[Woodchuck Hard Cider Review] - One of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages these days besides craft beer is hard cider. The Woodchuck Cidery in Vermont is one of America's largest hard cider makers and puts out a wide variety of hard ciders, including several seasonal and wood-aged varieties. Every 3 months or so, they put out a Woodchuck Cider Maker's Choice Variety Pack and include 4 different hard ciders: 3 standards and 1 seasonal. Included in the Autumn variety pack is their: Woodchuck Amber, Woodchuck 802, Woodchuck Granny Smith, and one called Woodchuck Fall, a spiced hard cider. With hard cider a hot topic these days, Fermentedly Challenged went directly towards one of the top cider makers to evaluate 4 hard ciders for the fall season. Woodchuck Hard Cider seemed to be a simple choice as it seems to be available just about everywhere.
Woodchuck Hard Cider got it's start back in 1990 originally as "Vermont Old-Fashioned Hard Cider" but soon after was renamed Woodchuck, a nickname for Vermonters. Now after 23 years in the business, they have become the most popular hard cider maker in the nation.
The Woodchuck variety pack for Fall is available August through October, but you can certainly find plenty of it around stores in November. The Woodchuck Cider Maker's Choice Variety Pack offers twelve 12oz bottles with 4 different ciders and 3 of each type. Their Winter cider is available November through January, the Spring cider in February and March, and the Summer cider from April through July. All of their ciders weigh in around 5.0% ABV, but each different cider is an experience unique to itself. Let's go through each of them from the Fall variety pack from lightest color to darkest color.
Woodchuck Granny Smith Hard Cider
Woodchuck Granny Smith is the palest of these ciders, almost a greenish white. Granny Smith apples tend to be more tart than other apples and that tart crisp taste really stood out in this hard cider. There was still plenty of sweetness, very bubbly and not the least bit dry. This was one of my favorite hard ciders of the bunch. It reminded me slightly of sparkling cider, but the tartness mixed with the sweet was absolutely wonderful. Woodchuck Granny Smith was perfectly clear, no haze even when very cold. This cider had the least amount of residual sugar and the fewest calories of the bunch, but oh so good. Light, tart and refreshing - a good starter cider.
Woodchuck Amber Hard Cider
Woodchuck's Amber offering is what I would call their most classic hard cider. It looks like regular apple juice only with carbonation. There's no clouding or sediment either, just some bubbles dancing in the glass. There's plenty of sweetness in this cider and has the highest level of sugars per bottle (21g) and 200 calories. Nothing dry about this cider, in fact just the total opposite. It's very sweet, and the alcohol is hidden very well. You might not realize it's got booze in it. If you don't like sweet ciders then you might want something drier as this one has enough sugar to give you a buzz by itself. Still, it's a classic taste and it'll satisfy your thirst and go down easy.
Woodchuck Fall Hard Cider
Woodchuck Fall is their seasonal insert into the variety pack. This is a spiced cider and has cinnamon and nutmeg in it. The aroma will remind you of a Thanksgiving dessert, almost like pumpkin pie spice, yet no pumpkin is in this cider at all. The deeper color also comes from having exposure to American White Oak which also lends some woody flavors of its own. Given the big spiced flavor, Woodchuck Fall also has the most sugar and calories of the bunch. Tread easy with this one. While it's not boozy, the sugars and spice will tend to overwhelm you if you choose to have more than 1 bottle of this. I bet you'll find you only want one of this. Still, an impressively distinctive hard cider that fits perfectly into the Autumn months. The aroma will stick with you long after the drink is over.
Woodchuck 802 Hard Cider
Woodchuck 802 gets its name from the Vermont area code where the cidery is located. This is the darkest of all their ciders in the variety pack and has the 2nd least sugars and calories. The cider gets it darker color from the addition of caramelized sugar. This cider tastes less sweet than the Amber and Fall, but a tad higher than the Granny Smith. Again, all of these hard ciders look well filtered and clear of any sediment. This is the dryest of the 4 ciders, yet has a bolder flavor and slightly heavier feel than the others. I love the darker color and it's not over the top with any addition. This would be a good cider to finish an evening with.
All of these Woodchuck hard ciders went down easily, although the spiced Fall cider was a bit heavy on the spices and drank a bit more slowly. The sweetness of these ciders often hide the fact that there is still 5% alcohol by volume in those bottles, so drink with care. Each Woodchuck offering had between 11 to 21 grams of sugar per 12oz bottle and anywhere from 160 to 220 calories per bottle. Woodchuck hard ciders make an excellent alternative to craft beer, particularly when you want something without hops, a bit on the sweet side, but as easy drinking as a pale ale or lighter colored lager.
My favorite of the bunch was the Woodchuck Granny Smith. I love tart drinks that this delivers without being sour. This variety of apple has the best flavor in my opinion and was very refreshing without being overly sweet.
I've noticed that Woodchuck seems to change their labels from time to time. I remember many of these from a few years back. Gone too are the green bottles and now replaced with brown bottles. Woodchuck Cidery makes quality hard ciders that I would recommend to anyone of legal drinking age. There are certainly many other hard cider makers out there including a few from overseas where hard cider is more common than in the states, but nobody else seems to have quite the same experience and reach as Woodchuck. Woodchuck has a lot of experience behind them and know how to mix it up with a wide variety of flavors.
Even here in Colorado, the hard cider market is really starting to heat up. Just this year alone a new Rocky Mountain Cider Association has been formed with around 9 Colorado members and a few out of state members. Even hard cider bars are starting to pop up with a variety of hard ciders on tap. Craft breweries are finding that perhaps hard cider might make a good addition to their product lines, however, cider tends to fall under different licensing rules and a separate license may be needed to produce a non-malt beverage. Woodchuck ciders are available all across the state of Colorado and would make a good introduction for someone who is just wanting to get into hard cider.
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