Food

Avoid Every Hard Cider Brand, Except These

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Sick of drinking the same bland alcohol from the same soulless mega-corporations that pump out the same uninspired drinks without end? Looking to try something with a little bit of character? Hard cider might be the answer.

Hard cider has taken off in the United States in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. With more interesting choices available on the market than ever before, consumers are finding new favorites instead of settling for the same bland alcohol.

If you’re looking for something new to try, or want to support a better company than large corporations driven by profit and increasing shareholder earnings, you’re not alone. But if you’ve never explored the alcohol selection at your local grocery store, you might not know where to begin. Here are 16 of our recommendations for hard cider brands you should try.

What is Hard Cider?

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Some beautiful red apples.

Hard cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apple juice. A true hard cider can be complex and offers a nuanced and layered flavor profile. People have been making hard cider for centuries, and while it used to be a simple and straightforward process, the tradition has grown into a wide and complex industry with varying tastes and styles. The different kinds of local apples are tailored to local tastes to create a wide variety of ciders. It’s an adventure to try the different ciders across North America.

Every producer has their own process, but much of it is the same between experts. After harvesting, the apples are stored for a time to “sweat,” which concentrates sugars and softens the fruit’s texture. They are then washed and sanitized, blended, ground into a pomace, and then pressed. After that, the resulting juice is put through a fermentation process, filtered, carbonated, and then bottled.

For this list, we looked at companies and hard cider brands that earn high marks in sustainable practices, eco-friendly sourcing and farming, minority and black-owned businesses, women-owned brands, commitment to social causes, and community involvement. These brands are doing some cool things, and we are excited for you to discover them. Purchasing your hard cider from these companies will help you feel good about the impact of every dollar you spend at the store.

#1 Finnriver Farm & Cidery

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Red apples used for cider.
  • Based: Chimacum, WA

Finnriver is an organic farm, orchard, and craft cidery in Chimacum, Washington. With its Social Justice Cider Project, $2 from each bottle sold goes towards local grassroots social justice organizations with no strings attached to share resources and raise awareness to move the region towards greater equity.

It is currently using two of its flavors from its Social Justice Cider Line, Black Current and Pera de Campesinos (Farmworker Pear), to support some fantastic organizations. The profits from their Black Current flavor are going towards Community Land Conservancy based in King County, WA, and the Pera de Campesinos is going towards Community to Community Development in Bellingham, WA, and Jefferson County Immigrant Rights Advocates in Port Townsend, WA.

Besides an online store, customers can enjoy a visit to Finnriver’s Chimacum Cider Garder, or the Tumwater Taproom. Dogs, kids, and even outside food are welcome.

#2 Seattle Cider Co.

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Typical apples used for cider.
  • Based: Seattle, WA

Seattle Cider Co. is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community. The sales from its Light Cider Line go to supporting multiple organizations including Pridefest, GSBA, Pride Foundation, Center on Halsted, and Seattle PRIDE.

Seattle Cider Co. sources all of its apples from around Washington State, and also includes the brix level (sugar content) of all its delicious ciders on the labels, boxes, and cans. You can try 15 cider varieties through the online store, a grocery store near you, and in The Woods tasting room in Seattle.

#3 Blake’s Hard Cider Co.

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Some cider brands let you pick your own apples.
  • Based: Armada, MI

Blake’s Hard Cider Co. has been a family-owned and operated business since 1946. It includes an 800-acre working farm and orchard that grows over 40 different apple varieties. Besides the online store, you can sample cider offerings at the Tasting Room in Armada or come get up close and personal to the apples during the U-pick season.

Proceeds from Blake’s Kinder Series go toward supporting local partners which include the LGBT National Hotline, Empowerment Plan, and Keep Growing Detroit. Blake’s has donated over $65,000 so far to these nonprofit partners.

#4 Hudson North Cider

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A view of the Hudson Valley.
  • Based: Hudson Valley, NY

Hudson North Cider has a goal to preserve the Hudson Valley Trails and beyond. In addition to the funds raised at its annual Taps for Trails pint night, ten cents of every gallon sold is donated to their Trail Partners which include the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, FLTC, and the Chesapeake Conservancy, with over $27,000 donated since 2020.

