While pumpkin beers are all the rage now, in my opinion, pumpkin is better suited for pies than for brews. On the other hand, apples make an exceptional adult beverage. Traditional cider apples are very different from the dessert varieties. They can be a bit gnarly looking, but their rich flavors and sweetness, balanced by high acid and tannin content, are just the thing for cider. Here are three uniquely American versions:
Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple, $1.39-$1.79, 12 oz.
Angry Orchard is the cider arm of the Boston Beer Co., and this fall seasonal is made from apples sourced from Washington. It's light amber in color with just the slightest hint of fizz. Very ripe apple aromas with a touch of spice lead off. In the mouth, it's like liquid apple pie, starting with baked apple flavors--not too sweet, not too tart--mingling with candied cinnamon red hots. Eminently quaffable.
Tieton Cider Works Dry-Hopped Cider, $6.99-$8.99, 500 ml.
According to the back label, 50 percent of this country's apples and 70 percent of our hops come from the Yakima Valley, so it seems only natural they would get together. This Yakima, Wash.-based cider house dry hops three varieties. The result is a crystal clear, lightly effervescent cider, with a well-balanced, soft citrus palate. Just a subtle hint of hops comes through on the elegant finish.
Crispin 'The Saint' Artisanal Reserve, $5.49-$6.99, 22 oz.
This unfiltered entry pours a cloudy straw color. California-based Crispin sources its juice from the West Coast, and in The Saint, adds molasses and ferment with Trappist yeast. A bit of that Belgian funk comes through on the nose, along with crisp green apple. The flavors roll out with tart apple up front, maple-laced, spicy sweetness in the middle and a rich, wine-like finish. This cider is best when served just slightly chilled.