January 31, 2016 - Santa Rosa, CA
Yes!! It was totally thrilling for our little cider company to be named Best Cidery 2016 at the Rate Beer Best awards last night.
But it was also a fair bit embarrassing, because the engagement of passionate and knowledgeable cider drinkers on Rate Beer is far less that that of craft beer: Ciders have very few ratings compared to beers, and the ciders that have high and more frequent ratings are weirdly skewed toward sweet ice ciders, an even smaller proportion of what is a tiny, although growing, market.
I have a huge admiration for what Joe Tucker and Rate Beer have built over more than a decade - a place where great quality beers from all over the world can be recognized by the people that drink them. They've done a hero's job at avoiding the trap of sponsorship by mass market industrial beer companies that would dilute their focus on craft and quality.
I would love to see Rate Beer become a similarly comprehensive and quality focused resource for the Cider community, but it still has a long way to go - we need a lot more passionate cider drinkers to get involved in rating ciders! We also need more understanding of ciders in the marketplace - what defines true quality in ciders, and how different types of ciders can be appreciated.
For anyone who reads this and wants to get involved rating ciders on Rate Beer, here are some resources, and cideries I would recommend you start with:
Eric West of Cider Guide. Eric is also leading the effort by the US Association of Cider Makers to create a Cider Certification Program.
Below is my list of the US Cideries I would expect to see in a "Best" list from Rate Beer. Every one of them focuses on the quality, character and origin of the apples they use as the most important factor in how their ciders taste. Then they do an excellent job of producing their ciders - fermentation, blending, finishing, bottling - in a manner that showcases the quality of those apples rather than covering it up with other flavorings, too much added sugar, bacterial infections, and other forms of interference that make sense for beers (which are recipes), but not for ciders (fermented apple juice).
Albemarle Ciderworks, North Garden VA
Alpenfire Ciders, Port Townsend WA
Dragon's Head Ciders, Vashon WA
Eden Specialty Ciders, Newport VT
Eve's Cider, Van Etten NY
EZ Orchard, Salem OR
Farnum Hill Ciders, Lebanon NH
Foggy Ridge Ciders, Floyd VA
Red Byrd Cider, Trumansburg NY
Slyboro Cidery, Granville NY
Snowdrift Ciders, Wenatchee WA
Tilted Shed Ciderworks, Windsor CA
Go find these ciders, and drink them in order from dry to sweet, rather than by producer, and you will begin to get a real sense of what true craft cider should and can be. Yes I've included our own Eden Specialty Ciders in the list, but are we the best? Knowledgeable cider drinkers should decide...