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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hard Cider Makes a Comeback

Door County’s Island Orchard Cider

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Beer has long been the drink of choice for many Americans, yet there was a time when hard cider was more common than beer in America. Cider production never quite recovered after prohibition and sort of languished here in the States, being reduced almost to a novelty. The ciders that most Americans drink today are typically very sweet, mass-produced and don’t taste all that different from fruit beers. However, just like the resurgence in craft beers, traditional hard ciders are making a comeback. More dry than sweet, artisanal ciders come off tasting more like a wine and pair well with food.

Island Orchard Cider, located in Door County, is one of these new traditional cider makers here in Wisconsin. Island Orchard specializes in making a “French-style” cider, which means they tend to be drier and higher in tannins so the flavors are more complex, more wine-like. Island Orchard’s owners, Bob and Yannique Purman, realized that Washington Island’s climate was similar enough to Northern France for many of the traditional varieties of cider apple trees to flourish. Their orchard boasts 500 pear and 1,600 cider apple trees, some of which are actually from France.

Currently, Island Orchard produces four different ciders, all of which are gluten free.

The Apple Cherry Cider is well balanced, sweet without being sugary, and has a smooth, tart cherry finish. It would be easy for a beer-drinker to transition to cider drinking the Apple Cherry. The Pear Cider is very reminiscent of a crisp chardonnay. Dry and tannic, with a pleasant earthiness, this cider could easily replace a white wine on a warm summer evening. The Brut Apple Cider has a nice medium body, and a perfect balance of tartness to fruit. This variety stands up well to sharp and blue cheeses. The Oak Aged Apple Cider is full bodied, rich and mellow after being aged for three additional months in French oak barrels—it pairs remarkably well with barbeque.

If you’d like to try these ciders for yourself you can find them locally at several grocery and liquor stores. Or, make the trek to the relaxing and comfortable Island Orchard tasting room in Ellison Bay, Wis.

For more information or to find a local vendor of Island Orchard, visit islandorchardcider.com.