Updated July, 2016: Several new brands of cider added with even more to come in August! Plus, keep your eyes open for upcoming Radler (grapefruit) beer reviews!
I’ve always loved hard cider, and I can remember a time when Strongbow was pretty much the only option in my local bars and liquor stores. Luckily, over the past few years, the number of new brands of alcoholic cider in Toronto’s LCBOs has exploded. So, naturally, I made it my mission to try nearly all of the different brands of cider that are currently sold at the LCBO in order to declare my new favourites. I hope that these reviews will be helpful in guiding your cider choices this summer!
Notes About the Taste Testing Process:
I taste tested the following ciders in groups of at least 4 different brands. The taste testing groups were divided by fruit flavour (apple, pear, or berry) and by glass bottles versus cans. I started with the dry ciders and worked my way up to the sweetest ciders. Please keep in mind that these reviews are based only on my personal taste and opinion.
What I Prefer in a Cider
I’m looking for a good balance of sweetness (dry to semi-sweet) and acidity with a mild carbonation. Above all else, the most important quality of cider to me is a prominent and natural-tasting fruit flavour.
Alcoholic Cider Reviews
Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Hard Cider – My Favouite Semi-Sweet to Sweet Apple Cider
This is my new favourite sweet hard cider. It is made in the USA and is dangerously smooth. It is a fermented cider but it tastes just like apple juice. It reminds me of a better version of Allen’s apple juice (which was my favourite apple juice as a kid). It is sweet, but not too sweet, lightly carbonated, and full of apple flavour. If you prefer something slightly more complex, drier and less sweet, try Woodchuk.
Woodchuk Amber Hard Cider – My Favourite Semi-Sweet Apple Cider
This cider is made in the USA. It is my favourite semi-sweet hard apple cider. I love Woodchuk Amber Hard Cider’s prominent apple flavour. This cider is crisp, refreshing, not too sweet, and it has the perfect acidity for my taste. It also leaves a nice lingering aftertaste of apples. I should note that for some reason, the initial two sips don’t always taste great. I just wish that this was easier to find in Canada, because Woodchuk makes other hard ciders that I’d love to try. If you prefer something slightly less complex and slightly sweeter, try Angry Orchard.
Woodchuk Fall Harvest (Just Like Apple Pie)
This cider really does taste like apple pie. It feels thick, hearty, and heavy with a cooked apple flavour that’s heavy on baking spices. It was a neat novelty cider to try, but I wouldn’t purchase it again. It’s certainly more enjoyable in the fall or winter. It wasn’t light or refreshing enough for the summer.
This is made in Canada and I’ve visited the cidery in Picton, ON. I’ve tasted this cider coming out of a keg and a glass bottle. Both are great, but personally, I much preferred the draft cider. This cider is not too sweet, it’s smooth, and it has great apple flavour. Compared to the other ciders that I’ve tried, the carbonation and character of this cider slightly resemble a fruity beer. This was my favourite semi-sweet cider until I discovered Woodchuk Amber Hard Cider and Angry Orchard.
Growers Granny Smith Apple
This is a Canadian product. I love granny smith apples so I really like the distinct green apple flavour of Growers Granny Smith Apple Cider. However, this cider is a bit too sweet and it tastes suspiciously similar to artificially-flavoured green apple candy. It’s not as sophisticated as the other ciders I’ve tried.
Pommies Dry Cider – My Previous Favourite Dry Apple Cider
This is a Canadian product. I met one of the owners of Pommies once, and he was a great person to chat with. On first impression, the cider is sweeter than you would expect, considering it is labeled as dry cider, but it is by no means too sweet. In fact, I think it’s the perfect balance of sweetness for a dry cider. I would say it’s between a dry and semi-sweet cider leaning towards semi-sweet. The cider is very light, it has notable and natural tasting apple flavour, and I like the carbonation, but it seems to have a subtle, but slightly unpleasant, aftertaste. Despite the aftertaste, this is my favourite dry cider. I usually drink semi-sweet ciders like Woodchuk, but Pommies is definitely my go-to when I want something drier or lighter.
Thornbury Premium Apple Cider
This is a Canadian cider that comes in bottles and cans. I tried it from a can. This cider was the most surprising, because it was completely different from what I was expecting. It tastes and feels like a girly drink but it comes in a masculine-designed can. It is the lightest cider that I’ve tried, both in taste and colour. The carbonation and character of this cider resemble a fun and refreshing sparkling wine that has a hint of natural tasting apple flavour. I like that it has a very clean finish.
This is made in England. Strongbow was the first alcoholic cider that I ever had. It is too highly carbonated for my taste. Also, I find that the apple flavour is almost indistinguishable compared to most of the other cider brands. Needless to say, given the growing selection of great hard ciders, I no longer drink Strongbow.
Strongbow was my first alcoholic cider. I drank it for years, until significantly better options entered the market. So I was hopeful that Strongbow’s new Gold Apple Cider would be able to hold its own against fierce and ever expanding competition. It smells and tastes like candy. The carbonation is mild, but it has a bit of a sting. Unfortunately, I don’t like harsh carbonation and the apple flavour doesn’t taste natural enough for my preference. I actually prefer the original.
Blackthorn Cider is made in England. This has the most unique and distinct apple flavour of all of the ciders that I’ve tried. The type(s) of apples that they used for this cider give it a complex, spiced (think dessert spices), and mildly sweet flavour. I like that it isn’t very heavily carbonated. However, I find that this cider has an unpleasant aftertaste. Although I don’t plan on buying this again, I still think that it is try-worthy.
