Remember the stifling hot Virginia Summer of 2019? It was on a July day that a box arrived at DW&S headquarters from Virginia Cider. For me, it was “Christmas in July.” The cider association sent DW&S a virtual cider festival, in a box. I could not wait to chill-down the cider and start tasting.
This year’s Cider Week Virginia is November 15-24th, 2019. Virginia Cider lovers can attend seminars, food pairings, and special events all week. (Find the details here: www.CiderWeekVA.com) To whet your appetite for Virginia ciders, I made notes while tasting from the box. Virginia has become a leader in the national hard cider scene; so, the ciders included in the tasting box only represent a slice of the apple.
The DW&S Team loves to entertain family and friends with Virginia craft beverages and food. As I tasted each Virginia cider, I made a list of foods to pair with each. With the holiday season on the horizon, you may find an idea or two.
Albemarle CiderWorks “Gold Rush”
Albemarle Cider Works celebrates the tenth anniversary this year; so, I was happy to see Gold Rush in the tasting box. The Gold Rush variety of apple gets its name for its golden color and its rush of crisp flavor. This is a dry cider, and I would pair the rich taste with Virginia smoked trout and some Gruyere cheese. I think a gift basket, including all three, would make a fantastic gift for any cider lover.
Castle Hill Cider, Celestial
Castle Hill blended some popular Virginia apples—Albemarle Pippin, Winesap and Grimes Golden with the bittersweet Dabinett variety. The Dabinett Apple is a traditional cider apple and is thought to originate in the early 1900s. It is known to be high in tannins and is bittersweet. Blending with the Pippin, Winesap and Grimes Golden result is a cider with fruit, floral, and spice aromas. This is an heirloom cider with a spice-twist. It really pops, served with a favorite Thai recipe. The cider blend warms the experience.
Blue Bee Cider, Hewe’s Crab
This cider is a hat-tip to the Hewe’s Crab Apple and its return to the region. This apple is a vintage Virginia variety that first appeared in Northern Virginia in the 1700s. Cider history buffs know that this crab apple was often used to make hard cider and became known, across the South, as the Virginia Crab. It’s popularity also made it a victim of Prohibition. Hewe’s Crab Apple trees were sadly cut down during this era. Thankfully, this variety is making a come-back, and Blue Bee Cider has crafted a cider with Hewe’s, cumin and honey. To me, this is the perfect cider to pair with roasted chicken, vegetables, and honey-glazed carrots. (I would even use a swig to baste the chicken) It is also the cider to give anyone that has an interest in Virginia history. It is a conversation piece for cider lovers.
Potter’s Craft, Farmhouse Dry
I tasted Farmhouse Dry with a five-year aged cheddar, and the combination was fantastic. The flavor is tart, to balance with the cheese, and exceptionally dry. The finish is crisp and effervescent. The golden color is going to accent your Fall table. Host a supper party and serve some home-made sharp mac-n-cheese, pork or maybe a wild game dish with this cider.
Bold Rock Hard Cider, Virginia Apple Granny Smith
The Granny Smith apple is known to be both tart and sweet, and it’s the apple that makes Bold Rock’s Virginia Apple cider crisp. Although, Bold Rock crafts this flagship cider from a blend of Virginia apples, the essence of the tart, green apple comes through in every sip of the cider. It is a sparkling, effervescent cider that I serve beside a slice of Virginia apple pie with a cinnamon-sugar crust. One could pair it with a warm apple cider donut in the Fall. A quick, but impressive, dessert is a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, a pour of Bold Rock Virginia Apple cider and a drizzle of home-made caramel sauce. Serve this to your guests in a stemless wine glass and enjoy!
Bryant’s Cider, Unicorn Fuel
A pink-hued cider with the name Unicorn Fuel is going to grab my attention. When DW&S writer, Paula Thomasson visited Bryant’s Cider tasting room in Richmond, Virginia, she noted that it is a top seller. (story on the DW&S website) This is a Brut cider, and the pink hue comes from rose hips and hibiscus. Brut cider is made with fresh-pressed apples fermented with Champagne yeast. Brut ciders are dry and elegant. Some serve this style of cider with steak, but the addition of rose hips and hibiscus just pairs beautifully with a vanilla buttercream cake. I paired the Unicorn Fuel with a slice of fresh fruit cake from Shyndigz in Richmond. It made a great ending to brunch with friends.
Virginia has seen a resurgence of hard cider in the past decade. Once a colonial drink, hard cider can now be found in tasting rooms, bars, and restaurants across the Commonwealth. This generation of cider is both a salute to Virginia’s history and a view to the future. If you would like to learn about hard cider, visit the Virginia Cider website, www.virginiacider.org. I hope to see you at a Cider Week Virginia event in November. Cheers!