Forget everything you think you know about cider. Then get to Seattle, where cider bars like Ellen and Rick Kelly’s Noble Fir and Sixgill taverns school drinkers with the Northwest’s best apple brews. “People have a preconceived notion of what cider is,” Ellen says, so she pours them ciders like Finnriver Habanero (made with real chilies) and 2 Towns Rhubarbarian (brewed with local rhubarb), and a switch flips. “With cider on tap, it allows us to educate with samples, letting folks taste before they buy.” It also helps that she can relate: Before she opened Noble Fir, Ellen had stopped drinking beer for years before ciders revived her palate. Now, she points customers to ciders according to the libations they usually order, and their conclusions are always the same: Cider’s so much more than hard apple juice.
If you drink cocktails or malty beers… Try sweet ciders like Crispin Honey or Tieton Apricot; their fruit notes and roundness echo those of gins and vodkas, and beers from wits to doppelbocks.
If you’re a hop-head… You’ll find the palate-snapping sensation of dry ciders similar to IPAs. Try Snowdrift Dry Cider or Alpenfire Pirate’s Plank Extra Dry Cider, both made in Washington State, and keep an eye out for special-release dry-hopped ciders.
If you sip barrel-aged beers or whiskey… Beeline for the latest barrel-aged cider; just like their beery cousins, these ciders take on earthy wood and floral notes—and they’re just as rare. Watch for Wandering Aengus Oak Aged Dry and any release by Argus Cidery.
If you’re reveling in sour ales… Look for the tart, funky sparkling ciders made in Normandy, France, and their American counterparts. Complex but clean, Finnriver Fire Barrel has the style’s signature effervescence and acidity.