Cider has become a hot ticket with lots of new entries hitting shelves. Most are made with the culinary apple varieties you normally see at a local market. True cider apples aren't bred for eating—they are a bit too bitter and fibrous, which makes for easier juicing. All three here are the real deal, lightly carbonated and made with real cider apples.
Aspall English Grand Cru Draft Cider, $7-$8.50, 500 ml.
Aspall has been crafting traditional English ciders since 1728. This organic offering pours a light straw reminiscent of a good pilsner, complete with a touch of froth. The yeasty aromas have notes of lime, orange and apple with a hint of brettanomyces yeast. Just off-dry on the palate, it's a combo of green apple and grape with a lemony finish.
Crispin Browns Lane Natural Hard Apple Cider, $2.50-$3, 16-ounce can
This light amber cider imported from England is, on the one hand, the driest of the three, but on the other, the softest with its low acidity. Fresh apple juice aromas, complete with the peel, are backed by malty touches of straw. Apple and pear flavors fill the palate colored by a soft hit of brett. The lingering finish is smooth, dry and fruity.
J.K.'s Northern Neighbour Farmhouse Cider, $6.50-$7.50, 22 ounce bottle
Brewed by Michigan's Almar Orchard, the juice comes from some of their 30 organically grown varieties blended with a Canadian prairie apple, the Saskatoon. It's a ruby tinged, amber pour with aromas like fresh baked apple pie. The flavors are a nice mix of sweet and sour, offering cinnamon laced apple butter and strawberry, balanced by bright acidity.