Best Ciders for Summer Boating

Best Ciders for Summer Boating
The summer cider sip experience

In the heat of summer we’re looking for a refreshing adult beverage to bring along on our boating adventures. Certain lighter or bubbly wines and soft drinks are tasting pretty good this time of year, but I am thinking a dose of cool hard cider might just be the alternative ticket.

I appreciate the joys of cider. It’s a market that is just beginning to trend. I am ready for the ride – how about you?

Yes, it is apple wine. No, it’s not done in a beer style. It IS the perfect summer day or evening drink while cruising the waters in your sail or power boat, whether you are out there for a day or a month. It’s light and super refreshing with just the right balance of sweet and dry. Yes, you can pour some over ice and not be shunned by cider aficionados. It’s often fermented with specialty yeasts, which give the apple juice a kind of champagne dryness or a subtly sweet and full-bodied fruit juice vibe. It also typically falls into the low alcohol range, which makes it very drinkable for an afternoon sail especially if you’re barbecuing on the deck.

Categories (Source: Tasting Cider by Erin James)

  1. Orchard Based Ciders: Showcases the natural flavor of the apple – no flavoring
  2. Modern Ciders: Concentrate or fresh squeezed
  3. Single Varietal Ciders : Apple varieties with a specific flavor profile
  4. Dessert Ciders : Sweet, tart, fragrant and highly alcoholic
  5. Hopped Ciders: Hops add another level to flavor- from piney to citrusy
  6. Rosé Ciders: Gorgeous color, red fleshed apples. Flavors from raspberry to watermelon.
  7. Fruit Infused Ciders- From blackberry to pineapple, fruit infused ciders bring together the best of the fruit world.
  8. Barrel Aged Ciders: Aging cider in barrels lends tannin and flavors from the wood
  9. Spiced and Botanical: Apples and spice are natural complements producing a unique twist to the traditional.
  10. Specialty Ciders: Often defy classification. Includes a wide variety of flavors from coffee beans to lemongrass.
  11. Perry: Whether you call it pear cider or perry, these fermented pear selections burst with delicate floral flavors.

Talk to me: Sweetness tells the story

Much like wine, ciders have a range of perceived sweetness.  Once you know the residual sugar per liter in a particular cider, you know what to expect on the palate. Don’t be afraid to ask your server about the residual sugar (RS) content.

Dry: The residual sugar in this cider is typically 0.5 percent. Expect higher acids and tannins.  Enjoy the blunt and minerally side of the apple.

Off-Dry: Approximately 1-2 percent residual sugar.  Expect to find a fuller body and a more fruit-forward nose. Acids are showcased with lower tannins.

Semisweet: This 2-4 percent cider is where many people start their cider journey. Expect a full body, soft tannins and easy drinking. Most commercial ciders you find in the market fit this category.

Sweet: When the residual sugar hits 4 percent and above, it is classified as sweet.  Ice wine ciders can hit the 20 percent mark.

 How to taste

Get your nose in it! Just like wine, start with a swirl, a good sniff and then taste. Research shows up to 90 percent of the taste comes from smell. I’ve found dry and tannic ciders can be served at room temperature if necessary, but chilled is better.  The others, definitely chill.  Keep in mind, too warm or too cold will kill the taste.

After tasting many ciders this summer, the following are the ones that, in my opinion, work best with the foods most often found on a sail or motor boat.

I spent my summer on our family boat – a 42’ Grand Banks. Our tastings where fairly informal, with or without food. Sometimes I was tasting with just my husband, often with friends, and sometimes with complete strangers. Cider is a social drink in the purest sense of the words, but a taste-alone can be pure personal experience. Grab a bottle or can of each sweetness level.  Try them against each other on a warm summer day as you hit the waves.

Your NW Tourist guide & author, Linda Kissam

  1. Alpenfire Glow, Aerlie Red (Rose) / 8.2% Alcohol / About $23– Made from Hidden Rose red-fleshed apples, which are incredibly rare and expensive. The color in this unique cider comes not from the skin like in a wine rosé, but from the bright red flesh of the Hidden Rose apple. You’re going to get a food-friendly cider with a crisp acidity and a berry fruit flavor. Great sipping cider. Pair with hot dogs and turkey sandwiches.
  2. Snowdrift Red Cider, (Rose) About $16: From East Wenatchee, WA. Mouthwatering strawberry watermelon and cranberry. Ample acid. This is a stellar example of a true rose cider, made entirely from red-fleshed apples which gives it a natural rosy hue. No added flavors, fruits or colors, just apples through and through. This is a killer pairing choice for anything with ham in it. Think charcuterie board.
  3. Alpenfire Box Cider on the Go (Olympic Discovery Trail Cider) 9% alcohol / About $25 – Discovery Trail Cider is a still cider – dry and delicious. It will appeal to those who step back from “sweet drinks.” The darker straw color a sharp deep apple nose with a medium biting finish. The apple juice was cold fermented with champagne yeast for seven weeks and then spent seven months maturing in stainless steel. The cider is presented in a 1.5 liter recyclable bag that is also BPA Free. Only 180 bags were released, but I am sure it will hit the shelves again next year.  This cider is being used to raise funds for the Peninsula Trails Coalition’s goal of completing the ODT. The trail will eventually extend approx. 130 miles, connecting Port Townsend at its eastern end to the Pacific coast on the western end. It is available to walkers, hikers, bicyclists, and in many sections, equestrians. The perfect pairing is to take this unbreakable bag with you in a dinghy to a gorgeous off-boat picnic site.
  4. Snowdrift Cidermaker’s Reserve (Full- flavored). 9% Alcohol, About $20 – Cidermaker’s Reserve is a rich complex cider that pretty much shows what a really great apple cider has to offer. After a year of maturation, this cider then begins the full Méthode Champenoise process of in-bottle fermentation, developing layers of nuance. Months of riddling finish up as a dry cider showcasing layers of spicy bittersweet apple, citrus, and subtleties of toffee, wood and earth. Best of the bunch tasted, in my opinion. Pairs well with cave-aged cheeses and rustic breads.
  5. Seattle Cider Berry Rose (Fruit Infused) Medium Dry. 6.9% alcohol. About $11 –Available summertime only. Local apples are combined with locally grown raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. It’s softly tart at the start and a bit sweet on the finish. Nothing cloying. A really good way to introduce people to cider.  This fruity cider pairs well with beef stew. Comes in a can.

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    Authors Note:  Although samples were provided for each cider reviewed, this generosity in no way influenced the review. The ciders simply speak for themselves.
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