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And Now for Something Completely Different: English Ciders

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Hard cider has more in common with wine when you consider how it's made, but more in common with beer when it comes to alcohol levels and the way it's consumed. You'll find many different styles, including some that are rather sweet, but my preference is for the drier versions. Typically crystal clear and a light gold in color, they have less fizz than Champagne and go great with a variety of cuisines. Another plus is that cider tends to be high in heart-healthy antioxidants. The Brits have been pressing apples and fermenting the juice for hundreds of years. Over there, most every pub will have at least one on draught, but here are three you can buy by the bottle in Boise:

Aspall Organic English Draft Cider

The Chevallier family has been making cider in the Aspall parish of Suffolk, England, since 1778 when Clement Chevallier inherited the property. This organic offering is an homage to that original style. Made only from pressed apple juice (no added concentrate or sugar), it is a surprisingly complex offering. It opens with bright, ripe apple aromas backed by touches of spice, mineral and earth. Rich and round in the mouth, the first impression is one of lightly sweet apple pie, nicely balanced by a soft hit of bitter astringency. The finish is long and dry. This one begs to be paired with farmhouse cheddar or a creamy Stilton.

Samuel Smith's Organic Cider

One of a handful of English breweries to remain independent, Samuel Smith's has been in the beer business since 1758, but cider is a new sideline for them. First released last summer, it has finally made its way to Boise. This one throws a light head, and the flavor profile is unique. It tastes something like a Spanish cava with baked Granny Smith apple playing against very ripe Gravenstein. It's all wrapped up in flavors of fresh and yeasty bread dough. There's a soft touch of sweetness, but it's balanced by good acidity and a dry finish. Bangers and mash would go great with this one.

Strongbow Dry Cider

Strongbow—named for a Norman knight who earned that moniker through his prowess with the longbow—is probably the best-known and most widely available English cider. Lightly effervescent with aromas something like the scent from an apple orchard during the heat of late summer, the crisp, green apple flavors are straightforward and utterly refreshing. It finishes dry with a nice citrus twang. Should go great with spicy Thai dishes, or try it with fresh oysters.