We’ve talked about gluten-free beers and explored ciders and meads, but every once and a while, someone decides to give a hybrid a go. That’s what we have with Anthem Hops—a dry-ish apple cider made with Oregon-grown hops. Think of it as starting life as a cider but being finished off as if it were a beer. You might initially cringe at the thought—but don’t. This one is neat.
The Anthem line of ciders is by Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Oregon, and currently has four varieties. The Anthem Hops varietal is the only one that is made with hops, and is rather unique in the world of ciders. They boast that they only use whole-fruit, grown in the surrounding regions in Oregon and Washington. Interestingly, because of the varying amounts of sugars in apples, the ciders have an ABV range, so they print the ABV, batch number, and bottling date on every bottle. The one I’m drinking as I’m writing this is 5.5%, but their website claims it can go as high as 6.9%. And where beer often strives for high levels of taste reproducibility, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks embraces that each cider might have a slightly different flavor based on the characteristics of the apples at the time of pressing.
After the cider is pressed and fermented, Anthem Hops is dry-hopped for three weeks using locally-grown Cascade hops. That the hops used in this cider are Cascade can hardly be a shock—they’re all over the Northwest, and the crispness they lend to lagers or ales is a perfect match for the crispness of the apples used in the cider.
After pouring the cider, you’ll notice the same light-lager color we’ve come to expect from ciders. The complete lack of head is also common with apple ciders. The nose is interesting and hard to describe. Obviously you get some apple, but the sweetness is cut. It’s rather minerally, and you can’t quite figure out where some of the aroma is coming from—the apples or the hops.
But the flavor—it’s pretty awesome. First, the mouth-feel is interestingly soft. The flavor hints pretty heavily at dryness, but that’s a byproduct of the hops rather than the cider apparently. I personally prefer a traditional “dry” cider to what I call a “wet” one (you know the kind, basically fermented apple juice), and the hops do a really neat round-about on this cider to give it hints of that dryness. But unlike an English dry cider, the mouth-feel isn’t incredibly crisp —rather it’s full and fluffy.
The apples and the hops are so perfectly blended that it’s almost impossible to pick them out from each other. Because it’s a dry-hop, there isn’t a lot of the woodsy/piney flavor that boiled hops give off. The oils, however, do seep in well, and the mineral flavors cut the sweetness of the apples. But the flavor of the apples is the foundation of this drink. There’s perhaps a touch of tart cherry, or maybe it’s just tart…
Look. I can’t adequately describe this cider—not to the level required to imagine what I’ve tasted. I’ve had others give it a try and they say pretty much the same thing. The fact is, this blend of hops and apples is really a bit brilliant. I’ve heard “I could drink a few of these” from people that really rather dislike cider, and “It tastes like… something…” from people that can wax flavorful about beer all day long.
Truthfully, this cider has grown on me more and more and I’m ready to declare it a winner.
Here’s the take-away—try this cider. Try it if you like dry ciders. Try it if you like “wet” ones. Try it if you don’t like ciders. Try it if you prefer lagers, or hoppy ales. But for goodness sake, try it. Then let me know what you think.