Let me count the ways. Smothered in peanut butter, bobbed for in a bucket and, above all, pressed into cider. I’m not alone in cider love: Humanity has fancied the drink since gravity started pulling apples from trees. While fall bears the fruit, I’d argue summer is the best season to enjoy the fermented juice. Dry or sweet, complex or easy-going, pick your poison and pair it with a long day of sunshine and nothing to do. Here, we’ve rounded up a selection of West Michigan’s finest ciders to quench your summer thirst.
The Cucumber One, Farmhaus Cider Co.
Farmhaus recently rebranded its Crushable cider into The Cucumber One. It retains the original’s deliciousness; it’s also the perfect name for an episode of Friends where Joey sits on a cucumber and turns it into a pickle. This self-described “self-care in a can” is pretty much a liquid spa. There’s the cucumber-forward flavor, the eucalyptus scent — just add a towel and some sauna time, and your toxins will spill right out. Great on its own, I could also imagine dumping a few in a pitcher with some gin and mint for an afternoon cocktail.
The Ghost, Bee Well Mead & Cider
For those looking to fight fire with fire, Bee Well’s The Ghost has enough Scoville units to squash a July heatwave. The blend of ghost peppers, scotch bonnets, and Carolina reapers meld into a pepper profile that’s at once spicy, vegetal and sweet. Make no mistake: There’s no missing the heat, but a healthy dose of peach and passionfruit prevents the cider from tasting like straight hot sauce. It’s an invigorating tropical delight. Consider curry pad Thai with spice level cranked high for an ideal pairing.
Brut, Vander Mill
Brut delivers the clapback to all those caramel apple ciders that rot your teeth. It flaunts its sugar-free count and tastes all the better for it. On the nose, I detected a fruity bouquet; on the palate it’s dry as drought. Crisp, acidic notes dominate the front, there’s a dash of lemon zest next and — call me crazy — I noticed some petting zoo funk too. The lil’ 8-ounce cutie can that Brut comes in belies just how sophisticated it tastes. This one should get your sauv blanc snobs to take cider seriously.
Rosé, Pux Cider
The majority of my rosé consumption happens on an innertube, suckling from a wine nozzle while floating downstream. After tasting Pux’s Rosé, that may change. Rosé — made with strawberry, rhubarb and hibiscus — smells like a day in a U-Pick patch. Visually, it’s gorgeous, a meeting of green and pink. The flavor calls to mind an image of strawberry shortcake stuffed in a tea bag and the tart rhubarb gets sussed out after further sips. Right in the Goldilocks zone between fruity and dry, it should serve as the perfect introduction to the cider curious.
Lavender Apple, Northern Natural Cider House and Winery
Like an essential oil in cider form, it’s up for debate whether or not Lavender Apple contains healing properties, though I sure felt better after I drank it. The aromatics are huge, but mysterious. If blindly tasted, I may have guessed cinnamon or clove. While these notes sound like the makings for an excellent soap, fortunately, Lavender Apple tastes nothing like cleaner. It’s delicate, floral, maybe even ... passionate? There’s something beautiful about this cider: understated, calm as balm and transportive to fields where the wind wisps forever through purple reeds.
Virtue Pear, Virtue Cider
Pear is the black sheep cousin to the apple. You may not see people going to pear orchards, but that’s simply because the fruit is too delicate, too precious for the masses. While a whole pear on its own is a bit much to bear, mix it into something like cider and it brings an incredible juicy softness without being too sweet. Virtue’s Pear cider finds the perfect balance with its tart heirloom apples, resulting in another sauv blanc-esque experience that’s highly, highly drinkable.