I discovered hard cider back in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the cheap beer we swilled in college. At the Tops in Olean, one could spend $10 on a 30-pack of Strohs, a 15-pack of Budweiser, a 12-pack of Labatt’s Blue, or a six-pack of Woodchuck Cider. I often fell in the latter category.
It was, and still is, the go-to cider for bars. It’s well-known and easy to procure. At the same time, it’s really heavy and bloating. Over time, I moved on from the Vermont-bred Woodchuck to a couple of imports: Magner’s, a sweet Irish cider, and Strongbow. The latter became the house favorite, an English dry cider with a crisp kick and champagne-like presentation. It had a constant flow of bubbles, a light body and a bold flavor.
But then Strongbow had to go and ruin a good thing, adding flavors and changing their recipe around, resulting in a cheap imitation of a good hard cider. It became the Smirnoff Ice of its class.
So, The Wife and I have found ourselves moving on to the local Harvest Moon Cidery products, available at bottle shops and liquor stores. Their products are quite light, even their sweeter ciders, but we cannot seem to find a dry cider that harkens back to the days when Strongbow mattered. Sure, Harvest Moon’s Rippleton Original would fit the bill but the only place I can buy it is at the cidery, a 45- to 60-minute drive from my house.
The Southern Tier’s Gravity Ciders produces three s0-called premium ciders under its Awestruck label: Hibiscus Ginger, Lavender Hops, and Eastern Dry. All are made with New York State grown apples and bottled in the sleepy Delaware County town of Walton. The latter of the three is tabbed as a smooth, easy drinking cider. “Barely-sweet, light and refreshing,” according to the website.
The cider makes good on its promises. There is absolutely no sweetness, it is quite light, and it’s does refresh the palate. It is very dry, similar to a Brut in its crispness and carbonation. Where it lacks is flavor, in that there is none. We looked hard, The Wife and I, but were unable to find much more than a passing apple taste. If Polar Seltzer made a boozy dry apple seltzer, Awestruck would give it a run for its money. As a hard cider, it fell flat.
And, The Wife and I are back on our search for that elusive dry cider that does not take a two-hour round trip to procure.
Brewer: Gravity Ciders
Beer: Awestruck Eastern Dry Cider
Style: Hard apple cider
ABV: 5.0% IBU: n/a
Container: 22 oz. bottle
Price: $7.49 Point of Purchase: Sam The Beer Man, Binghamton, N.Y.
To The Eye: Golden and fizzy like champagne. No foam.
To The Nose: Dry with nose-tickling bubbles, like a Brut champagne.
To The Palate: Slightly crisp, but with the flavor of watered-down apple juice
Aftertaste: Acidic tang that hits your salivary glands, but not much else
Boozy Factor: It’s a non-issue.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 4