By Peter Holmstrom
Let’s face it… Not many things are more satisfying than a sweet treats. Is there anything better then an ice-cream cone on a hot summer’s day? Or a pile of candy, waiting to be opened on Halloween? Evolutionary predisposition to sugar aside, sweetness in food and drinks can often evoke flavor nodes that might have gone completely unnoticed otherwise. Allowing for a greater expression of the natural essence of the ingredients.
Experiments in sweeter alcohol products have yielded unique and intriguing (not to mention tasty) results. Ice wine, made by harvesting grapes that have frozen completely through, making the juice extracted from them a sugar intensive syrup. Or sour beers, done often by adding fruit to the fermentation process to achieve interaction with the yeast cultures.
However, one of the most trusted and more recent innovations in the field of sweetened beverages is the field of ice cider. The beverage is produced in two main approaches: cryoconcentration and cryoextraction. Cryoconcentration involves leaving the apples in the orchards for a late harvest, then picking and leaving them in fresh storage until the dead of winter when they are pressed and the juice then freezes naturally. In cryoextraction, more similar to the production of ice wine, the apples are left on the tree until the end of winter (typically January) and picked at extremely low temperatures, pressed and cold-fermented.
The first experiments into ice cider began in Quebec during the 1990s, with the first commercial production released in 1994. Since then, a small number of cideries have begun producing their own ice cider, with the majority of the product still coming out of Quebec, who maintains a strict set of standards in the form of laws regulating the production. But others can be found in New England, Washington State, Michigan and beyond—we’ve collected a selection of the highlights for your sweet tooth.
Robinette’s Ice Cider || Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery, Grand Rapids, MI || Michigan’s rise in the alcohol world is best felt by its diverse boutique cider companies. Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery has it all: from bakery to cider mill and winery, all to emphasize the diversity Michigan has to offer. Robinette’s Ice Cider is packed with sweetness, yet balanced with a healthy dose of acidity. Robinette’s holds the distinction of being the first cidery in the state to produce ice cider, and the response so far insures you’ll see it for years to come. || robinettes.com
Ice Breaker || Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards, Lake Chelan, WA || The area Lake Chelan of Central Washington is known for its rich and fertile soil profile and steady climate due to proximity to the water. What results is prime wine and fruit growing, along with a healthy agricultural industry. Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards taps into two industries by producing both wine and cider. Producing an annual small batch ice wine, Hard Roe to Hoe Vineyards sources Braebum apples from the surrounding Lake Chelan. Smooth texture, high in viscosity, and rich in natural apple flavor, the Ice Breaker is an excellent example of the Northwest apple. || hardrow.com
Windfall Orchard Ice Cider || Eden Ice Cider Co., Newport, VT || Even as recently as 2006, ice cider was still relatively unknown. With only a few producers making the stuff, and most of those in Canada. It was to this conundrum and hole in the market that Eden Ciders was formed. Utilizing 100 percent Vermont apples, Eden Ice Cider Co. currently boasts four different ice ciders, as well as three other ciders of different styles. The Windfall Orchard Ice Cider is a smooth, rich ice cider made from apples sourced from the Windfall Orchard in Cornwall, Vermont. Combining together 30 different Heirloom varietals for this blend, the Windfall Orchard is a full-bodied, well-balanced ice cider tasting of fresh apple, pear and peaches. || edencider.com
Neige Premiere Methode Traditionnelle Crackling Ice Cider || Hemmingford, Quebec || Truly the grand daddy of them all, Neige Premiere cider out of Quebec is the prime inspiration for the ice cider industry. Founded by one of the forefathers of the ice cider industry (parent company La Face Cachée de la Pomme and owner François Pouliot), Neige has been in production since 1994, and was the first apple ice wine to be commercially sold throughout the world. The Methode Traditinonelle represents one of their highest award winning ciders. Flavor notes of candid apple, apricots and citrus fruits lay under aromas of butterscotch and marmalade. Take in the cidery that set the gold standard, and dive right in. || appleicewine.com
Tieton Frost || Tieton Cider Works, Yakima, WA || Utilizing a blend of Jonagold, Pinova, and Winter Banana apples, Tieton Cider Works’ late harvest offering presents a sweet, bubbly ice cider with subtle notes of tart lemon. Clocking in at 11 percent ABV, it’s a cider best enjoyed as a slow sipper after dinner, or paired with blue cheese. || tietonciderworks.com