Hudson Valley doesn’t have a taproom, but it is currently building one. All apples used in Hudson North’s hard ciders are grown locally at Minard Family Farms just 30 minutes north of the cidery. You can order any cider you want from the online store.

#5 Portland Cider Co.

Portland+Oregon | Portland
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A view of Portland, Oregon.
  • Based: Portland, OR

Established in 2013, Portland Cider Co. is committed to improving the community. During its annual Community Cider to Combat Child Hunger, Portland Cider invites the community to bring bushels of unwanted backyard apples and pears for a massive pressing party to turn them into Community Cider. All proceeds from this event are donated to Hunger-Free Oregon Schools, a project of A Hunger Free Oregon, dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

Portland Cider’s offerings include 22 different flavors among 3 lines with seasonal and year-round varieties. Portland Cider has won the Best Cidery in Portland award, Best Cider House in Portland award, and won many Best of Show and golds, silvers, and bronzes in hard cider competitions. You can order online or drop into one of their three taprooms to indulge in this community-building cider.

#6 Annapolis Cider Company

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Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
  • Based: Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Annapolis Cider Company is “Committed to a philosophy of minimal intervention and practice of long, cool fermentations of unique cider and heritage apple varieties.” It uses proceeds from its Something Different Line to support various local charities and non-profits where each bottle is poured fresh at the Annapolis cidery into 750ml refillable bottles. 50 cents of every refill goes to support a local charity. This year’s flavor is Robuste, which is supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Halifax.

Annapolis Cider is locally focused, sourcing apples grown in nearby orchards which are then pressed and fermented in downtown Wolfville. Besides the online shop, you can sample their offerings at local tastings and cellar tours.

#7 Locust Cider

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Family-owned, local apples always taste better.
  • Based: Washington, Texas, Colorado

Locust Cider has been family-owned and operated since 2015. Twenty-five cents of every case of cans or bottles or its monthly Swarm Club subscriptions are donated to the Hydrocephalus Association. This cause is important to owners Jason and Rebecca Spears whose daughter, Lucy, lives with this incurable condition.

“I am selfish. I want to raise as much money as possible so one day my daughter may have a better option. Using Locust Cider, we can make a difference,” says owner Jason Spears. The business and life duo have donated over $10,000 per year since 2016.

You can order online or enjoy offerings from four different cider lines in one of their three taprooms located in Washington, Colorado, and Texas.

#8 Yonder Cider

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Vista of Monitor and Wenatchee, Washington in Spring.
  • Based: Wenatchee, WA

Founder and CEO Caitlin Braam and Head Cidermaker Monique Tribble source their apples from Wenatchee Valley. Yonder Cider has two taprooms in Seattle and offers year-round, seasonal, and limited releases.

Yonder Cider is woman-owned and operated. The head Cidermaker is also a woman. Yonder Cider has an online store that boasts fun cider cocktail recipes.

#9 Chatham Cider Works

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Look at those women-grown apples!
  • Based: Pittsboro, NC

Co-founder, co-owner, and Cidermaker, Maureen Ahmad has created a woman-owned and family-run small-batch cidery that uses southern apples grown locally in North Carolina. Besides her online store, you can sample her creations at the Tasting Room at The Fair Game Distillery which offers all ciders on tap, in flights, in bottles, or even in kegs.

Chatham is committed to bringing southern ciders to the cider industry. One of its preferred apple varieties to use is the Arkansas Black. It also forages fruit for its yearly backyard blend using field apples and “ugly” apples from nearby orchards. Chatham Cidery is in the Chatham Beveridge District in Pittsboro.

#10 Eris Brewery & Cider House

Illinois | chicago skyline from the park
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A view of northern Chicago.
  • Based: Chicago, IL

Co-owners Michelle Foik and Katy Pizza are shaking up the cider industry in Chicago. With their Brewpub in Old Irving Park, they host paint and sips, comedy shows, and trivia and bingo nights. They offer a unique variety of ciders with their seasonal, year-round, and Chaos Series.

Eris was inspired by the Greek Goddess, Eris, known for throwing the golden apple of discord into a party that she wasn’t invited to. Eris Brewery & Cider House is their way of throwing a golden apple into the male-dominated industry.