Foundry Golden Cider
This cider is made in England. It has a dark yellow colour and tastes light, subtly sweet, and a bit bland at first. Then a unique apple flavour that is distinctly from the UK hits you later but then is followed by a strange acidic aftertaste.
Seagram Apple Cider
This is a Canadian cider that uses Canadian apples and traditional fermentation and filtering techniques. They also claim to use no preservatives. This cider is heavily carbonated, it is very light, quite bland, and on the dry side. Although it has a natural apple flavour, the fruit flavour was too faint for my preference.
Stutz Premium Cider
This cider is made in Nova Scotia, Canada using 7 different Nova Scotian apple varietals. They claim not to use any apple concentrate, so I had high hopes for this cider. But, to my surprise, this was one of the worst ciders I’ve ever tasted. It smelled metallic and it had a strange and unpleasant aftertaste. I really didn’t like the briny notes of this cider.
Spirit Tree Cider
This cider is made in Canada. It is the driest cider that I tried. It is light and refreshing, and it has no discernable aftertaste. Its apple flavour was not prominent enough for my taste. Although this cider is too dry for my taste (I prefer semi-sweet ciders), I think it is definitely try-worthy if you like dry ciders. When it comes to the drier ciders, personally, I prefer the taste of Pommies Dry Cider, but Pommies has a slightly unpleasant aftertaste.
Crémant St. Nicolas Sparkling Light Cider – My Favourite Sparkling Apple Cider
This sparkling light cider is made in Quebec, Canada and it is, in my opinion, delicious. It is low in alcohol content and drinks as smoothly as apple juice. It has a wonderful and prominent apple flavour, a crisp finish, and great balance between sweetness (semi-sweet) and acidity. It also comes in a full sized, corked bottle which looks nice and less casual when being served.
William Premium Cider
This is made in Quebec, Canada. Quebec makes delicious ice cider and, one of my favourites, sparkling light cider (Crémant St. Nicolas), so I had high hopes for this hard cider. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. This cider tastes like an unpleasant, sour, beer. It was also lacking in apple flavour.
Alexander Keith’s Original Cider
I don’t like Alexander Keith’s beer, but I had the opportunity to try their Original Cider when a friend brought it to a party. Compared to the established and sophisticated hard cider brands, Alexander Keith’s Original Cider doesn’t measure up. It goes down very smoothly, but it is too sweet and it lacks distinguishable apple flavour.
Molson Canadian Cider
Molson is another beer company that now makes a hard cider. They use Canadian apples. Molson’s cider is light and off dry. It has an apple flavour that reminds me of Allen’s apple juice. I found that this cider had a subtle unpleasant aftertaste. I’d also like to note that the ingredients are not listed on the can.
Somersby Apple Cider
This company is based out of Denmark. Most of the hard ciders that I’ve tried feel like a carbonated alcoholic drink that has apple flavouring, whereas Somersby’s cider feels like a gently spiked apple cider. This cider smells very strongly of apples and tastes almost like a complex apple juice. It is sweet, and it goes down very smoothly, but the flavour hints at artificial flavouring. Although this isn’t one of my top favourite ciders, I still think that it is try-worthy, because the apple flavour is strong and very distinct compared to the other ciders that I’ve tried.
Apple and Ginger Ciders
Angry Orchard Apple Ginger
Angry Orchard makes my favourite semi-sweet to sweet apple ciders. Their Apple Ginger flavour was no disappointment. The ginger flavour wasn’t too bold, or overpowering. It didn’t have the same bite as raw ginger. This cider is less sweet and more refreshing than Angry Orchard’s Crisp Apple flavour.
This elderflower cider is made in Swedan. I’ve never had elderflower in any other form before, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to taste like. But I find that this cider tastes floral and reminds me a bit of strawberries. It is much too sweet for my taste.
Strawberry Lime Ciders
This cider is made in Denmark. It is strawberry and lime flavoured. It is too sweet for my taste. Also, the fruit flavour tastes very artificial to me.
This cider is made in Swedan. This berry cider is highly carbonated, it is very light and refreshing, and it is on the dry side. I like that it isn’t too sweet and that it has a strong berry flavour, but the berry flavour tastes too artificial for my taste.
Somersby Blackberry Cider
This cider is from Denmark. I like Somersby’s Apple Cider much more than their blackberry cider. The berry flavour isn’t prominent or natural tasting enough for my taste. It is also a bit too sweet for me. In terms of berry ciders, I prefer the Rekorderlig Wild Berries Cider.
Pear Ciders (Perries)
Magners Pear Cider
This is an Irish product. It is lightly carbonated, it has a mild sweetness in the beginning that is followed by a faint artificial pear flavour and then a foul and bitter aftertaste. I also couldn’t get over the prominent metallic (it came in a can) taste. After trying Magners pear cider, I decided that I didn’t need to try their original cider. Perhaps the glass bottled product tastes a bit better.
Sir Isaac’s Premium Pear Cider
This is a Canadian perry. It is very very light in flavour and on the dry side. The minerality and carbonation of this cider resemble a tonic water with very subtle, and almost indiscernable, pear flavour. I also noticed a slightly bitter aftertaste. The notes are more earthy than fruity.
William’s Sir Perry Pear Cider – Best Pear Cider
This perry comes from England. Although I do not like pear ciders, this was the best one, in my opinion, of the perries that I tried. It does not have a bitter aftertaste like the other pear ciders. It is crisp, semi sweet, and has the most prominent pear flavour. However, the pear flavour still tastes too artificial for my taste.
Lastly, Have you tried ice cider???
Crabbie’s Ginger Beer – My Favourite Ginger Beer