by Anthony Enright
So if I was to follow the inevitable logic of journalistic relevance, this week I would be giving you a run down of the best and worst foods available at the Great Minnesota Get-Together (i.e. the State Fair). But dear reader, that ground has already been covered by iron stomached local foodies far more dedicated and organized than I. If you’re aching for State Fair food coverage and have somehow avoided the internet these past few days, I’ll save you a Google search and link to some of the best examples here. There’s Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl’s slightly snarky but oh-so accurate observations over at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Andrew Zimmerman’s tasty traditionalist picks on his blog, and last but certainly not least the ridiculously comprehensive and astoundingly dedicated coverage from the good folks over at The Heavy Table. As neither my pocketbook or my digestive constitution could handle that level of commitment, I’ll grab my beloved bacon-on-a-stick and leave the rest to the professionals. So no State Fair food reviews here, in my typically random and capricious way, I’m going to talk about something completely different.
As you probably already know, it was infernally hot today, like turn up the air, protect the pets and wallow in self pity hot. Wouldn’t you know it, the entire rest of the week (which for all intents and purposes seems like the rest of eternity) is predicted to be equally insufferable. So in this last gasp of Summer what’s a poor boiling soul to drink? May I suggest a fine hard cider? Wait, hear me out…Hard cider gets a bad rap as mass produced, overly sweet and just one step up from a wine cooler. While that’s accurate for some varieties, it’s certainly not true for all. A great dry hard cider can be impossibly refreshing on a hot day, and as we have quite a few of those coming up I thought I’d share a few favorites. As an alternative to drinking these on their own maybe try making yourself a Shandy (equal parts beer and cider) with one of the ciders below and one of our great local Summer beers, I recommend Indeed’s Summer Shenanigans for a subtle citrus counterpoint to the cider.
Crispin Brown’s Lane:
Though Crispin is a local company, this cider is a British import and is definitely made in a more traditional style than their original blue line (which is a bit too light for my taste). Not too sweet or rich, this still leaves an impression with a distinct fermented flavor and a woodsy undertone that adds just enough complexity.
Original Sin Hard Cider:
First off, I kind of wanted to hate this cider because of its annoying name, but I couldn’t because it was really tasty. Using Champagne yeasts and Granny Smith apples, Original Sin comes off very light, bright and refreshing with less complexity but a whole lot of pleasing summer character. One to pair with a summer seafood bake or spicy Mexican food.
Angry Orchard Traditional Dry:
Another cider made in more of an English draft style (so sue me, I like that style) this American cider is slightly spicy and a tad bitter with a bright apple aroma. Definitely on the drier and leaner side of the spectrum, so if you prefer the more pure apple flavor try Angry Orchard’s “crisp” version instead.
So there’s a few of good picks that should be easy to find in most liquor stores and won’t break the bank. I’m not by any means saying these are the pinnacle of hard cider quality, as there’s a whole slew of artisan farmhouse ciders (typically in 750ml format) that will blow these guys out of the water. But those artisan ciders are pricy, difficult to find, and frankly too dear for this situation. When the weather’s pushing 100, and you’re sweating it out on the patio reach for a crisp super cold hard cider and apologize to no one!