Cider is a broad category. By definition, sour cider is “cider fermented with non-traditional yeast and bacteria, typically lactic and acetic acid, and wild-fermented,” Peter Clausen, production manager of 101 Cider House in Los Angeles, says. Clausen quite literally defined the category, assisting the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) in creating the definition for the sour cider category.
At the same time, sour cider, like cider as a category in general, is difficult to define. For example, 101 Cider considers itself closer to sour beer, effervescent and often including adjuncts like fruit and herbs. Meanwhile Troy Cider, another brand produced by 101, is more like white wine.
From puckeringly tart to lightly funky to crushable as a dry sparkling wine, sour and other wild-fermented ciders take many delicious forms. Whether it’s your first time trying it or you’re a cider connoisseur, Clausen recommends imbibing with earthy, nutty cheeses, like manchego or raw cheddar. The funky flavors play harmoniously on the palate, and help balance some of that tart acidity.
Here are five sour or wild-fermented ciders to try next time you’re feeling adventurous.
ABV: 6.9 %
Graft Farm Flor is tart, earthy, funky cider at its best. A blend of cider fermented with wild Brettanomyces yeast, and aged in oak foeders, this treat ramps up the acidity while remaining rustic and delicate. Graft produces many beer, wine, and cocktail-inspired sour ciders — keep an eye out for Fields and Flowers Gose Rose, or Lost Tropic Hop Mimosa Cider.
Los Angeles, Calif.
101 prides on producing ciders that are probiotic, raw, unfiltered, and unpasteurized — it’s lingo that’s true of most wild-fermented ciders and is a nice touch, but not necessary when you’ve tasted Cactus Red. Billed as a “Southwest style” cider, Cactus Red is made with indigenous California cactus pears and fresh Thai basil. It pours a bubblegum pink color and offers aromas of mint, parsley, and Mojito, with flavors of aloe, strawberry, and roses.
A sour cider at once at its most basic and immensely complex, Funk Odyssey blends heirloom cider apples, pineapple quince, wild yeast, and nine months of bourbon barrel-aging to create a complex, still cider that brings peppery notes on the palate and a sharp acidity on the finish.
This farmhouse cider hailing from Middlebury, Vt. is a great place to start for funky cider beginners. Wild fermented, unfiltered, and can-conditioned, Arlo brings a balanced, gentle take to the sour cider scene. Combining cider apples from Vermont and Spain, Arlo is light and dry, with grassy, hay-like aromas that gave one taster the impression of “freshly cleaned out barn.” (It tastes better than it sounds.)
Adams County, Penn.
A riff on the Latin name for hops (humulus lupulus), Lupulin Lummox is made with Citra hops, popular for their tropical, citrusy character. Don’t be fooled, though — this hopped cider is no bitter IPA. It’s deliciously dry, clean, crisp, and refreshing, expressing more like Champagne than a hoppy beer. Put it in a flute and call it a day.