Photo: Liubov_Chuiko, Getty Images.
Step aside, breweries. Hard cider taprooms are the next big trend in watering holes. All across the country, apple enthusiasts are whetting their whistles with creative hard ciders. Cider taprooms aren’t just about drinking, either; in addition to spectacular food options, many cider taprooms have live music programs, trivia nights, games galore, and other events to keep the customer base constantly buzzed and amused. This fall, ditch your routine craft brew or uptight wine habit and raise a glass to hard cider instead.
Wayside Cider (Andes, New York)
Photo: Wayside Cider on Facebook.
This Catskills haven is outfitted with funky retro bar elements and a charming outdoor courtyard that gets all lit up at night. Founders Alex Wilson and Irene Hussey rely on dessert, heirloom, and wild apples to form their Half Wild, Catskill, and Dry Town ciders. The food menu is more sophisticated than most taprooms: charcuterie, cheese, and vegetable boards change seasonally and are served alongside fresh and flavorful salads. Live, acoustic music adds to the already cozy ambiance. Can you say “date night?”
Sonoma Cider (Healdsburg, California)
Photo: Sonoma Cider on Facebook.
Father-son operation Sonoma Cider boasts a wide variety of handcrafted cider with flavor notes that range from sour apple to cherry to rhubarb. “Our unique, organic fruit brings flavor components to the table that are just not present in other hard ciders in the United States. Organic fruit has way more flavor than conventional fruit,” says David Cordtz in a video on the company’s origins. They source that organic fruit from Sonoma County, Washington, and Oregon. The Sonoma Cider taproom is 5,500 square feet of hip, modern space tucked inside a warehouse. With up to 18 ciders and five beers on tap daily, you’ll be hard-pressed to choose between a limited run cider, a micro release cider, or a cidermaker reserve cider. (When in doubt, order a flight.) The food menu is packed with traditional bar fare like chicken and waffles, BLT, and mac ‘n’ cheese as well as vegan options. When you’ve had your fill of eats and drinks, visit the pooches hanging out on the dog-friendly patio, warm up by the outdoor fire pit, or play one of the many games onsite including foosball, Skee-Ball, ping pong, or giant Jenga.
Sociable Cider Werks (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Photo: Sociable Cider Werks on Facebook.
Two friends and former roommates started this hard cider company in their garage years ago; now they have the ultimate hangout in Northeast Minneapolis furnished with dark wood, industrial elements, and twinkle lights. A glass retractable door opens on warm days for an open-air drinking experience and summertime sees live music outdoors on the grounds. Taps rotate often and come in fun, often bike-themed varieties like Freewheeler, Hop-A-Wheelie, Rusty Chain, and Road Rash. Many of the fruity concoctions are gluten free, too. After getting your buzz on, partake in trivia or grab some grub from one of the many rotating food trucks.
Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider (Portland, Oregon)
Photo: Reverend Nats Hard Cider on Facebook.
Nat West is an evangelist of hard cider and he hopes to make you a convert. The founder of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider started making cider out of necessity – too many ripe apples and not enough mouths to feed. He’s since evolved from home brewing to a Kickstarter-funded brand and a 3,500 square-foot cidery and taproom. Current seasonal specialties of cider include New Moon Mandarin, Viva La Pineapple, and The Passion, but West is constantly creating new brews and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Bring your own food or meander over to Sizzle Pie or Pine State Biscuits, which occupy the same building as Reverend Nat’s, to satisfy your pizza and soul food cravings.
New Mexico Hard Cider (Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Photo: New Mexico Hard Cider on Facebook.
This desert dive features a long bar, plenty of two-tops, and taps of hard cider made from apples sourced in-state and brewed locally. Cider flavors cover the fruity rainbow: strawberry, blueberry, mango, raspberry, cranberry, and apricot. Its flagship cider, the Doña Tules Semi Sweet, is lightly carbonated with a crisp, clean finish. The most exotic cider flavor here has to be the Purple Bunny, an earthy mixture of sweetened apple cider and purple carrot wine. Tacos, quesadillas, and (yes!) Frito Pie round out the Southwestern-inspired food menu.