In a shot: Came across a line of ciders known as Crispin and decided to do a little study and tasting.
Growing up in a world of sugary wine coolers, cloyingly sweet hard lemonades and those awful "Alcopops" (I dare not say there names), I never thought I'd become a guy who liked hard ciders. The beer industry has evolved and the times have drastically changed towards a far superior direction. The Michigan based J.K. Scrumpy's Organic Hard Cider is spectacular, Woodchuck makes a fantastic Pear Cider and Strongbow from the UK makes a subtle and sophisticated dry cider. During colonial times, cider was often the drink of choice during meals as water was still unsafe to drink at the time. Prohibition put a stop to ciders in our country, following with a pool of sugary sweet drinks that were just no good. From Argentina to the United Kingdom, ciders are being produced all over the world. In the US alone, we are producing up to around 15,000,000 cases annually with no signs of stopping.
Located off Central Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota lies a headquarters for a California sourced new face for hard ciders. Crispin Hard Cider Company is offering an evolving line of gluten free, naturally fermented beverages using a premium apple juice blend, not from concentrate, with no added malt, grape wine or spirit alcohol. Depending on the product in hand, Crispin cider's are smoothed with pure apple juice and contain no added colorants, sorbate or benzoate preservatives and are chill filtered (A process where the cider is chilled to near 0°C (32°F) and passed through a fine filter, removing oily/fatty compounds extracted in the maturation period preventing the final product from becoming hazy when chilled, or when water or ice is added). They go through this process because Crispin is avid about serving their ciders over ice. They do however produce artisinal 'Trappist style' reserve ciders that are unfiltered using racked apple wine and sweetened with organic maple syrup or honey.
Starting with their Crispin Bright over ice. This light cider is 110 calories, has 8 grams of Carbohydrates and 7 grams of sugar with a mellow 3.2% ABV in every 12 fl oz bottle. The drink anytime cider pours, dissipates and drinks much like a club soda with very light green apple and pear flavors with lemon. The Crispin website recommends serving this (and all of their ciders) over ice and add a lemon slice to this incredibly light Crispin Bright.
Their flagship standard, Crispin Original Crisp, over ice is deeper in color, flavor and slightly heavier in the mouth. 5% ABV there is definitely more of an alcohol presence and the Natural expression is assuredly drier than it's Bright sister.
Crispin Brut Extra Dry over ice is fantastic! 5.5% ABV, this stronger and even more arid beer boasts red apple flavors, caramels and cinnamon spices. Definitely my favorite thus far.
Crispin Honey Crisp artisinal reserve is 6.5% ABV is completely different than the regular line of ciders. Cloudy, soft, and full of thick honey notes, this cider tastes as if there is little to no alcohol at all and yet it's the strongest one of the lot. Still very tart and dry with subtle natural sweetness, it's finish is the smoothest of the line I've had.
In the end, I would go back to a Crispin. It's familiar, it's clean and refreshing and fun to drink in a glass filled pint like a summer cocktail. I highly recommend either the Brut Extra Dry or the Honey Crisp as they are truly great ciders to engage. Crispin also makes a limited release version of Honey Crisp, n ufiltered, unpasteurized variation called Falconetti. They also have a play on Bonnie & Clyde, Clyde being the 6.9% Chardonnay barrel aged hybrid and Bonnie is the softer 5.5% abv yet spicy ginger/blood orange apple beast. They also have another artisanal called "The Saint" which is fresh apple juices fermented with Trappist beer yeasts. It's described as the cider to convert skeptics. Grab a Crispin and get to starting or finishing your day on a truly refreshing note.
* Update: Happy to say I no longer have to look in mom and pop shops for the wonderful Crispin line as they have recently been spotted in chains such as Wegmans and Whole Foods! Strangely enough, the only ones that are showing up on the shelves though are the artisanal options. I've seen the honey and I've finally found "The Saint", an exclusive variation where they use organically pressed apple juice, not from concentrate and apply it to Belgium yeasts and then sweeten it with organic maple syrup.
Tasting Notes: Cloudy Golden Pear Color; Drinks like apple wine. Light and dry with tart pear flavors, vanilla, hay uncooked breads and sticky earthy notes. The maple is VERY subtle and more discovered in it's refreshing crisp finish. Great by itself and an interesting dynamic for cocktails.