Cider seems to be surfing in the backdraft of the craft beer revolution. But there are a lot of old school bottles, if cider is your thing, you don’t need to go all hipster. For example, if you Google Silex and France you are likely to turn up Sancerre, but there is in fact an intriguing Normandy cider we sampled during a tasting menu at Hawksworth just before Christmas called Silex. I liked it so much I spent several days tracking it down (finding it, eventually, at Marquis, for a shocking sticker price of $28.90—ouch! Pass… But there is a great blog, here, with some passionate reviews).
In my quest to seek out the Silex I came across numerous other artisanal ciders and thought two were worth a review. If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest you are familiar with BC Cider products, dry or semi-sweet, innocuous, ultra-effervescent, although refreshing mid-July. Other brands, such as Merrydale, have entered the market, but nothing has won us over.
As with all things “artisanal” we are more than willing to be swayed. In keeping with our under-$20 mantra, we picked up a Sea Cider labelled Pippins; they have a few others, but we liked this best. Without doing any research, I am hesitant to believe there are enough Pippins grown in all of North America to support a cider product made with Pippins (the name is a little too olde worlde). But this dry to off-dry, lightly effervescent, and completely inoffensive cider could win over even the most stalwart opponents. (Cider, in the UK, is considered a “ladies” drink and, if out with the “lads” they are likely to mock you for a cider order, regardless of origin.) But while it has appeal and is easy on the palate, it also did nothing to deter us from returning to a light and attractive white wine.
The Cambremer, well, another story. This had most of the characteristics of the Silex: Funky, earthy, of the woods, it mixes the rich sweetness of a caramelized apple treat with the damp earthiness of eaves teeming in cedar fronds. Absolutely certainly not to everyone’s taste, probably a very small minority, this 4.5% cider (yes, 4.5%, not a misprint), has huge culinary use, I would recommend at lunch, with cheese, cold meats, on its own as a late afternoon quaff, most certainly with pork. But, all the same, it has a wildness, just teetering on the obnoxious. Not unlike some French waiters. Ouch again!
Price: Both retail between $14 and $16 depending on where you can source them.
Market Liquidity: Sea Cider accommodates; Cambremer situates.