, grassy hops in the aroma emerge as green tea flavor on the sip. An undercurrent of green apple crispness brings the fruit back into focus.
If you’re uneasy with the tartness of most dry ciders, give this Yakima Valley-made version a try. It opens with tempting baking spices and pie crust aromas, then eases into a minerally—but not acidic—sip.
Chardonnay drinkers, keep an eye out for this barrel-aged cider: New oak flavor balances the apples’ light sweetness and lends round woodiness to the sip. Look for the southern Illinois cidery’s European-style offerings, too.
Seattle Cider Three Pepper
Low-frequency jalapeño flavor and heat hum in the background of this stunningly balanced cider. Like a good mango salsa, spice and fruit synch up evenly.
This barely sweet cider’s clear, screw-capped bottle could be mistaken for a wine bottle, but that’s not its only vinous quality: Grape notes and a soft mouthfeel make this a Riesling drinker’s dream.
Not ready to let go of a touch of sweetness? This Washington state cider balances its sugar content with red apple skin tannins that mop up in a clean, bubbly finish that doesn’t linger on the tongue.
Farnum Hill Dooryard
Each batch of Dooryard is numbered on its back label; log on to the cidery’s website to find out the flavors in your specific vintage blend. All will be on the dry end of the spectrum; ours was lightly funky and faintly citrusy with cola-sized bubbles.
Argus Perennial 2013
The Texas apples that create Argus’ ciders don’t get much natural rainfall, which helps concentrate and intensify flavor. This vintage is made with five varieties and aged on French and American oak, resulting in a musty, wood aroma. Huge bubbles perk up the dry, tannic sip.