Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The 6th Annual Cider Summit Chicago

This year's 6th annual Chicago Cider Summit at Navy Pier boasted nearly 200 ciders from around the world, with 10 new cider producers, and approximately 70 offerings not previously served. Whether your taste buds crave sweet, dry, fruity, hoppy, bubbly – there was definitely something for everyone. An expansive setting in the AON Grand Ballroom offered plenty of space and few lines to wander around the main floor of cider, snacks and vendors. The balcony level was once again home to the Cider Cocktail Lounge featuring spirits, liqueurs, and mixed cocktails from a variety of vendors.

Cider Trend Observations:
- Rosé ciders were definitely on trend this year, with a range of interpretations on the wine style. Ciders that featured red/pink fleshed apples maintained the most crisp and authentic flavors. 
- We found many US ciders to still be a bit high on ABV, but that is starting to change with the addition of some canned session ciders. 
- "Ciders that drink like beers" (featuring adjunct flavors, spices, fruits, hops) continue to increase in mainstream popularity, while a decrease in funky, unfiltered, euro-inspired ciders seem to be happening on bottle shop shelves.

The Perfect Pairings:
Cypress Grove had a selection of 3 goat's milk cheeses that really rocked our world (especially with some of the funky European ciders). We highly recommend searching out Truffle Tremor, Midnight Moon and Humboldt Fog (Marianos, Whole Foods, Binny's, Pastoral). Smoking Goose Meatery out of Indianapolis also had an amazing plate, featuring 3 house made salames, including their South Cider Salame (goose & pork, persimmons, cider), Salame Cotto (course pork, red wine and fenugreek seeds, and Dodge City Salame (pork, fennel pollen and pink peppercorn). These guys aren't available in Chicago (yet) but you can order from their website. Their sausages worked really well with some of the dry and hopped ciders. 

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 Stormalong Cider (Massachusetts). Keep an eye out for Schilling Hard Cider (Seattle) who is new to the Chicago market.

Best Dry Cider
Stormalong Cider (MA)
Lengendary Dry (6.9%)
A unique blend of heirloom and bittersweet apples, traditionally fermented – resulting in an exceptionally crisp, effervecent and layered drinking experience.

Best Sessionable Cider
Vander Mill (MI)
Vandy* (4%)
Semi-sweet, crisp and super crushable for any occasion. 
*NEW!! On draft in select locations, watch for cans this Spring!

Best Semi-Sweet Cider
Angry Orchard (NY)
Rosé Cider (5.5%)
Definitely worth a taste! Fermented from French blush apples, with a hint of hibiscus flower. It is bright, floral and dry - just like your favorite glass of rosé wine.

Best Sparkling Cider
Worley's (UK)
Special Reserve Keeved (5.4%)
Naturally sweet, sparkling and rounded. Apple notes were more dessert like - caramel, spice, citrus, slight barnyard funk. A perfect cider for pairing with rich foods like cheeses and desserts.

Best European/Import Cider
Viuda de Angelon Sidra (Spain)
1947 (6%)
Light and funky/acetic, a perfect pairing with the cheese plate.

Best Barrel-Aged/Oaked Cider
Farmhaus Cider Co. (MI)
Oaked Sweater Weather Chai Cider
Light toasted oak character, earthy spice notes, with a nice balance of sharp and sweet apple flavors. 

Best Fruited Cider
Eris Brewery & Cider House (Chicago)
Van Van Mojo - Blueberry Mosaic Hopped (6.2%)
Bright, tart and balanced, with beautiful purple hues. Hop character was perfect – aromatic and citrusy without overpowering the fruit.

runner up:
Schilling – Passport: Pineapple Passionfruit Cider (6.7%)
This cider is an explosion of fruit flavors - like a vacation cocktail in a can. The combinations of fruit offer a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. 

Best Alternative Fruit – Pluot

Mission Trail Cider Co. (CA)
Hipster Hills Pluot & Malvasia (10%)
A blend of rare and aromatic Malvasia Bianca grapes fermented with tart and fruit forward pluots. Very aromatic layers of honey, flowers, stone fruit, must/tannins with a dry, wine-like finish.

Best Cider Spirit
Journeyman O.C.G. Old Country Goodness, Apple Cider Liqueur (10%)
A glass growler full of "fall in a glass" – delicious hot or cold. Michigan organic apple juice, Michigan organic cider, spices and W.R White Whiskey.

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, Binny's, Whole Foods.