“It’s time to restore the great American beverage to its former glory,” says a bearded, leather-vested, silver-tongued millenial cider enthusiast in a commercial Blake’s Hard Cider Co. put out last April. (Heed the slight, cool jabs at Angry Orchard and Redd’s Apple Ale.) Referencing cider’s history with attitude comes from experience—the Armada, Michigan cidery harvests fruit from each batch of cider from the Blake family farm (Blake Farms) and cider mill that has sat on its historic site since 1946. As the state’s first “U-Pick” orchard, Blake’s Hard Cider comes from three generations that understand and appreciate the artisanship that goes into the bottle but doesn’t require the consumer to do more than drink “hard cider for easy living.” According to Blake’s, a beard bender is vintage slang for “a badass time,” a handle they give to their Beard Bender cider for the same rationale. A traditional scrumpy in style (think British pub cider), this cider is a blend of bittersweet and bittersharp apples, producing a green fruit-forward yet bone-dry cider that is tart, tannic and bold. At 6.5 percent ABV, it goes down smooth and solid yet sessionable.
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