Socially Distanced Hard Cider

We will all experience life changing or life impacting events. The longer we live, the more of them we have. Usually, these events impact us or a small group around us. However, sometimes the impact is larger, but rarely, do we experience an event that truly impacts our entire world. We are all living in one of those events. I don’t want to downplay the potential impact to our health and even life. However, the more immediate pain many people are feeling is an economic one. Those feeling this the hardest are the ones working in or in support of the service and hospitality industry.

Smaller craft hard cider makers are part of that group. Many of them rely on bars and restaurants for their sales, and while many restaurants have been converting to a pickup/curbside business model, small craft hard cider makers don’t often have that luxury. However, online ordering in the US has been expanded in recent years. Online sales offers a way to support these small and sometimes fledgling businesses in this time of need.

You might be thinking, I make my own hard cider. Or, maybe you are facing your own financial challenges, and uncertainties. If you are having financial difficulties, keep making your own hard cider. We will get through this. If you find yourself still working, consider sharing your good fortune by helping some of the small craft hard cider makers out. Buy a sampler pack or two. It will give you some new and interesting hard ciders to taste and will help this small business. Maybe the ones you try will inspire a new hard cider recipe for you to try. At this point, the more cideries operating, the healthier the industry.

I recently placed an order with the Botanist & Barrel cidery in Cedar Grove, North Carolina. I was attracted to them because of their approach, which is defined as natural. They use wild ferments, fresh pressed fruits, no additives, and no filtering or fining. The other cool thing is that I used to live in Greensboro, NC, which is near their location in Cedar Grove. This was many years ago, but I have some fond memories driving through the North Carolina and Virginia countryside looking for the few cideries that had just started to pop up. It’s like my time in the Finger Lakes region of NY. I seem to miss the cider explosion in these areas by several years!

I ordered a sampling of 12 ciders from Botanist and Barrel and even got to exchange some friendly posts with Amie Fields through the Natural Cider Facebook page. I appreciated the hand written note they included in my box. The shipping only took a few days and was free since I met there minimum purchase level. It’s like Christmas as a kid when I get one of these boxes. I get to open it up and see all the pretty bottles. We now have a new hard cider to look forward to trying for the next 12 days of isolation!

Botanist & Barrel: My Cider Sampler
Botanist & Barrel: My Cider Sampler

I started my tasting with dinner the first day they arrived. I went with the Lemon Lavender Cider to start the tasting. My wife and I both enjoyed the citrus notes and other nuances of this cider. It has some sour notes, which is a theme I’m noticing and expect is from the wild fermentation process they use. Our only suggestion on this one was some carbonation, but we do enjoy carbonated hard ciders. I think it would have given more mouthfeel and complimented them lemon. The lavender is just a hint here and there, which is nice.

I went with Rainbow in Paradise on day two. It’s a plethora of fruit adjuncts including apricot, blueberry, blackberry, cherry, and plum. It’s gives it a nice color but like most hard cider, fermentation melds and changes the flavors. It’s has a light effervescence with some sour and bitter notes.

Day three of our Botanist & Barrel isolation brought us in contact with Skin Contact. A lightly blushed and medium carbonated hard cider. It’s is fermented with cherry skins, adding to the red blush. It has a long finish and some interesting tasting notes. It’s a hard cider that improves as it warms. It releasing more aromas and flavors.

What will day 4 or 5 bring? I know there will be some we love and some we categorize as palate developers. Overall, these tend to run more sour than most of the ciders I make, though I have started venturing into that area. They are like a fusion of Spanish Sidra with an American palate and ingenuity. Mixing sours and adjuncts in a range of carbonation levels. I appreciate the small batch feel with the willingness to experiment. It’s is encouraging me to pursue more ideas in my own hard cider making. That crazy idea I have for a lager yeast, doesn’t seem as crazy now.

In our socially distanced state of isolation, my wife and I will keep tasting our way through these excellent hard ciders. If you’re interested in which hard cider rises to the top of our list, you can check out my reviews on the Cider Expert App under my PricklyCider account. Overall, it’s been a great experience and if you have the means to support the small cideries and producers in your area, please do. It not only helps them but will given you a few nights of enjoyment as well. Here are some resources you might find helpful but do an internet search as well. I’m sure you’ll find more.





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