#11 Two Broads Ciderworks

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San Luis Obispo, California.
  • Based: San Luis Obispo, CA

Life and business partners, co-owners, and co-founders Morgan Murphy and Maggie Przybylski source fruit from local growers in San Luis Obispo County and press the fruit themselves. According to them, their whole purpose is to turn local fruit into delicious ciders, promote the appreciation of good cider, and nurture local cider apple production.

You can sample the product of their love and partnership in Two Broads’ tasting room or through the online store.

#12 Momentum Ciders

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A view of San Francisco.
  • Based: San Francisco, CA

Monique Gray, self-described cidermaker, musician, and mother of five opened the first black-owned cidery in California and the third black-owned cidery in the United States. Momentum Ciders is committed to sustainability and community involvement that started out in Gray’s kitchen during the pandemic lockdowns. Momentum is eco-friendly and San Francisco-based.

#13 La Familia Cider Company

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Historical First Presbyterian Church building in downtown Salem, Oregon.
  • Based: Salem, OR

This unique cider company was founded in 2017 by the Gonzalezes, a family of first-generation Mexican immigrants. La Familia was inspired by traditional Mexican agua frescas and combines Oregon cider and apples with a Mexican passion for fruit drinks.

La Familia Cider company also gives back to the community by donating a percentage of revenue to local nonprofits that help families with the legal immigration process, with the honorable goal of keeping families together. Besides its online store, you can sample La Familia’s unique ciders in its flagship taproom in Salem which was recently named the best taproom in the region. It is family-friendly, kid-friendly, and pet-friendly.

#14 Ironbound Farm 

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The historic, Asbury United Methodist Church in Asbury, New Jersey. Part of the Asbury Historic District.
  • Based: Asbury, NJ

Regenerative farming is the top priority for Ironbound. Regenerative farming focuses on the health of the soil and sustainable farming practices. It is an indigenous approach to farming that grows food with more nutrients, stores more carbon in the soil and increases biodiversity. Regenerative farming helps fight against climate change, restores ecologies, addresses inequality, and transforms a linear industrial food system into a cyclical sustainable system that benefits all parties every step of the way.

Ironbound is a regenerative farm that was “founded on the belief that businesses must take responsibility for the impact they have on the social, economic, and ecological well-being of their communities.” Ironbound embraces the beauty, abundance, and diversity of New Jersey by taking care of the land through regenerative farming practices.

Ironbound is partnered with a network of farms throughout New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. This network provides farmers in remote areas with much-needed income and access to the New Jersey market. It also incentivizes these small farms to participate in regenerative farming as well. Ironbound also has a goal of restoring once-lost apple varieties back to New Jersey.

Ironbound’s online store offers nationwide shipping, or you can sample cider offerings at the The Ciderhouse at Ironbound Farm.

#15 Champlain Orchards

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The beautiful Vermont mountains.
  • Based: Shoreham, VT

Established in 1998, Champlain Orchards is a champion of the eco-friendly beverage revolution. It is a certified organic and sustainable orchard that uses no harmful pesticides. Champlain participates in various efforts to fight climate change in a variety of ways including using mostly solar power, limiting water usage, limiting waste, and using lightweight bottles and cans in hard cider production.

Champlain Orchards uses 300 acres and 175 varieties of eco-certified apples, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, nectarines, and berries to create hard cider offerings. All of Champlain’s fruit is either ecologically grown and third-party certified by the IPM Institute or organically grown and certified by VOF.

Besides delicious ciders, Champlain also sells fruit, provisions, and orchard gear. You can sample hard cider offerings on the online store, or by visiting a carrier near you. You can find Champlain Orchard’s hard ciders in stores in 41 states.

#16 Metal House Cider

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Hand-picking apples.
  • Based: Espous, NY

Metal House is a boutique small cidery run by Co-founders and life partners Kimberely and Matte Kae. The duo sources their apples exclusively from historic Hudson Valley orchards and their own reinvigorated family orchard in Espous. Their process takes years from them handpicking apples to you enjoying their complex ciders. In addition to handpicking their apples, they also press the fruit on their homemade rack-and-cloth press and let their bottles rest through the winter in their steel-clad cider house named The Metal House.

In addition to Metal House’s online store with nationwide shipping, its quality products are carried by an assortment of restaurants, bars, and shops in the Hudson Valley, New York City, New York State, and Massachusetts.

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