Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Best of Chicago Cider Summit 2017

The 5th annual Chicago Cider Summit at Navy Pier was another great success for cider makers and lovers alike. Once again blessed with a sunny, winter day – the view of Lake Michigan from the Grand Ballroom couldn't have been more beautiful for sipping cider.

In addition to 150 cider makers and the second floor cider cocktail lounge, there was a new feature this year – the "Northwest Cider Pavilion," which featured 8 cider makers from Washington and Oregon. Doughnut Vault was in attendance, sampling their Apple Cider Old Fashioned (yum!!), which paired perfectly with a tart cider, to balance the sweetness of the glazed doughnut. Once again this was one of our favorite festivals to attend, with very few lines for cider, food, or restrooms, and ample opportunity to talk with the cider makers themselves.

Below is a recap of our "Best of" selections from the event. All of the ciders listed are available in Chicago, with the exception of Mission Trail Cider Co., who is hoping to enter the market over the next year. Farmhaus has limited distribution to The Wine Goddess (Evanston, IL). Nashi Orchards is currently available at The Northman in bottles.

Best Dry Cider
Wandering Aengus (OR)
Wickson Crab Apple Cider (8.2%)
Dry, very tart, citrus notes.

Best Semi-Sweet Cider
Farmhaus Cider Co. (MI)
Brunch (Limited Release) (6.9%)
Semi-sweet cider with cinnamon and maple syrup, like apple pie in a glass.

Best Farmhouse/Wild Fermented Cider
Shacksbury (VT)
2015 Lost & Found (Limited Release) (6.7%)
A blend of foraged and cultivated apples from the Champlain Valley of Vermont. 
Very dry, unfiltered yeast character, tart green apple finish.

Best European/Import Cider
Craigie's (IRE)
Ballyhook Flyer Irish Cider (5.8%)
Dry and tart with light peat and brine character.

Best Barrel-Aged Cider
Nashi Orchards (WA)
Barrel Fermented Cider (6.9%)
Heirloom apples fermented in French oak barrels. Tart, clean and rounded.

runner up:
Starcut Cider, Erraticus 6 (6.4%)
Oak aged wild cider with Michigan apples and black currants. Dark fruit and rustic, wine-like character with a dry finish.

Best Fruited Cider
Stem Ciders Raspberry Apple Cider (6.7%)
Tart apple and raspberry flavor, with intense aroma and ruby hues.

runner up:
Cider Brothers, Pacific Coast Blueberry Zinfandel (6%)
Blueberries blended with California Zinfandel – tart, bright, dry and beautiful in color.

Best Alternative Fruit – Jerkum
Mission Trail Cider Co. (CA)
Plum Jerkum (6.5%)
A blend of 14 California Plum varietals, fermented with wine yeast.
An English-native beverage, Mission Trail is the only producer in the world currently making it. Tastes like eating a whole plum – incredibly juicy with light tannins and a dry finish. 

Best Perry
Vander Mill (MI)
Bon Chretein (6.8%)
Produced from Michigan Bartlett pears, semi-dry and juicy with a crisp finish.

Best Cider Cocktail
Woodford Reserve Spiced Cider Cocktail
Woodford Reserve Bourbon, apple cider, Seattle Cider Semi-Sweet.

To find these ciders, check out beermenus.com and visit some of our favorite cider selling bottle shops in the city: Bottles & Cans, The Beer Temple, West Lakeview Liquors, and the suburbs: Standard Market, Binnys.